Friday, August 22, 2008

If you have a heart, you will watch team handball...

because Iceland is in the finals.

Read the fantastic relevant entries on this blog by Dan Steinberg, a Washington Post reporter.

(And by the way, Mr. Steinberg, thank you for going beyond another Phelps or Redeem Team or gymnastics story to get to this far more interesting story.)

Some highlights from Steinberg's stories:

I was walking toward the mixed zone this evening when I ran into the first lady of Iceland. Dorrit Moussaieff asked me how she could get onto the playing surface, so that she could help celebrate her tiny country's stunning trip into the men's handball finals.

Then she tried to bring me onto the floor, where 14 large Icelandic men were glorying in the craziest athletic accomplishment in their country's history -- a 36-30 win over Spain in the Olympic semifinals.

"I don't think I can go this way," I said.

"Yes you can; if you're with me you can," she said, approaching the arena guard. "I'm the wife of the President; that's the President," she said, nodding at me while dragging me past the guard.

And so I passed through the tunnel and onto the floor, nominally the president of Iceland.

And this quote from Iceland's President, who gives an inspirational speech that, in a movie, would make me hurl, but in real life, I eat right up:

It's not just a message for us in Iceland. I think it's a message to the entire international sport movement, that anything is possible. You can have young guys growing up in a small country like Iceland. Working hard in their employment, using their spare time to train. And they can come here to China and play the finals. And return to Iceland, each and every one of them, with either silver or gold.

Then this incredible factoid:

The handball team's preliminary game against Denmark drew nearly 60 percent of the country's 100,000 televisions, and that the game attracted a share of about 100.

Meaning every TV set that was turned on in the country was tuned to handball.

And, to boot, Iceland's captain, Olafur Stefansson, has a degree in humanities, once considered entering a Buddhist monastery, and has blogged about changing Iceland's education system.

To reiterate...the population of Iceland is 300,000. Honest to God. That's smaller than Wichita, Kansas.

They have three Olympic medals. Summer or Winter. Ever. (1956 Triple Jump, 1984 Judo, 2000 Pole Vault.)

How can anyone not be compelled by this story?

The game will be on Sat/Sunday overnight on USA Network. I'm TiVoing it. Go Iceland.

(Credit where it's due: This Sporting News entry led me to Steinberg's cool stuff.)

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