Americans have long been seen by the world as arrogant, selfish, self-absorbed party animals and as much as we would like to contest the truth of our reputation, this year’s Winter Olympic athletes have not made it easy for us.
In the international, multi-sport competition, the entire world watched as Americans like Bode Miller, Chad Hedrick, Shani Davis and Lindsey Jacobellis, among others, demonstrated the stereotype of the “typical American.”
Let’s look first at downhill skier Bode Miller. Last November, before traveling to Torino for this year’s Winter Games, he admitted that his reasons for going to Torino were “really impure,” and even stated that “If it wasn’t such a [expletive] for [him] to pull out now, [he’d] definitely consider it.”
He proved that he meant what he said when he spent more time in Italy vacationing than skiing. He was frequently spotted at bars and clubs between races, but barely seen performing well on the slopes or even caring about his events at all in the past two weeks.
Further proof that he is not a team player, Miller said of his teammates, “Look, a lot of the people involved with the U.S. Ski Team – the people that I’m representing – are unbelievable assholes. Rich, cocky, wicked, conceited, super-right-wing Republicans.”
With teammates like these, who needs opponents?
Speaking of terrible teammates, let’s turn to Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis, two speedskaters whose emotions got the better of them in Italy. When Davis opted out of the team pursuit – the speedskating team relay – in order to focus on his individual event, his teammate, Hedrick, refused to congratulate him for winning the gold medal for the 1,000-meter long track race.
Davis showed that he cares more about himself than his team and Hedrick acted like an infant by not supporting a fellow American. Hedrick also childishly refused to participate in the victory lap when he finished third to Davis’ second in the 1,500-meter race.
Finally, Lindsey Jacobellis, an American snowboarder, dropped from the gold medal to the silver simply by showing off. Toward the end of her race she attempted a trick off of a jump, missed it and fell behind Switzerland’s Tanja Frieden despite being ahead of any competition for the gold. She jeopardized and eventually lost what would have been a sure gold medal in order to show off to the world and in doing so embarrassed herself and her country.
Joey Cheek, however, was one American to not act foolishly. In fact, Cheek was exactly the opposite. Instead of relying on his Olympic glory as a speedskater to bring him fame and fortune, he plans to go to college now that the Olympics are over. This bold move shows that he truly understands and appreciates the value of a higher-level education.
Instead of cashing in his medal for personal gain or automatic monetary benefits for winning a medal, he has vowed to send any money he makes, including the automatic cash prize given to medal winners, to charities – specifically the “Right to Play” group started by Dutch speedskater Johan Olav Koss.
“Right to Play” provides children without the means to play sports because of poverty and war a chance to do so. Cheek is right in line to give underprivileged children a shot at what he has experienced. Specifically, he hopes his money will be sent to the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan.
Hopefully in the future our athletes will begin to act more like Cheek and less like Miller, Hedrick, Davis and Jacobellis. If Americans want to save face in the eyes of the rest of the world, we have to put in the effort. Otherwise, we will simply continue to be seen by the world as selfish, individually-oriented and downright offensive.
But look on the bright side – at least we didn’t get stuck with any doping charges.
Winn can be reached at email@example.com.