Monday, February 20, 2006

The Draped Flag

There was a time, not so long ago, when American life came to a near standstill during the Olympics (though more the Summer version than the Winter one). That doesn't happen anymore. You know things are faring poorly when millions more people watch American Idol than US hopes for gold, silver and bronze.

Consequently, a great deal of the American viewing public is unaware of a nasty tempest that is brewing toward the boiling point. While the issue itself is painted as a disagreement among two athletes, as with many things in today's world, race plays a huge part in it.

Over the past weekend, Shani Davis became the first African American athelete EVER to win a gold medal in an individual event at the Winter games by scoring the winning time in the 1,000 meter speedskating race. His erstwhile teammate Chad Hedrick wasn't in a congratulatory mood, however, because Davis had decided to skip an earlier team race in order to concentrate on his speciality.

Hedrick, who is white, has painted his complaint in red, white and blue. In Hedrick's estimation, Davis put himself before his country.

It sounds like a good argument, if it were true. The problem with Hedrick's characterization of Davis' selfishness is that Hedrick's own gripe is based on self-interest too. Before the Olympics began, Hedrick had marketed himself as America's next potential 5-medal winner. If he garned the 5 medals, he was certain to rake in millions of dollars in endorsement contracts.

In essence, Hedrick is far more upset with Davis because Davis' decision means that Hedrick can't live up to his own hype. That has nothing to do with mom, apple pie and the flag!

Many in the sports media, however, seem willing to overlook Hedrick's obvious conflict of [self-] interest. This brewing controversary has gained a lot of traction and Davis is bearing the brunt of a slew of ill feelings.

If you don't think race plays a big part in the controversy, imagine if the roles were reversed. Imagine that Shani Davis was a member of the relay team and Chad Hedrick decided not to participate in the team event to instead concentrate on his speciality.

If it was Davis who was now complaining, I can almost hear the general response. "That Davis is only thinking of himself. His only chance for a medal is in the relay. Chad Hedrick stands a far better chance of winning gold for the US if he skates solely in the 1,000 meter race."

I know that there are a lot of Americans who want to believe we live in a colorblind society, that each of us IS judged by personal merit alone. Examples such as the one above prove we have a long, long way to go to realize that kind of reality!

Hats off to Shani Davis!! We should all be proud of his hard-earned gold medal.


  1. Good post, Trey. Perhaps when it comes down to it, we all act out of self-interest, ultimately. Even Mother Teresa probably did what she did to feel good about herself. Maybe the question, then, is: Does my self-interest keep anyone else from fulfilling her or his self-interest?

    BTW, we love your "aprotypo" (an apropos typo) coinage of a new word, "controversary" - perhaps defined as controversy between adversaries?

  2. Good post.

    It honestly upsets me a lot, all this bad media coverage of Shani. I personally know Shani, and the way they make him out to be isn't how he is at all. He is honestly one of the nicest guys I've ever met, and he skates because he LOVES the sport not for all the spotlight, unlike Chad.

  3. From the runup to the Olympics, and since the games began, it has been clear to me that Chad Hedrick is all about Chad Hedrick. Most super-successful athletes possess a certain amount of self-confidence that often comes out as arrogance. I can deal with that, and I understand it. The person's true character is generally revealed at the moment of their greatest triumph - or greatest disappointment.

    There have been a lot of other athletes who entered the games with big dreams of multiple medals, and almost all came away short of their ultimate goal. The ones I can remember have handled themselves with more class than Hedrick. His snub of Davis reeks of selfishness more than racism to me. He needs to grow up. He has already achieved a lot that he could rightly be proud of rather than grousing about what he didn't get.

  4. So much of the story is hidden. Who is to say, what is the real story? Anything we hear in the press, is far far far away from any sense of truth.

    The fact is the Olympics are a joke, which is why no one watches them anymore. Its not about the sport, its about the money. Looking back the height of the Olympics was more of a political war, a time for people to be proud of their country, at a time you never knew when the nukes might be thrown against the other side, it was a time people could watch the fight in proxy with the warriors using only their sporting skills. Now that the cold war is over, that need of a safe confrontation arena has been lifted.

    This current spat, is as you rightly mentioned is about the money, and the behind the scenes petty fights between people fighting over their potential future careers.

    Casey Kochmer

  5. oh and i also agree

    Hats off to Shani Davis!! We should all be proud of his hard-earned gold medal.

    it was a achievement that anyone should be proud of. I could never do it thats for sure...

    Casey Kochmer

  6. "Gold and silver medal-winning U.S. speedskater Joey Cheek donated his $40,000 bonus from the U.S. Olympic Committee to Right to Play, a humanitarian organization that helps disadvantaged children through sports. "Since Cheek spoke up, Gap, the United States clothier, has pledged $25,000, joining others in a money chain that has surpassed $300,000."

    I wonder if Shani will be as giving?

  7. What this tells me, Trey, is the same thing it always tells me...when it comes down to it, the only person you can really change is yourself. Be the what you want the world to be...others will have to come around when they're ready and they won't do it because you force them.

  8. Get a load of the anonymous racist.

    You know, I'm fine with anonymity in this case. I really don't think I'd want to know any more about this person.

  9. Annonymous,
    Why stop at just Davis? Will Hedrick donate his bonus?


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