Dear Olympic Broadcasters,
I know. You’re getting a ton of hate mail about your terrible coverage of the Olympics (I’m looking at you, NBC) and probably you have email filters set up to send letters like this straight to your recycle bin. But really, I don’t want to talk about how maybe you could find a list of post-competition interview questions that include things other than “What was your strategy?” (Um, to win?) or “How does it feel to lose that race?” (Pretty bad? Seriously?) I won’t even mention that. I just really, really love the Olympic Games and so I have a small favor to ask:
Please stop demeaning our athletes by referring to their silver or bronze medal wins as a “crushing blow” or “a huge disappointment.”
All the glory is not gold, commentators.
It’s not just you, I know. Maybe it’s (sadly) a cultural thing. Because I saw one of our athletes, best in the world, I saw his father wrap his mouth around a curse word and shake his head in disappointment as his son ended his race and won the honor of a silver medal. And I thought about how he’ll go home, he’ll watch the replay of his race and he’ll see his father’s frown and hear the voice of a commentator remark “Second place. A huge disappointment.” And the second best swimmer in the entire world will feel like he isn’t good enough.
When I was a little girl I tiptoed across a beam, arms out, head high and as I leaped I imagined I was one of the Magnificent Seven. I wrapped my hands around a bar and flipped my body over and I thought “Maybe one day I can be an Olympian.”
Because Olympians are the best athletes in the world. Are we so in need of sensationalism that we have to find a sad story in a silver medal?
I don’t think the athletes agree with you. I can’t be positive because you keep cutting the cameras away, noting the silver or bronze medal winners as an almost afterthought (stop doing that.) But when they’ve fallen into the shot I’ve watched them put a shaky hand to their face or pump their fist in the air in a display of joy because a circle of bronze will be placed around their necks on the medal podium.
This is the language of triumph that I find the most beautiful. Tell a different story. A better story. Of hard work and sweat and tears and “Congratulations to that history making athlete on winning the silver medal in the London 2012 Olympics.”
I think the best of the world deserve it.