NOT SURPRISED ONE BIT  

Hello Everyone –

The headline on my USA Today news alert read “Day 7 was a disaster for Team USA at the Winter Olympics.”  Again, the so-called expert media don’t get it – just competing against the best in the world, is accomplishment enough and if an athlete can drape a gold, silver or bronze medal around their neck, it’s icing on the cake.

I knew it, as soon as a favorite didn’t capture a medal, the media ax would fall, and the so-called reporter/expert would put the “disappointing” label on an undeserving athlete that probably has trained most of their lives for this opportunity. During the first week of competition when Team USA was raking in a group of medals, including of the gold variety, life was good, wasn’t it?  Well it was good until there were a couple of fourth place finishes.

Let’s think about that for a second or two and try and put that in perspective. That’s finishing fourth against the best the world throws at you.  Through the qualifying for the Olympic games, just how many other competitors, did that fourth-place finisher have to beat to even get a chance to travel to South Korea and represent Team USA?  For most of the athletes, it’s been a lifetime of competing, of getting up at some ungodly hour to train, of going to school and, oh yeah let’s not forget, an attempt at having some kind of social life.  Then they finish fourth and some reporter with a laptop deems their result a disaster. How dare they.  Get a clue said reporter, get a clue.

I will have to admit, on some occasions, criticism is warranted, like if the athlete is the favorite and just plan dogs it and the expert commentator, who by the way also is a former athlete in said sport, brings out the fact that the participant just plain did not give it his or her best effort, well, I can live with that.  You see, I believe since they have been there and done that, they can provide commentary that tells the situation as it actually is at that time.

What really gets my dandruff up is when a media outlet sends a reporter to cover a certain event and that reporter has zero clue on what it takes to compete in the sport.  I mean most reporters growing up have hit a baseball, thrown a football, shot some basketball, but how many have gone down a mountain at 80 mph or snowboarded Daytona 500 style.  I am guessing here, but I would say that most probably haven’t even skied.  It just seems to this reader that most don’t even do enough research on the sport they are assigned to make even educated guesses on what is truly happening right in front of them.

Now, let me be clear about something on this matter, if a competitor during an interview labels their effort a disappointment or disaster, well then go for it and report as such, that the athlete blames themselves.  But on numerous occasions during this and past Olympic games, I have heard athletes state without remorse they were just happy to have the opportunity to go up against the best the world has to offer.  They went on to say if it wasn’t for the Olympic Games, they would never get the opportunity to put all of the time they put into training and preparing into competitive events.  Now to me that is what the true spirit of the Olympic Games is all about for the majority of the athletes.

Let me set the record straight here, I do like when an athlete does their best and comes away with a medal.  I would also not be telling the truth if I didn’t say that I was pulling for every Team USA athlete out there.  When the results are placed on the TV screen, the first thing I look for is the stars and stripes and see how the American did in the event.  On the lesser known sports, such as cross-country or ski jumping, etc., I have felt a sense of pride just to have an American participating and placing as well as they could.  I again think of all the days they have practiced, just to be able to put their efforts next to the best in the world.  That to me is very special to each and every athlete.

As much as I have picked on those media who don’t seem to understand the true spirit of the Olympic Games, I want to give a shout out to the folks at NBC’s Today Show.  I have watched every morning of their coverage and hosts Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb truly have been engaged in the Olympic spirit.  Oh, they have bubbled about Chole Kim’s snowboarding halfpipe gold medal winning effort, but they have also spoken up for and praised all of the athlete’s efforts at the games.  I know, you say, NBC has paid billions of dollars for the game’s TV rights, but hey, they are doing it the right way and their broadcast smiles have been contagious.

On a sad note though, I was feeling for both anchors last week when they have to open up with the Florida High School shootings, instead of reporting on the results the day before from the games.  I can’t imagine the feelings going on in their minds and they did an awesome job, handling the highs and lows of the news business that day.  It reminds me of a story I once heard about former President Harry Truman who was once asked why he read the sports page, before reading the front page and his response, “I would rather read about man’s accomplishments first thing in the morning, instead of reading about his failures.”

That’s it for this week’s column, more to come as the season begins to wind down.  Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be warm, we’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather will be.  Think about it! See you on the slopes.

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Joe Stevens
Joe is well known around the southeastern ski circles. Stevens was Director of Communications at Snowshoe Mountain Resort for 16 seasons with another 15 years prior to that in Richmond, Virginia newsrooms. Joe serves on numerous boards and committees and currently is a spokesperson for the West Virginia ski areas.Joe has been a featured columnist on SkiSoutheast since 2005 and has written numerous articles for us, as well as for others promoting all of the southeastern ski resorts. Joe resides in Charleston, West Virginia, with his wife, Angie, and son, Christian. He is an avid snowboarder and marathon runner.