Monday, February 27, 2006

Winter Slaw: the cruelty of sport _ part 2: the flip side

After the two Finns and I left the bar (see part 1 if you don't know what I'm talking about) we walked through a bright, freezing day to find a diner. During the march, my friends decried their country's inability to beat the Swedes, despite having taught serious lessons to the rest of the hockey world. Then they extrapolated the loss on out to Finland's national inferiority complex, and griped about their nation's high rates of alcoholism, suicide and violence.

It sounded just like my friends and I after a loss by the Browns or Wolverines. Except we're usually bitching about three-deep zones, the lack of an offensive line and special-teams disasters.

Then we ate, and they started telling me stories of Helskini nightlife. At first the stories were kind of dark. It's apparently not uncommon to see people so drunk their eyes are glazed over and they can't stand. Stabbing are depressingly common. Then they mentioned that Finland has the highest rate of crimes solved in the world. I mentioned that CSI: Espoo would probably be a hit, even if Americans would probably think it was happening in Norway or Denmark.

Then we started talking about how the three national beverages of choice are vodka, a kind of vodka infused with salty licorice, and some truly excellent dry cider, which is not at all like the super-sweet Magner's and Woodchuck you find here.

Then, suddenly restored, we moved to another pub and they told me more stories about Finland. About goreous lakes and cabins next a kind a sled that's like a chair, but with runners on the back for standing. The word they used for it was in Finnish, so I have no idea what to call it or how to google it. But it's apparently a hoot, and easy to fall off if you've been drinking before taking it out in a snowstorm.

After a few hours, we were no longer dejected hockey fans, but just a couple friends getting together and turning what could have been an ordinary day _ or an upsetting one _ into one that would be memorable for better reasons.

Oh, and we also made sure to do what every good New Yorker does on a lazy Sunday. Sometimes the cruelty of sport ain't so bad.

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