Spangled Self-Righteousness

February 20th, 2010 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

The Olympics seem typified by extremely hard-driving athletes and arrogant schmucks, sometimes in the same person. Two giggle inducers in the current contests are figure skater Evgeni Plushenko and snowboarder Shaun for-Christ-sakes-stop-calling-me-Flying-Tomato White.

The amusing nexus of this pair is their proclamation of their superiority to their events’ competitors…by virtue of an advanced skill. Both hold they are they manliest of humanoids in their pursuits. By inference, anyone who shows up without matching their specialty trick is unworthy of praise or prize.

score displays

The Russian skater is more risible this Olympics because he’s  off to the boudoir in its old meaning of pouting room. Coming out of retirement for these games and able to pull the athlete’s/chess player’s gambit of how long it’s been since he competed, he instead did the very un-Olympic I’ve-been-robbed when he came in second in men’s free skate to Evan Lysacek.

The Russian says that the American is undeserving because he didn’t do a quad jump to match Plushenko’s. His prime minister, Vladimir Putin, amplified the whining and looked even sillier than usual in doing so.

The no-longer-the-FT White simply taunts  other snowboarding men. He holds that what he used to call the Double McTwist and now wants to rename it the Tomahawk move is necessary to win the halfpipe. So there.

Even before the skate final, Pluskenko openly teased Lysacek about the quad, even knowing the American had given himself a fracture with it not long ago. The quad is physically demanding, currently only performed by a few men and no women, and moderately dangerous to bones. Similarly, White’s move is dangerous and trying to master it may lead to broken necks, death and so forth.

Yet the bluster from these two slight-bodied champions is so similar. The fact is that bluster aside, outside their venues, they’d be girly men to many. They work very hard to be athletic winners but both are really in frilly, silly sports to many. Thumping your spangled or floral clothes to make the point about your manhood is more silliness.

The argument for Plushenko appears best in a column by another skating champ, Elvis Stojko.  He agrees about the lack of a quad jump and pretends that the Russian’s routine was nearly flawless.

Tip of the Toupee: To chum podcaster Ryan Adams for pointing me to the real injustice in this event.  As explained in Kevin Marshall’s blog, openly gay skater Johnny Weir deserves a hell of a lot better than he gets from judges.

The fact that Plushenko, Putin and Stojko gloss over is that the Russian didn’t play the game. Skating scoring has changed. Lysacek paid attention, skated to the new rules, and edged the other guy…without a quad in his routine.

We can’t even say that Lysacek gamed the system. He produced what generated the necessary points. He ended up with more points. He won. In contrast, Plushenko played the salesman and tried to dazzle ’em with bullshit. He figured the hardest trick would give him the gold, ignoring the reality of the scoring system. Honk. Thanks for playing.

There’s no question that snowboarders and figure skaters are real athletes or that they can do things I could not begin to even try. However, the Olympics are not public-park sports. Daring the other guy is a ploy that shouldn’t make any difference in results in Vancouver. One trickster won and one lost the top prize. The one who lost thought he was above the rules.

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2 Responses

  1. jacqueline says:

    I was a bit amazed at the behavior of many Olympian… they come to the rink or the slope and often seem above everyone. Granted, I can not do what they do, but they PLAY for a living. I want to shout, “Give it a rest kids and realize that you are blessed by the ability to PLAY for your livelihood. That should make you fun, freewheeling and fair”… oh if only it was the playground and not the international stage.

  2. Uncle says:

    Plushenko is certainly a putz…as are his coach, the Russian Ministry of Sport, and Vladimir Putin. Shaun White, not so much. To some extent he’s a kid in an exuberant and very non-traditional sport. When he says the McTwist is becoming the standard, he’s simply right, and not taunting anybody. Tricks that were over the edge at Torino are now standard. It’s a question how far boarders will push this envelope before the IOC anal retentives step in and spoil the whole thing.

    I think the great thing about many of the imports from the extreme sports world *is* the sportsmanship; people who wipe themselves out of medal contention, get up laughing and grinning, to be greeted with smiles and hugs by competitors. I’m sorry to see short track skating being spoilt by mainstream attitudes.

    I just watched Shaun White say in an interview that his parents don’t get why he can ride a halfpipe but trips going up the stairs. You wouldn’t catch Lindsey Vonn saying that: you have to be centred, not arrogant, to admit to flaws.

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