February 27, 2006

Postmodern Olympians

Over the last few days I have been fascinated as I watched Bob Costas and Tom Brokaw try to understand this new crop of USA Olympians. Both broadcasters are prototypical baby boomers having grown up in the era of the Miracle on Ice (that great hockey game that pitted good verses evil, US verses them, The United States Verses the Soviet Union). In those days the Olympics were serious business, the desire to compete was fueled by a nationalistic fervor intended to boost each countries claim not only to athletic superiority, but to cultural and political superiority as well.

With the fall of communism in Europe all sorts of worldview changes began to emerge. Militant Islam has filled a power and meaning vaccuume and willingly provided us with a new bad guy, but Islamic countries haven't ever competed well in the games so the joy of victory and the sting of loss just isn't the same.

Enter America's Postmodern Olympians. Here are some quotes I heard: "If I give everything I have and race the way I feel like I should race and don't come out with a single Medal, I will be just as happy as If I won 5 medals" That general sentiment was repeated over and over by Bode Miller, and though there was something about his attitude I didn't like, it was clear that part of the problem was the complete inability of Brokaw or Costas to even process that kind of postmodern, a-political, a-competitive thinking from a person who is a world class athlete. They can't imagine that Bode actually cares more about hanging out, partying, being with friends, and being in the Olympic "community" than he does about winning and crushing his opponents. Its not that they cant process his behavior, its that their modernist brains simply cannot fit it into their existing worldview as anything remotely ok.

Another Olympian that made a similar statement was Apollo Ono, In one interview he spoke openly about the fact that there is too much emphasis on the color of the medal and not enough focus on the Olympic spirit and tradition. Isn't that interesting, Ono has none of the arrogance or braggadocio of Miller yet he is echoing the same basic sentiment, we come we compete we do our best and were happy with the outcome---its you guys (read modern media) that aren't. Now at the same time watching Ono cross first to win the 500 Gold Medal and his total elation tells you that winning is still important to these new postmodern, but its just that not winning isn't quite as bad as it used to be. They seem to be more focused on the underlying purpose of the olympics to bring people of all cultures together so that they might promote understanding through the use of sport. Seems kinda cool to me...but hey I'm postmodern.

Oh one other thing: Sasha Cohen--not a post modern, Shaun White--Totally postmodern dude you can figure out why!!

1 comment:

Lorna said...

interesting comments.

wondering about this though "though there was something about his attitude I didn't like"

I say they have good olympic spirit - but Finland was sad to lose to arch rivals Sweden in the hockey final.

silver is respectable (hey they beat USA and Canada and Russia which in the old days would have been awesome, but no longer)

thanks for this.

Not sure about Sasha Cohen .. tell more!