SOCHI, Russia – As if what he did on the ice wasn't special enough, T.J. Oshie gave a postgame interview that swelled a lot of hearts back home.
Asked by Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic how he felt about being called a national hero after his four-goal performance against the Russians in the United States' dramatic overtime victory, Oshie immediately dismissed the idea.
"The American heroes are wearing camo," he replied. "That's not me."
It was a thoughtful and appropriate response. There are heroes in the military who serve every day and get little or no credit. Some of them were in Afghanistan, watching the Team USA game on Saturday, and a photo of them cheering Oshie's game-winning goal quickly went viral. In fact, there are members of the military on Team USA, including luge doubles partners Preston Griffall and Matt Mortensen, who competed a few days ago.
[Photos: Off the ice, TJ Oshie is a regular guy]
"It's really incredible," Mortensen told Yahoo Sports. "Being a soldier and being an athlete. It's an honorable position to be in."
Kovacevic's tweet on his interchange with Oshie hit a nerve, getting more than 2,000 retweets. The first reply came from Ron Johnson, who wrote "Oshie – this retired Senior Master Sergeant (USAF) salutes you and Team USA!"
We'll see if Oshie's comment gets the same amount of attention as the other famous postgame interview of 2014: Richard Sherman's rant about Michael Crabtree after his big play clinched a Super Bowl berth for the Seattle Seahawks. Oshie's remark did not happen on national television, but it's just as newsworthy, if not more so. It came immediately in the aftermath of an enormous win that seemingly everyone watched.
The instant curiosity about Oshie rivals the sudden fascination with Sherman. And there has been debate over the use of the term "hero" and where it applies. MSNBC host Chris Hayes was criticized in 2012 for saying he was "uncomfortable" applying the term to soldiers because "it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war." Hayes later apologized.
The Miriam-Webster definition of "hero" is listed as "a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities" or "a person who is greatly admired." Oshie fits those characteristics not only for his bravery under pressure but also for his awareness that bravery in a sports setting is not like bravery in battle.
There are sports heroes and then there are real heroes. There's always room for both, but it's nice when athletes like Oshie remind us of the difference between them.
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