Competitive Greatness. Or Not.

First candidate for Howdy’s Handy Olympic Hitlist: snowboard halfpipe. Reason One: see “made for TV” comments from a few days ago. Two: “Look. Another guy did a 720. Wow.” They all look the same to me. Three: the athletes themselves don’t even care that much. With all their rebel, streetcore, skateboard-north cool, the Olympics are no big deal, and they’re determined to demonstrate it. Groovy. Go back to the X-games, then.


Damn! It happened to our man Jeremy again. Wotherspoon seemed to self-destruct in an Olympic race in which he was favoured, the long-track speedskating 500 metre sprint. It wasn’t quite a reprise of the Salt Lake Two-Step, but he must be bitterly disappointed. If he was a baseball player, we’d say he was gripping the bat so tightly it was turning to sawdust. In the great basketball wizard John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, the top block of the triangle is titled “Competitive Greatness”. It has changed a little to reflect more peaceful themes, but I like the original contents of the “CG” block: “Be at your best when your best is needed. Real love of a hard battle.” But beyond a certain level, you can’t coach this. I have no doubt that Wotherspoon wants this more than most elite athletes do. “Try easier,” I would have liked to tell him. (Yes, if Coach Howdy had been there, gold medals all ’round!)

Jerk that I am, I’m on my couch doing psychological assessments of this gifted and dedicated athlete, one of the great skaters in the sport’s history. This brings me perilously close to that most immature tendency of the sports fanatic: to resentfully criticize a homegrown athlete or my favourite team for their failure to make me feel better about myself. That can’t be good.