Monday, February 20, 2006

Pipe Dreams

In the annals of Olympic boycotts, it doesn’t quite rank with the U.S. withdrawal from the Moscow Games or the Soviet’s retaliatory nyet to L.A. in 1984. It’s even possible the embargo went unnoticed altogether.

I refused to accept the introduction of Moguls, Aerials or Half Pipe as Olympic events.

Why? Because they’re not sports, much the way Rap isn’t music and the last three “Star Wars” installments aren’t movies. Instead, they’re the Hallmark Holidays of athletics--Aerials is to the Downhill what Secretary’s Day is to the Fourth of July. Don’t think I don’t know these manufactured competitions weren’t created solely to lure more 18-34-year-old viewers (and thereby more advertisers) to the Olympic telecast and, as a side benefit, inflate the U.S. medal count.

We swept some of these events in Salt Lake. I did not melt. Pot smoking, tattooed, eyebrow-pierced surfers on ice. Punks. Slackers. That’s what I thought of our Gold-Silver-Bronze Extreme Team. How about we replace “U…S…A, U…S…A” with “Get…a…job. Get…a…job.”

I planned to continue the deep freeze during the 2006 Torino Games. But then this Grinch met her Cindy Lou Who. His name is Shaun White and I love him.

Maybe it’s because he reminds me of my brother Matt. Maybe it’s because I was already so over the Bode-Miller-was-raised-by-hippies-in-a-cabin-without-electricity story. Maybe it’s because I didn’t appreciate the speed with which we were expected to switch allegiance from Michelle Kwan to Emily Hughes, a.k.a. America’s Newest Sweetheart. If you didn’t jump on the Hughes wagon, you might as well have said I don’t support the troops.

With his hip hop uniform and shock of red locks, no one’s going to mistake Shaun White for Eric Heiden. Then again, what’s wrong with having a personality or showing a little exuberance? Or executing tricks with names like “fakey nose grab 1080.” He had me at “McTwist.” After nailing his gold medal routine, White told the commentators, “I had a lot of fun today.” So did I. Then he momentarily lost his cool and started to cry. “I wasn’t going to tear up, but seeing the family…”Awwww.

I hope Shaun White keeps on having fun. I hope he doesn’t change a single hair of his shaggy mane. I hope he never has to learn PowerPoint or Excel. I hope he never cares more about making money than loving what he’s doing. I hope he keeps giving his dad great big bear hugs.

* * *

These X Games hipsters did a far better job representing the Olympic ideal than U.S. competitors in more traditional sports. Figure skater Evan Lysacek consistently referred to his own fourth-place finish as “courageous.” Note to Evan: I’m pretty sure Superman didn’t walk around saying, “You know, I am faster than a speeding bullet.” But I wouldn’t be surprised if Lysacek’s horn tooting wasn’t his way of announcing his campaign for the DHL Spirit Award.

If there were a Cry Baby Award, it would go to Chad Hedrick. Hedrick came into the Games with an outside chance at five Gold Medals. After winning his first event, he was all Texas charm. When things didn’t go his way in the Team Pursuit, he pouted and started fingerpointing. Sort of like another famous native of the Lone Star State.

Shani Davis bore the brunt of Hedrick’s wrath, as if Davis’ sole raison d’etre was to help Hedrick get his face on a box of Wheaties. Never mind that Davis, a world record-holder, had his own races to prepare for.

I question the class and motives of any individual who tries his case in the Court of Public Opinion. Hedrick all but stated, “There is no ‘I’ in Team, but there’s certainly one in Shani.”

The U.S. Olympic Team is a myth. Except for events such as 4-Man Bobsled, athletes do not eat, sleep, breathe and train together. They do not go to karaoke bars, join hands and shout out the chorus to “We Are Family.” It’s every man and woman for him- or herself. Does Bode Miller skip the Downhill so Daron Rahlves has a better shot at medaling in his final Olympics? No. Is Sasha Cohen thrilled to see Michelle Kwan out of competition? You betchya.

Shani Davis grew up on the South Side of Chicago. He worked his ass off to get to these Olympics and did what he needed to do to put himself in the best position to win a medal. Chad Hedrick wanted Shani to put Chad Hedrick in the best position to win. And that’s what I call selfish.

* * *

From the Mouth of Dave

My husband's observations on the Olympics:

Female speedskaters look like Storm Troopers, until they take their hoods off and turn into girls.

Every other athlete wears a "uniform." Figure skaters wear "costumes." Not a sport.

Do the Dutch get confused by the whole "Netherlands" thing?



Post a Comment

<< Home