The normally-sensible Kevin Drum gets all Wimbleton on the ass of what he calls the ‘Pseudo-Sports’ we’re seeing in the Olympics – halfpipe, snowboardcross, etc.
By coincidence, we’re sitting and watching the prelims on women’s snowboardcross – an event where four competitors on snowboards race down a narrow track – at the same time – jostling, passing, falling, all kinds of crazy stuff.
It’s the opposite of elegant, it’s wild and wooly. And the competitors – unlike the programmed athletic cyborgs we see at the highest levels of most sports – are pretty out of control as well.
The top American woman, Lindsey Jacobellis, lost her gold when, leading at the final jump, she stunted and fell – a showboat move which infuriated Kevin.
I loved it.
It’s the Olympic Games, not the Olympic Job.Look, I spent two years racing bicycles full-time. I know how hard people work to get to the level where they can seriously try and get to the Olympics. I know what it’s like to get up at 5:30 every morning and train for three hours, and then go to the gym at night. I feel a pang whenever the camera tightens in on the fallen athlete – a closeup on the realization that twelve years of pain and effort was wasted in one slip of a ski or skate.
But it’s still supposed to be fun; the moments I connect most closely with are those where the sheer pleasure of performance comes through.
In the women’s halfpipe, Hannah Teter the gold medalist had won the event before her final run. She could have sideslipped down the whole pipe and walked up to the podium. Instead, she threw down a brilliant performance – out of the sheer joy of doing it.
Let’s have more of that, please.
[Update: I just caught this editorial in the NYT:
Meanwhile, the potential champions in sports like figure skating grimly go about their business, trying to pretend that it’s all for the love of the sport, that the whole world isn’t watching, that a king’s ransom in endorsements doesn’t hang in the balance.
At times, the atmosphere gets downright gloomy. When the American figure skater Johnny Weir missed the bus to the rink, he got upset and skated badly, and finished without a medal. “I didn’t feel my aura,” he said. “Inside I was black.” Meanwhile, the Russian skater Yevgeni Plushenko accepted his gold medal with a stone-faced stare, “looking completely unamused,” as The Times’s Juliet Macur reported. “I tell the truth, this is my dream, yeah, and I am so happy,” Mr. Plushenko said unconvincingly. “Believe me, I am so happy.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Jacobellis had an amazing race, built a huge lead, got exuberant and went splat. What did she think these were — Games?