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Unpatriotic

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David feels unpatriotic.

He understands, deep down, that it’s dumb, feeling like that just for watching a game that took place almost 15 years ago, ages before he was even named to the Canadian Juniors team. But he can’t quiet the thought that he should be angry, not mesmerised, as he watches Konstantinovich deke around a defenseman in red and white on his way to the net, to score what David knows will be the game-winning goal. The goal that will give Russia Olympic gold over Canada.

He watches, heart racing, the grainy number 11 fly up the ice and feels vaguely shameful, both because he already knows what’s going to happen, so he shouldn’t get so excited, and because Konstantinovich is the other team. Canada is going to lose this game, and all David can think of is how amazing Russia played, how Konstantinovich managed to make Canada’s defence look like peewee players. He’s embarrassed at the pride he feels for wearing the same number, knows it means nothing but the fact that he idealises the man.

This video brings the proper kind of idealisation out of David, at least. Wanting to play like Konstantinovich, admiring his style, the way he racked up points like it was nothing all through his career. David focuses on that, spends hours watching these videos and trying to emulate the way Konstantinovich moved at his peak, before he went back to Russia and his play suffered inexplicably.

Nobody needs to know about the other thing, about the hours spent watching interviews in a language he doesn’t speak, where Konstantinovich’s eyes are more clearly visible than under a helmet. There’s a different shame there, a different kind of embarrassment at catching himself focusing on those things, on the blue of Konstantinovich’s eyes, on the definition of his muscles, noticeable despite the sharp button-downs he wears. Nobody needs to know what David sees in his dreams, what makes him wake up sweaty and hot.

He plays the gold medal game highlights video again and revels in the shame of being unpatriotic. It’s way more manageable than the other kind.