Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And... a memo to Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin


In my time zone ("live, except on the West Coast"), you're starting the third rotation of the team final.  Quite probably on your way to a team Olympic medal, and (if we are to believe the commentators), very likely a gold one.

And I'm going to make a prediction right now.  And that prediction is:  assuming neither one of you has to do anything Kerri-Strug-like remarkable, you're not going to get the Wheaties box.  Which is to say that neither one of you is really going to capture that whole "America's Sweetheart" thing. 

It's just not good enough to be an Olympic Champion.  Kick-ass gymnastics do not get you endorsements.  We need to like you.  And you haven't given us a reason to.

Look at the U.S. Men's Gymnastics team.  They gave us a story.  What with two alternates on the team, they barely made it past the qualification round.  But they were charming.  Pulling together.  Cheering each other on.  We saw them in their support-huddles before events, sharing the confidence -- and building more and more enthusiasm by sharing it.  And ultimately making us enthusiastic.  And it didn't even matter that they started to waver a bit at the end.  They got the job done -- they got on the podium, and it was a total team effort and we, the audience, dug them.  Did you see the way they cheered Sasha Artemev on the pommel horse?  That was the only event he competed, but he wasn't an "also-ran" in their minds -- he was a necessary part of the team and they totally treated him like that.

Now look at yourselves, Shawn and Nastia.  We watched you hug Bridget Sloan after her vault -- her one and only appearance in these finals -- and it looked like ... well, it actually looked like Marta Karolyi must have told you that you have to hug each other after a performance.  Perfunctory.  I think the camera even caught one of you looking away during the momentary hug.  Then, when Chellsie Memmel was warming up on the next appartus (her one and only appearance), while the rest of the team watched.  It was Bridget who actually applauded for her -- then Nastia joined in as an afterthought.  ("Oh yeah.  We should clap.") 

Don't get me wrong.  I understand the Olympic gymnastics are, y'know, hard.  I cansee that you're focusing on your own upcoming performances.  And if you've gotta be all "inside your head" in order to get the job done, OK, do that.  That's fair.  I'll respect that.  The job comes first, sure.

Just don't be surprised when you don't get the parades and the endorsement deals.

What I'm saying here is:  We'll be happy if you win.  But if you want to be remembered, you've got to win with class.


naperdillygirl said...

Not sure why the girl gymnasts appeared so stuck on themselves.  Especially Nastasia or whatever her name was.....you know the one with the nasty attitude.  The men on the other hand?.......INCREDIBLE.  Sweat and tears and absolute pride for a little bronze medal.....that's the olympics.

dklars said...

I agree with you.  Seeing Shawn moping sure didn't give me the warm fuzzies for her, either.  Geesh - you medaled, be proud, and SMILE a little!!  ~~Kath~~

dklars said...

Oh, my bad .... it's Sacramone  that was moping, not Shawn.  They're just so likeable, I can't tell them apart.  Heh.  ~~Kath~~