The Vancouver Winter Olympics (Sponsored by Spring!) are coming in for a lot of abuse, much of it deserved. When you have athletes getting killed, big-time venue and ticketing failz, horrible weather and weird security breaches, you are halfway down the road to Goodwill Games-ville.
Yes, yes, yes. But allow me, for a moment, to rise to the Games’ defense. As I have previously written, the more unpopular the Winter Games become, the more I seem to like them. The puritanical Left dislikes the Olympics in general because they’re all nationalistic, etc. (And, in this particular case, because the Games are taking place on “stolen Native land”—a factor, undeniably connected to much troubling political history, that never seems to dissuade liberal-minded people from flocking to the restaurants, bars and coffee shops on Robson Street, which are presumably also on stolen Native land.) The Pleistocene relics who dominate mainstream American sports media dislike the Olympics because they involve weird foreign sports and weird foreigners.
So—possibly because of some unlovely aspects of my own personality—I am generally inclined to like the Games, for all their many flaws. For one thing, I could watch the pulse-quickening Space Age roller derby of short-track speed skating every damn weekend. And through no particular virtue of their own, the Vancouver festivities produced an evening of patriotic kismet for me last night.
Team USA rolled up its best-ever single-day Winter performance, scooping medals all over the place. I feared the long-track speed skating rink would melt in the white-hot glare of Shani Davis’ intensity. I feared my wife would cry all night after Lindsay Vonn’s gritty downhill gold. And I worried about Shaun White’s eligibility, in case the Games test for magic mushrooms.
Any mildly partisan sports fan would have relished the victory parade, but I especially enjoyed seeing the hopeful version of the United States on display.
You’ve got an obsessive black kid from Chicago tearing up speed skating, of all things. A world-class doofus/world-class athlete from the empty-swimming-pool skater wastelands of California rules the half-pipe. A weepy blonde chick from Minnesota turns in a performance of tempered steel on the most terrifying downhill track I’ve ever seen. In the short-track chaos, a couple biracial Asian-American sprites from the Seattle suburbs are showing up huge. And as for our male figure skaters—given time, they could annihilate both Project Runway and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
I don’t mean to be unfashionably sappy, but these Olympics are showing us an America that is…kind of cool, really. After a year of pseudo-patriotic Tea Party/Fox News-y flag-grabbing nonsense, it’s good to see some real real Americans claiming Stars & Stripes. And after a year of wobbly political inertia, it was fantastic to see the United States reincarnated as a melting-pot of tough, hard-working, innovative world-beaters. If a hair-farming ginger like Shaun White can still wrap himself in Old Glory, maybe the Republic stands a chance.