Monday, February 22, 2010

Gold for Mediocrity

Last week, one of the stories the press wanted us to get excited about was the prospect of Apolo Ohno becoming the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian. He was attempting to surpass fellow speedskater, Bonnie Blair, who won five gold medals and one bronze throughout the 80s and 90s. Ohno got his seventh medal this past weekend, a bronze in the 1,000 meter short track competition, bringing his medal tally to two gold, two silver and three bronze.

When I first heard sportscasters saying, "Tune in and watch Apolo Ohno go for history," I thought he was going for something awesome, like his seventh career gold medal. Instead, I was completely underwhelmed when I found out he was just going for a medal of any type, just so he could reach that record. I refuse to buy into this hype. I understand NBC needs to create interest for their telecast, but why are they, and the rest of the U.S. media, OK with glorifying mediocrity? Why should I be excited that some guy lost his competition?

Think about it -- this guy is happy because he "won" third place. This doesn't happen in other sports. They eliminated the consolation game in the World Cup because nobody gives a damn about who gets third place. Look at the picture above. He's holding up seven fingers like he's Michael Phelps. Congratulations! You got your fifth medal for losing. For all of the hype Ohno and his 90s grunge bandana receive, he is a pretty overwhelming underachiever. Is he really supposed to be, as the NY Times refers to him, the "U.S. King of Winter?"

On the flip side of things, there is Shaun White, who is universally accepted as the best in his sport and has exceeded all expectations. He was expected to defend his gold medal in halfpipe, and,with the weight of the world on his shoulders, he did so in crushing fashion. Even though he already had gold secured, he went on his second run as if winning the competition depended on it. White nearly got a perfect score and landed an insane trick that he invented. That guy is clutch and deserves everything he gets. As my friend, Brando, said that night, "I want to be that happy."

1 comment:

  1. While I wouldn't call "top 3" a mediocre accomplishment, I definitely agree with your sentiment. There should definitely be a better distinction between him and Bonnie Blair, and him and Shaun White in the history books.
    What pissed me off during the 08 summer olympics was the different ways US sites reported medal counts. US had the most overall medals, but got dominated by China in gold medals, so sometimes you'd see China listed as #1, and sometimes US as number one (depending on NBCOlympics, ESPN, etc). Clearly China won those Olympics. The phrase is "go for gold" for a reason.
    At least we're winning overall (golds and medals) in these ones. USA! USA! USA!