As commercials and broadcasters like to remind us, part of the Olympic appeal is the power of the games to bring the world together, captivated by hopes for national glory and international inspiration. People across the globe — or at least those who actually get NBC Sports Network in their cable packages — can feel the drama from thousands of miles away, their daily experiences injected with inspiration that reverberates to the furthest corners of the planet.
Thursday morning yielded one of those epic moments as Sweden and Switzerland battled for the women’s hockey bronze. Sweden led the Swiss, 2-0, entering the second intermission, but Switzerland staged an Olympian comeback, rallying to tie the score midway through the third period. Then 24-year-old Jessica Lutz, a barista at the Coffee Bar in Logan Circle by day, scored the go-ahead goal to give the Swiss a stunning 3-2 lead. After Sweden pulled its goalie, the teams traded goals, and the Swiss hung on for a 4-3 win and the country’s first Olympic medal in men’s or women’s hockey since 1948.
Here it was: the daily drama of the Olympics transcending borders, the power of the global games playing out on a local stage, heroes born oceans away energizing a community more than a morning coffee ever could.
So I rushed to Logan Circle to see Lutz’s coworkers and patrons at Coffee Bar react, propelled by the chance to see an Olympic moment first-hand, undeterred by an embarrassing misunderstanding with a taxi driver who thought I crossed 14th street a bit too aggressively … clearly he hadn’t seen the hockey game! Certainly if he had, he too would be overcome with the power of Olympic spirit and realize the absurdity of his constant honking at humanity!
Would I be out of place in a sea of red Swiss jerseys? Would Lutz’s fellow baristas be huddled around a computer screen awaiting a postgame interview? And most importantly, did the Coffee Bar have sugar-free vanilla syrup?
I paused at the door, bracing for the wave of inspiration and joy sure to flood me as soon as I opened it. All was quiet, patrons sitting at laptops, sipping coffee and typing away — no doubt emailing friends and family about the watch party they’d just been a part of!
Ahead of me, a young professional in a sportcoat finished ordering his latte (he’d probably just shed the Lutz jersey to head to work), and I headed to the counter to ask about what certainly had been a memorable morning for the Coffee Bar community.
Instead, I got this in reply: “Wait, they’re still in it? I thought they got knocked out a few days ago…”
“What!?,” I thought. “How could this be? Are you drinking decaf!?”
No, I assured them, the Swiss were very much still in it! And Lutz had become a national hero just moments before.
“We saw her score a couple days ago,” one worker lamented, checking a nearby iPad for confirmation of results — or perhaps to see when Lutz might be back to help out around there. A few seconds later, “Hey, she scored another one! Wow!”
“Another one? That’s amazing!” responded another barista excitedly, before turning back to the espresso machine.
I couldn’t help but smile. Her coworker looked back at me, as did a few curious patrons –surely Olympic fervor was percolating!
Then I realized I had misread their looks: I was blocking the counter and a line was forming behind me. So out I went.
I hadn’t seen reaction to the Olympic moment, but I’d delivered the news of a hero’s triumph to the people who knew her best! Surely by lunchtime, the U Street corridor would be awash in Olympic fever.
And so it was:
OMG JESSICA GOT THE BRONZE MEDAL!! Go Jess and Swiss Women’s ice hockey!!! http://t.co/nWoC4ZiAnn— The Coffee Bar (@thecoffeebardc) February 20, 2014
For what it’s worth, Lutz told reporters in Sochi, “I’m so proud. I am going to wear the bronze medal when I get back to work.”