You watch the endless interviews with Winter Olympics personalities and are apprised about their dedication, courage, injury problems and the enormous amount of hard work it took to get them to Vancouver. Then there’s always the reference to the great pressure under which they find themselves, particularly if they are from a developed country that demands that they succeed.
Pressure? Sure it’s there, but they asked for it. It’s hard to align too deeply with athletes and their fear and loathing of failure when I think of the American men and women who this very minute are walking a tightrope in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan — without any choice. These people are the heroes; Olympians are celebrities who often are overindulged, overpaid and frequently over-glorified. What claim does some retread like skier Bode Miller have to hype and glory when he’s been such a flop for so long, much of it because of his own doing? While making a lot of money, too.
It’s said that Madonna and Lady Gaga epitomize fame; Helen Keller and Mother Teresa represent success.
Our people in the war zones usually can’t take a step, 24-7, without courting death or injury. Pressure? Consider the pittances they are paid for performing so gallantly on our behalf. All hail the rich Olympians and their superficial accomplishments of a specialized nature, like those salamanders on luge sleds. But they’re celebrities.
Armed forces people are the Kellers and Teresas, among the real heroes and heroines.
• Little wonder coach Bill Self is so greatly appreciated by his Kansas basketball players. Time and again he’s in a position to rip somebody for a bad game or an off-court blunder yet he’s always avoiding barbs and bullying. Consider, for example, how he let the rascally J.R. Giddens get out of here with a semblance of dignity when Bill could have ripped him to shreds.
Right now, Self has three flat wheels in Sherron Collins, Tyshawn Taylor and Xavier Henry. Collins and Taylor continue to excel in turnovers, maybe for reasons of ego, and if you wonder if Henry is NBA-ready, watch Kentucky’s John Wall a bit and think “another year” for Ex.
Said Self in a discussion about Collins’ recent funk: “I don’t believe in showing guys you don’t have faith in them when things are not going well when they’ve delivered over and over for you. . . . “
Bill takes care of his guys in countless ways so it’s no surprise they want to reward such loyalty and support.
• I knew last week’s column about the scandal-riddled Kentucky basketball program would draw rain from Wildcat zealots but the reaction developed into a hilarious face-off between Jayhawk and Kentucky faithful.
Oh, it all started with “you cur, sir!” responses, some pretty ugly, from UK-lovers, and “well-done” comments by KU devotees. But about halfway through the Mayer-bad and Bill-good missives, the tide swung to an all-out exchange of zingers between the fans of the schools.
It was delightful to watch the two camps hollering at each other. First time in 60-plus years I’ve ever seen anything like that. Some of the jibes were so harsh and tacky that a network referee refused to let them run.
But hell, it’s only a game! Like the Olympics, maybe?