Showboating Americans Pay Olympic Price

You're out in front. The Gold is yours. All you need to do is play it safe and get to the finish line. So what do you do? You turn a history making run in the Inaugeral Olympic Women's Snowboard Cross into the equivalent of an NFL Touchdown Victory Dance or an NBA Slam Dunk...except that it backfires, you fall down, and lose the Gold. You get tackled at the one yard line. You hit the rim of the of the basketball net and shatter the bones in your hand.

That is what Lindsey Jacobellis did Friday in the Final of the Snowboard Cross. She had a huge three second lead, the finish line was in sight, and she pulled out a method air--a halfpipe trick--landed funny and fell down, losing the Gold Medal. This wasn't even the agony of defeat, because nobody beat Jacobellis. Rather, she counted her chickens before they hatched. She miscalculated.

Unfortunately, this miscalculation seems to be a trend for American athletes at the Olympics this year. First and second most dramatically, Bode Miller vocally made his presence known even well before the Games began. Perhaps if he had put his vocal energy into his skiing, he would have had a better result.

And Second, and most dramatically, Johnny Weir gave the most unbelievable excuses for not skating well in the Men's Free Program Thursday night. First he claimed the City of Turin changed their bus schedule without telling him, so he arrived at the arena late, which threw him off. And second, he claimed his aura was black, and with black all around him interfering with his positive energy, he couldn't skate well.

Mother of God! Mother of Pearl, even! Have you ever heard of a bigger prima donna than Johnny Weir? How can people with such talent just blow it all away on the largest Sporting Stage in the world? You gotta give Tonya Harding some credit here. She wanted the gold, she tried to take out Nancy Kerrigan to ensure her victory. She was caught, she paid the price, she did some time and she was banned from Figure Skating for life. But you know what? Tonya Harding has far more guts than Johnny Weir. Actually, I don't think Johnny Weir has any guts at all. It's time he took off his Swan Costume and became a man for a change. Instead of blaming bus schedules and auras, he simply needs to own up and say he choked, or he just skated poorly, or today wasn't his day. Whatever. But take some responsibility, Man! Blaming a loss on an aura. Oh my God!

The fact of the matter is, however, is that all three of these top contenders: Lindsey Jacobellis, Bode Miller, Johnny Weir...each and every one of them was guilty of showboating. Each and every one of them focused more on the idea of winning than the act of winning. And can we really blame them? Aren't we the nation that cheers and oohs and ahhs when there's a spectacular catch in football followed by the obligatory endzone dance exclamation point? Don't we go gaga over Slam Dunks? And, haven't our children been raised with these types of victory celebrations rather than being taught that it is the better part of valor to excercise some level of humility?

I dunno. Lindsey Jacobellis lost the Gold Medal. It was hers, and she lost it. She'll have to live with that. But perhaps all of should think more about how we win, and how we lose. I'm missing Michelle Kwan now more than ever. Michelle knows how to win with humility, and lose with grace and dignity. If Michelle had ever had an opportunity to explain this basic approach to Lindsey Jacobellis, Lindsey would have been on the podium last night singing the Star Bangled Banner in victory.
Meanwhile, in Ice Dancing, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto are in a disappointing sixth place after the compulsary dance. Their skate wasn't their best, and they are within a point of the medals--which at this stage in the competition is rather meaningless.

I'd be more concerned, however, if there is a backlash to Belbin and Agosto's bid to become the first American Ice Dancers to win an Olympic medal in thirty years. Belbin and Agosto were not supposed to be here. When they won silver at the 2005 World Championships, it was with an understanding in the world community that they would not be competing in Torino because Belbin was still a Canadian citizen. However, December 31, 2005, Congress passed a law and President Bush signed it, making Belbin a US citizen. So could their sixth place finish in the compulsories be some kind of backlash against them? Stay tuned: we'll know more after the Original Dance Sunday.

5:00 am--1:30 pm: Live men's hockey--Russia vs. Kazakhstan, Italy vs. Germany, Canada vs. Switzerland, Sweden vs. Latvia; CNBC
8:00 am--11:00 am: Live men's curling, USA vs. Germany; USA
Noon--6:00 pm: Cross-country women's relay final; biathlon men's pursuit final; live men's hockey, USA vs. Slovakia; short-track speedskating women's 1,500 semifinals; NBC
3:00 pm--5:30 pm: Live men's hockey, Czech Republic vs. Finland; CNBC
5:00 pm--8:00 pm: Women's curling, USA vs. Italy; MSNBC
8:00 pm--11:30 pm: Alpine skiing men's super-G; short-track speedskating men's 1,000 final; women's 1,500 final; speedskating men's 1,000 final; ski-jumping K125 large hill individual final; bobsled two man, NBC

Thanks for reading.


jan said...

I found myself rooting against Weir and for the Russian whose name I can't spell. He had to leave home at age 11 to train. So much to sacrifice. So much class now.

It's ok to root for Russians now that the Iron Curtain is down, isn't it?

February 18, 2006 9:36 PM

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