Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Olympic Experience


The other night, I watched Bob Costas interview Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson after their one two finish in gymnastics, and frankly, I was disgusted. These girls had a powerful forum where they could trash talk, gloat, taunt, and – most importantly—make veiled or not so veiled political commentary about China, and they chose to do none of these. Instead they talked about hard work, perseverance, camaraderie, and self-esteem. Do these girls go to high school? Do they know anything about China’s human rights record? The pollution? A place called Tibet? The natural disaster relief that makes FEMA’s reaction to Katrina look like Harvey Keitel as Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction? Perhaps they don't have teachers, just media coaches.

Athletes in the past have often used their Olympic fame to provoke political debate. Who can forget what Mary Lou Retton said to Howard Cosell after her gold medal in 1984? Cosell asked her how it felt to score perfect tens in both the vault and the floor exercise and Mary Lou smiled and said: " I shit my leotard, of course, but at least I didn’t have to wait in line for toilet paper so I could wipe my ass.” Message received by the boycotting Soviet bloc.

Or how about what Mike Eruzione mouthed to the camera after he scored the game winner in 1980? “That’s what happens when you bastardize a Marxist utopian dream and corrupt it with crypto-fascism and propaganda!”

Instead, Liukin and Johnson fed us saccharine smiles and palaver about how great their “Olympic Experience” was going. Olympic Experience? What happened to Olympic Games, i.e. Olympic Competition. I’m all for good sportsmanship—shake hands with your opponent after you crush them and hear the lamentations of their women, but certainly spit on your hand before you shake.

4 comments:

Zoltan said...

Is it just me or are there an surprising number of cute women on the Polish women's volleyball team? And by "surprising number" I mean more than zero.

Dave said...

how many polish women does it take to spike a volleyball?

Geoff said...

Six?

Whitney said...

I felt sure I would read something about the Black Panther salute of '68 as a point of reference. Glad Dave went with lesser-known but no less compelling examples.