It’s Not Me, it’s Sochi…Okay Maybe it’s Me


U.S. snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg addressing a news conference after winning the first gold medal at the Sochi Olympics, Feb. 8, 2014 (P. Brewer/VOA).

The Winter Olympic Games have always been on the outside looking in when compared to the Summer Games. In terms of history, both national and worldwide, one is, generally, seen as a testament to human endurance and longevity, dating back to 776 B.C., while the other is symbolized by stoners on snowboards and dudes who compete in a thing called “figure skating”, that dates back to…1921 (ok…those are my words). Not exactly the same pedigree.

An air of apathy surrounds Sochi. In fact, it’s kind of disturbing. But why is this? Why doesn’t anyone seem to care, and if they do, only care…this much?

That said, The Winter Olympics is still the freaking Olympics, and I can remember a time when it was kind of a big deal…sorta. It definitely meant something. The “Miracle on Ice”, Kerrigan/Harding, Apolo Ohno…oh, wait…he sucks…but, you get the drift. It meant something. This year? Not so much. For some reason, I’ve sensed a dearth of excitement and attention for these games. An air of apathy surrounds Sochi. In fact, it’s kind of disturbing. But why is this? Why doesn’t anyone seem to care, and if they do, only care…this much?

Terrorism. A number of things could explain the collective shrugged shoulders of American Olympic voyeurs and couch surfers to these winter games, but none more visceral an idea and picture than that of prospective terrorism. Seemingly, from the end of November 2013, we’ve been inundated with words and phrases like “steel curtain of protection”, “black widows”, and  Apolo Anton Ohno…these words don’t exactly scream, “Hey, this should be good viewing pleasure!” As a country, we’re war weary, and the idea of having to face an attack on some of our best athletes and representatives, might not be all that enticing. Could this be the reason?

Politics. Ok, I’m not trying to test heated and politicized waters here, but reality is that, if you’ve paid any kind of attention to the 2014 Winter Games at Sochi (and many haven’t, hence this blurb), you know that Putin has come out against homosexual marriage, and many here in the U.S., and on our Olympic team, have a problem with that. Now, as I said, my gist here isn’t to make a point about national sovereignty, serious cultural and religious differences, or the feigned moral outrage of a despot who imprisons folks who simply disagree with him…no, sir. But one can’t escape that these games are overtly, and some would say overly, political, and that may not sit well with the average “Joe”…or “Jill”. Meaning, the Olympic Games are supposed to represent putting aside all of the bluster and blather of world politics, and attempting to show that we can compete and be human about it. To prove we can get together and let our young compete, while calling for the masters of war to put their toys away for a while, which is a lofty goal. There are exceptions to this, of course…1936, 1968, 1980, 1984…they all had a hardened political tone to them…but, for the most part, that’s the feeling… National pride with a handshake. Yet, these games have taken on so much more, in addition to all that I just noted. That’s a lot of stuff to go along with cheering for the U.S. Curling team against Norway or The Netherlands.

Attention Deficit Disorder. This may, or may not, be an actual thing, collectively or necessarily, but you get the idea. Is it possible that as a society we have become so attached to our phones, pads, tablets, and Google Glasses that we just can’t or won’t have a national feeling again about international competitions? I have no idea, but there is a disconnectedness about us that could be contributing to this Olympic size malaise. As Ice Cube put it so deftly and eloquently in “Boyz In Da Hood”, “Either they don’t know, don’t show, or just don’t care ‘bout what goes down in the Sochi”.

Ultimately, I have no idea why people seem to be treating the XXII Winter Olympiad like the latest Kardashian marriage fiasco, but they seem to be…with a Clint Eastwood style glare and a dismissiveness that Andy Warhol would be proud of. An almost silent media, which leads to a complete lack of star power or familiar names to root for, that, then, translates into…the sound of crickets… Who knows? It just seems strange to me that The Olympics isn’t a big deal anymore. Or…maybe it is…and I’m the one on the outside looking in.

About The Strong Sauce

W. Michael Lawson currently is host of “The Strong Sauce Hour” and Co-host of “The Sports Drive” on 101.3 FM in Cleveland, Tennessee, and a weekly columnist for The Chattanoogan. Mr. Lawson had a marginal career as a collegiate golfer, and then focused on academics. After teaching and studying in Asia, Europe, and South America, attending Grad School, and a brief stint as a door to door salesman for The Air Supply Fan Club, he now works in Finance, in addition to all that other stuff. Follow him on twitter: @thestrongsauce.

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