Saturday, February 18, 2006

The world ... expects it

So, didja catch that thing in the Olympics where Lindsey Jacobellis didn't win the gold medal in snowboard cross?

I am greatly enjoying snowboard cross.  I like how the Olympics are bringing in more X Games type sports, and snowboard cross is way fun to watch.  (And I'm sure NBC is grateful for anything in the Olympics that is way fun to watch.  Not that I have anything against curling or anything.  It just doesn't make for edge-of-your-seat prime time programming.)

So, American Lindsey Jacobellis is way out in the lead in snowboard cross (which is, like, a race on snowboards.  You know BMX?  Just replace the dirt with snow and the bikes with snowboards and you've got yourself an Olympic sport).  So, here's Jacobellis, a few seconds ahead of her nearest (and, due to a wipe-out earlier in the race, only) competition, two little jumps away from the very first Olympic gold medal in women's snowboard cross.  And she throws in a wholly unnecessary teensy little trick -- a trick that is most likely a bit of showboating, a photogenic trick -- and she lands it funny and falls down and the other woman just goes right past her and Jacobellis walks home with the silver.

The most amazing part was after the race when surprise gold-medallist Tanja Frieden was excitedly getting hugged and congratulated and Jacobellis was sorta standing there in silence, waiting to do the right thing and congratulate Frieden, and you know that what was going through her head is "Where the hell is that 8-second rewind button for my life?"

I don't fault Jacobellis for trying the trick.  It was something she was good at; playing to the crowd is part of snowboarding; and, hey, very few people in the world have experienced being a few seconds away from an Olympic gold medal, and it's hard to say what you'd do in their shoes.  (Boots.  Skates.  Whatever.) 

And I respect the way she's handled it in interviews -- not dodging the question, conceding that she may have been showboating, saying that she's still happy to have a medal of any color.

But I can't help but wonder how this plays to the rest of the world.  There are a lot of people in a lot of countries -- some of them our allies -- who would like to see America taken down a peg.  And when an American goes home with silver rather than gold not because she was beaten by her opponent but because she was beaten by her own ego -- well, that's gotta play right into the mindset of the folks who think we Americans are just too full of ourselves to begin with.  I imagine there are a lot of people out there who want to see America handed its butt on a plate at these Games -- and they must be cheering like crazy to see us get beaten by what is, basically, a moment of cockiness.

Jacobellis has been sportsmanlike (sportswomanlike?  sportspersonlike?) from the moment she finished that race -- congratulating her opponent and not offering any excuses for what happened.  But when she was on the field itself, she didn't respect the opposition enough to finish the race clean, and that's why she's got one of them silver donuts rather than a gold one.  There's a lesson in here someplace.

1 comment:

blondepennierae said...

I really enjoy the snowboard cross too.  I think a bit of over confidence, and a whole lot of being young played in the mistake.  Pennie