Monday, February 27, 2006

Olympic This

Tom Reed of the Akron Beacon Journal reflects the grousing of a lot of folks about the U.S. team's boorish performance in the recently concluded 2006 Winter Olympics. In a dispatch from Italy titled "U.S. of Arrogance," Reed notes that the U.S. team's impressive haul of medals pales beside all the feuding, tantrums and general showboating.

"Too many stories were negative ones ... and that's just not the media's take. U.S. Olympic Committee officials have vowed 'significant adjustments' in the way they handle athletes at future Games.

"Let's hope so.

"The remark came a day after the USOC sent home freestyle ace Jeret Peterson because he reportedly punched a friend following a night of drinking.'It affects how the world views our country, and how the athletes are viewed,' U.S. Olympic Committee Chief Executive Officer Jim Scherr said Saturday."

Huh. Call me crazy, but I can't work up too much outrage if a bunch of cocky twentysomething athletes went to Italy and behaved like immature douchebags. Has anyone noticed that this is generally what happens when gifted young people achieve fame and wealth before they know it?

When Darryl Seibel of the U.S.O.C. tells NBC News how important it is that Olympians understand "the responsibility that comes with representing your country," I've got to wonder what fantasy paradise in which Seibel and his colleagues are living. Every four years, the media spins the same Olympic narrative and what the Games mean for national pride. It makes a nice story, but it's worth recognizing the narrative for what it is -- spin -- once commentators start kicking the shit out of someone like Lindsey Jacobellis because she showboated herself out of a gold medal.

I enjoy watching the Olympics as much as anyone, but I have yet to come across the great numbers of Americans who feel their global standing hinges on the antics of Bode Miller.

When it comes to representation of America, I'm much more inclined to worry about the ugliness of Abu Ghraib and Bagram and Guantanamo -- not whether Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick patch things up.


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