Arts, Media, and Entertainment

Athletes Behaving Badly

Every two years, America looks to its Olympic athletes for an unparalleled display of drive, sacrifice, team spirit, and patriotism. Unfortunately, this year, many of our country’s best athletes provided us with a very different kind of display. Drive and sacrifice? Much-hyped skier Bode Miller barely managed to step out of the local bars long enough to participate in his events. Not surprising, then, that he didn’t win a single medal. Team spirit? Speedskaters Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis provided a whole new twist on that concept, with their very public bickering. Patriotism? How about figure skater Johnny Weir attending practices in a jacket with the old Soviet Union logo on it? Weir downplayed the outfit, explaining, “I just admire Russian culture.” Apparently, no one ever educated Weir on what the Soviet government did to Russian culture (and would have liked to have done to our own culture). The list goes on: Aerialist Jaret Peterson was expelled from the Games for punching an acquaintance. Snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis decided to show off on her way to the finish line, resulting in a fall that cost her the gold. Hockey player Mike Modano skipped his final team meeting after the U.S. team was eliminated, and then publicly blasted USA Hockey for forcing him to make his own travel arrangements. It wasn’t just about winning or losing gold medals either. Figure skater Sasha Cohen and mogul skier Toby Dawson didn’t manage to win gold, but both were honored by the U.S. Olympic Committee for their fighting spirit and mature attitude. And there were plenty of other examples of inspiring behavior, like speedskater Joey Cheek’s donating his entire winnings to refugees from the Sudan. But it seemed as if, for every feel-good story to come out of the Olympics, there were at least four or five that made us cringe. True, it’s not the first time an Olympic athlete has embarrassed himself and his country. But it’s difficult to remember a time when so many of them were doing it all at the same time. The American media and the public were understandably disgusted with the behavior of some of our best and our brightest. As the Washington Post reported, “As a whole, the U.S. Olympic Committee learned that its athletes need some lessons in comportment and team play. . . . So many American athletes seemed consumed with their own self-fulfillment.” Self-fulfillment. That certainly rings a bell. Isn’t that the very same idea that so many American parents and teachers have been instilling in their kids from their earliest days? We have been telling them, in effect, that life is all about doing whatever will make them happy—go after their own desires, unmindful often of what happens to other people. This idea of exalting the self has so permeated our culture that now even some of our most disciplined and hardest-working citizens—our athletes—have fallen prey to it. The old Olympic ideals we once took for granted now seem like a foreign language to much of this generation. America may have been left with a bad taste in its mouth as the Olympics ended. But maybe these athletes are just reflecting the values we have embraced. And if so, we have no one to blame for this sorry display but ourselves.


Chuck Colson


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