We all know the phrase -- or some variation of it: Lose the battle, win the war.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is apparently winning the war: Safe Olympics (so far), leading the medal count and even journalists have stopped complaining about unfinished rooms and brown water.
But he's lost the battle. Big time.
And no, I am not talking about the fact that in the few hours before Kiev dominated the global news flow, Pussy Riot was giving him a major media headache.
I am talking about the Russian Men's hockey team.
They are out of the Olympics. Done. No medal. Nyet. Nada. Nothing.
The vaunted Russian offense was stopped short by a Finn named Tuukka (That's right, a double "u" and "k" back to back. Russian hockey, once the most feared team on the planet, hasn't won a gold medal in 22 years at the Olympics.
The fall of communism was good for a lot of things -- except Russian hockey it looks like.
Kidding aside, this is serious because Putin placed so much importance on this hockey team. Just this past Monday, he proclaimed they were the best team in the tournament, and it is widely believed he wanted hockey to win gold more than any other potential athletic success at the Sochi Games. The running joke is that just about anything could happen at the Games, and if the Russians won gold in hockey, Putin would be OK with it. And we're talking anything.
For fun, I Googled "Putin hockey pressure" and more than 730,000 items appeared.
On the ground here at Olympic Park, the disappointment was palpable. Just when security officers were starting to greet me with smiles, too! No smiles tonight in Sochi -- just a collective daze, and people here feel it.
So, I will tread lightly tonight, won't expect any more pleasant greetings and will deal with my own disappointment... we all wanted to see USA-Russia for the gold medal. Love or hate hockey, you wanted it, too.
Just this once, you can share frustration with Mr. Putin.
Follow Brian Shactman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bshactman