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Playing games at the Sochi Olympics

Written By | Feb 17, 2014

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., February 17, 2014 — The XXII Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia have proven to be a period when the press forgets its collectivist orientation and displays an unabashed American chauvinism, extolling the virtues of our athletes and glorying in the national medal count. Irony abounds.

American news media have been obsessed from the beginning with the “medal count.” Every win by every athlete is a tally to the nation’s collective score.

What journalists apparently forget is that the Olympics are a celebration of the individual: his and her athletic ability, whether it is in individual, pairs or team sports. It is a competition of strength, stamina, skill, and often teamwork. Unlike China, our government doesn’t “own” America’s Olympic teams. Most U.S. Olympic sports are organized as (gasp!) corporations. Many have their headquarters in Colorado Springs.

In addition to their focus on the medal count, journalists covering the Olympics have a strange contempt for anyone who doesn’t win the gold medal. In a country where the socialists downplay competition in elementary schools, Olympic sports coverage is competition at its fiercest. The one who gets “only” silver or bronze by a third of a second is a “loser.”

It was very refreshing to see how delighted Italian skier Christof Innerhofer was with his bronze medal in the men’s super combined. He laughed, danced around and even did a headstand on the podium. Good for him! You have to be very good indeed just to qualify for an Olympic team and even better to beat the large field of competitors to be one of the top three. Americans could stand to be a little more humble.

Humility is not an American strong suit, however. While the mainstream press glorified Chevy ads featuring same-sex couples, there was another GM ad that features a more traditional American spirit.

Featuring a sharply dressed business man — played by an actor known for his portrayal of creepy villains — the ad glorifies the hard-working American spirit.

“Why do Americans work so hard? Is it for a pool? A house? An expensive car? No. Because Americans are driven, hardworking people,” he says. “Sure, the other countries might think the U.S. is crazy, but they didn’t get to the moon, invent the airplane and the personal computer, so who’s actually crazy?”

Says the GM site promoting the ad, “Cadillac’s ad for 2014 ELR, which aired during the opening ceremony, also plays off this this idea. Would GM have the ultra-efficient ELR if they didn’t work hard, create their own luck and believe they could do it? We don’t think so.”

A multi-billion dollar bailout by American taxpayers doesn’t hurt either. We the People kept Government Motors afloat — not that we agreed to give them our hard-earned dollars. The federal government did that for us. Despite what they said, GM hasn’t paid us back, either.

Irony abounds: the company that was too big to fail the unions got the message right, even if they don’t practice what they preach. Americans do believe in hard work. As the actor says, we don’t do it for the material rewards — we do it for the love of inventing and creating and making. And for our families. Not for some greedy bureaucrat ready to take our money and redistribute it to his political base.

The material rewards aren’t the motivation — they’re the outcome. While the ad says that, it does not call it what it is: The Protestant Work Ethic. From the Pilgrims forward, it’s the idea that if you work hard and do the right thing, God will prosper your efforts. That’s not terribly PC to say right now.


Back to the games. They’re also based on the idea that if you train hard and do the right things, your efforts will be rewarded.

USA Hockey beat the Russians 3-2 in a preliminary round. It wasn’t Lake Placid, the USA Hockey team isn’t only amateurs and the Cold War is over. But it was a win and fun to watch.

Perhaps the most undervalued sport is the biathlon. In it, competitors cross-country ski a demanding course and stop every so often to shoot at a target while trying to get their heart rates under control. It’s like a hunter spotting that trophy buck and trying to control his excitement — except for the skiing part.

Susan Dunklee from Vermont, in her first Olympic biathlon race, finished 14th overall, the best-ever by an American woman. At 27, this is not her last Olympics. Surely that is something to celebrate, medal or not.

In today’s gun control media culture the Biathlon isn’t going to get top billing. To be honest, though, it never does. Maybe it’s because the female athletes don’t wear short skirts.


Al Maurer

Al Maurer is a political scientist and founder of The Voice of Liberty. He writes on topics of limited government and individual rights.