August 1, 2012

Hashtag Olympics

No, Mitt Romney! No!
The Olympics are happening as we speak. Every two years we see the world's best athletes in hot and cold sports fly onto our radars and make us yell at the TV with national pride. With the presidential election just around the corner, I'm also yelling at the political ads in between events with national disgust. There's a lot of yelling.

Maybe it's because I went through a journalism and media studies program. Maybe it's because I'm in between work and spend idle summer days flapping around the coup. Maybe it's because of the onslaught of social media adding to the coverage. And maybe it's all three plus low blood sugar, but the commentary and coverage of the events is driving me mad. More yelling!

I have learned more synonyms for "defeat," "agony," and "loser" than I ever needed to know at a time that is supposed to celebrate athletic achievement, national pride and some good in humanity. No one is winning silver medals - they are apparently losing gold medals. Commentators and journalists are reluctant to use the phrase "won silver" because they're too busy flipping through a thesaurus(.com) to repeat that they did not win gold, that they essentially lost.

It's okay - you have 19 medals.
Some of the athletes' faces also say it all, with a look like their first born children drowned in the Olympic pool. Yes, we all want to win and I fully understand the feeling of defeat as a recently washed up competitive figure skater. (At least I'm clean!) But your family still loves you and your country (probably) still loves you even though you swam .001 seconds slower than the next guy or you took an extra step on that bouncy floor after your quadruple flip twist somersault. If someone stops loving you because of those minor imperfections or your silver medal that isn't gold, cut that person out of your life and run (or swim, or somersault).

When Jordyn Wieber missed qualifying for the individual all-around event in gymnastics, the reported devastation and defeat was on par with hurricane coverage. Thankfully, she still had other events ahead of her and she and her teammates won the ladies' team event, something that hasn't been done by the U.S. gals since 1996. Great work, girls! Apparently it's not as prestigious as winning that individual all-around, but it's still an Olympic gold medal. At least they didn't just get one medal for all five of them - talk about a cat fight sharing it or divvying it up.

The New Adventures of Forgetful Christine
Thankfully one journalist, Christine Brennan, also noticed such negative coverage and wrote a column in Tuesday's USA Today, which has been filled with photos of disappointment and articles of "defeat." She wrote the column titled "U.S. Winners Overshadowed by Negativity" where she brings up key points of the negative coverage, including  Michael Phelps's fourth place finish overshadowing Ryan Lochte's gold medal  and how Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman qualifying for the individual all-around was overshadowed by Jordyn Wieber's failure to do so. At least Brennan gets it. Oh, wait... her Monday column was titled "Wieber's Stunning Flameout Yields Tears All Around." Crap, wasn't her own article in Monday's USA Today part of the problem on which she commented Tuesday? I'm ready for that Romney-like flip flopping in my U.S. politics, not my USA Today. And since when did a few moderate missteps constitute a "flameout?" She didn't even fall or turn into a screaming gay man.

Honey, I didn't even fall!
Stories of disappointment and heartbreak go along side the stories of triumph and comeback in every Olympics. For every winner, there is everyone in the event who didn't win, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of athletes who didn't qualify for the Olympics. For each of these events, there is only one gold medalist in the world every four years. But so much more comes together with the Olympics - the world unites, the athletes unite, each athlete's lifetime of training comes together for the pinnacle of competition, spectators gain a temporarily greater national pride and the athletes create invaluable memories for themselves and the world.

I challenge the future silver medalists: Hold that silver medal high with pride. I don't have an Olympic silver medal and neither do Christine Brennan, Mitt Romney or almost everyone watching. And what happened to that childhood verse some of us learned on the playground to feel better about not winning? "First is the worse, second is the best, third is the one with the (fill in the blank)."

"At least I didn't get third!"


  1. It is definitely an honor to just be a part of the Olympics. I think news media in the US is way more negative then other countries, and typically ignores the real 'problems'. I wonder why. .. :/

  2. Way to go Robbie:)

  3. Thank you for the comments! Our overall negative news can get pretty tiring. It is great to at least see some of the triumphant Olympic coverage.