The U.S. curling team came to Vancouver to contend rather than be a human interest story, but there are few better at the Games than 22-year-old substitute skip Chris Plys and his father, Patrick, a cancer survivor.
That's like the Yankees replacing Mariano Rivera as their closer with a kid fresh up from the Trenton Thunder. Take it from a Canadian who knows a raise from a runback. The U.S. stole in the 10th end Friday to get its first win, 4-3 over France, but Plys, one year out of junior, curled just 66 percent while playing third stones. Regular third Jason Smith threw final rocks.
However, Plys getting to play was a dream come true for his demonstrative dad (pictured), as the Gannett columnist Mike Lopresti described:
Two years ago, Patrick had a five-hour surgery to get at a stage 3 tumor in his brain. Followed by 40 days of radiation and chemotherapy. Followed by 14 more months of chemo. Trial upon trial, ordeal upon ordeal.
Last report had him cancer free. Now he's at the Olympics.
"This is the world to me," he says. "I wear a button and I actually have given a lot of them out. It says, "Miracles happen."
He has come this day like every other day, with heart full and face painted. By now, the Olympic Center regulars know him and call out as he walks past.
He is in the first row of section 209, and hopefully there will be no repeat of the unfortunate cowbell business of the day before, when he was ringing the thing so hard, the dinger flew away and nailed a fellow fan.
... "This is a celebration for me," he says. "All that I went through, my eyes focused on one thing: to watch my son in the Olympics."
And how did he get there? His son got money for the trip on a reality show:
It is (Chris') first Olympics, and he wanted them to share it with (Patrick).
... So when Plys found out about a reality game show on the E! network called Bank of Hollywood, he was all about getting some cash for his parents. On the show, contestants ask a panel of four celebrity judges to donate money for their causes.
A friend helped him put together a video. They sent it in to the show's producers, and he got the call. Well, he got a bunch of calls, one a week, until the "You made the final cut" one came in.
He didn't tell his parents about the show. They only found out when a TV crew came to shoot a background video at their home.
Chris Plys is a talented young guy; he's a talented enough musician that he's willing to play in public. This is part about family ties, part about the way life is now. You might say the younger Plys, at an earlier age than some, is learning it's fine and dandy that you assume elements of a parent's personality as you grow up.
At least that's how it sounds in one of his tweets:
At 1-4, the U.S. men's curlers need a minor miracle to get into medal contention. Clearly, though, they've been plenty blessed already.