Social networking, image fixing, and the Olympics

Before the Olympics even started, I had 'fanned' on Facebook the pages of the Vancouver Olympic site, the US Olympic team, the hockey team, the curling team, Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn, and then added Apollo Ohno, Johnny Spillane, Shani Davis, the Norwegian Curling Team's Pants, and...well, maybe that was it. Seeing the unedited comments made by these folks appealed to me and enhanced my enjoyment of the games. It's one thing to have Bob Costas draw questions from athletes, but it is quite another reading about these folks talking about what is on their mind at any given time they choose to post, be it their restlessness or butterflies before events, their elation or torment after, etc. Sure, the media will play up the Nancy-Tonya-lite spat that could be taken from a few of the posts made by those on the women's Alpine team, but what I didn't hear anybody read on air were the more humble comments they posted (these were from Vonn):
"Watching the opening ceremonies on TV so cool! I could be there with my teammates"; in a Note titled "Mixed emotions", she wrote " I want to congratulate Maria, Julia, and Anya on their great performances today"; and probably my favorite "...just want to congratulate US team members Bill Demong (gold) and Johnny Spillane (silver) for going 1-2 in Nordic combined today...". Here we have a marquee athlete in a marquee event giving props to teammates in a sport that usually gets little recognition in the states, the Nordic combined, which is a mix of nerves-needed ski jumping followed by an endurance-needed 10-km xc sprint. I thought that was genuine and cool.

The unfiltered comments are just so much more real sounding than the elicited responses they give to announcers, especially when the media is trying to enhance the image of a given athlete. I won't pretend to be a huge Bode Miller fan, but it was obvious from interviews that the media was looking to paint him as more likable in these games. They were successful enough, I suppose. Ditto for Lindsey Jacobellis. During the Torino games, the announcers--who know the technical and cultural aspects of her events well--called her for showboating. This time around, they explained that her stunt was simply the norm in the sport. Hmmm. Then she was on the Today show, coming off as thoroughly likable herself. Ok, sure these are young players on a big stage, and they can certainly change in four years, but I would rather form my opinions based on the athlete unfettered and how they carry themselves and what they say/write on their own.

So, let me wrap up with what Johnny Spillane said in one of his last updates: "Wow, what a few weeks it has been. Thank you all so much for your support, there is no way we could have achieved what we have without you!'
Thank you, Johnny, glad to know I helped!


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