Is it just me, or is the current crop of U.S. Winter Olympians particularly skewed toward unlikable people? NBC is working overtime to give us the usual fuzzy, feelgood stories that we’ve come to expect in those Up Close and Personal Moments. And they’re dishing out the typical cornpone shtick: Orphaned at two, young Golda Meddle was adopted by a struggling but kind family of ski bums. Skiing to preschool down the precipitous mountain near her glacier home by the age of three, Golda was winning international competitions at the age of five, and already dreaming of Olympic Glory. Blah blah blah.
But just look at the raw materials with which they have to work.
Here’s U.S. speed skater Shani Davis on why he elected not to participate in the team (note that word carefully, sports fans) pursuit race: “I worked to be here. None of my teammates worked to get me here. My dream was to be a short-track and long-track skater, not to skate in the pursuit. People can say what they want. I'm upset that they're upset. I've been skating since I was 6. This is the fruit of all the labor I put in for years. It's my choice, and I choose not to. The only things I care about are the 1,000 and the 1,500.”
There’s no “I” in “Team” you say? You wanna bet?
Then there’s U.S. figureskater Johnny Weir, who in one of those Up Close and Personal interviews described the tempo of a competitor's short program as "a vodka-shot, let's-snort-coke kind of thing." He concluded, ““I’m not for everyone. I’m me. I don’t front. I don’t put on a face. I don’t make statements just to make them. I mean every word I say, regardless if it’s offensive or mean-spirited. I’m not going to sugar coat it.” So bravely, quintessentially American, n’est pas? I’m me, and if you don’t like it, fuck you. No wonder the rest of the world perceives us as boorish and arrogant.
Finally, we have downhill/slalom/giant slalom skiing “legend” Bode Miller, the face of the U.S. Winter Olympic team, who has been a certified bust thus far, failing to win a medal in his two competitions, and being disqualified from the combined event on Tuesday after he decided to ski through rather than around a gate. Here’s Bode:
“This year I just want to enjoy myself. I could give up tomorrow without having the slightest regret. I could keep away from this world for a year and then perhaps start to feel the desire to prove something to myself again.”
What the hell. No sense in getting worked up about the Olympics. Or training. Or staying out of the local Torino bars at 2:00 a.m. the morning of a competition. Here’s the take I read a couple times today from various Internet pundits: Why sweat it? People are too uptight, man. If a guy wants to torpedo his career, you gotta admire him for that, right?
Wrong. Since when is being an irresponsible, selfish prick a virtue?
NBC prefers to present these athletes as “colorful.” Sure, just like NBA player Latrell Sprewell, who colorfully tried to choke his basketball coach to death, or Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tochet, currently in hot water for consorting with various colorful Mafia characters. It is really, really hard to cheer for this bunch to win, and everything in me wants to cheer for them to lose. Maybe tonight I’ll watch a sitcom. Or read a book. Or write a poetic ode to the Olympic ideal that would make NBC blush with pride. Anything instead of these USAssholes. I’m not so proud to be an American.