Okay, I made the mistake of watching this interview with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and it's got me upset to the point where it's interfering with my work, so I have to blow off some steam.
You know, I completely understand the stereotype of the "Ugly American," and there's more than a grain of truth to it. Hell, if I'm completely honest with myself, I probably check off a few boxes on that list myself. And when we're genuinely behaving like Ugly Americans, BY ALL MEANS call us out on it; I always do. But there is nothing ugly about Meryl Davis and Charlie White. They represent the best of us, both as athletes and as human beings. Over the last four years, regardless of the competition results, they have been nothing but magnanimous. So the way they're being
I mean, it's not like this completely came out of nowhere. Those two teams have been oscillating back and forth between the top two spots for four years now. I mean, I understand the disappointment, but it can't have come as a COMPLETE surprise, could it?
And of course, the answer to that question, the elephant in the room, is that no, it DIDN'T come as a complete surprise because of some stupid French magazine trying to make itself important by publishing unsubstantiated stories of alleged vote-swapping between the US and Russia. Canada was primed for scandal and outrage, and so, when things didn't turn out the way they wanted, that's all they saw, regardless of the truth. And of course, the US--being the Ugly Americans--are always a convenient punching bag. Hey Canada, did it ever occur to you that if we were vote-swapping, we would have traded for a gold medal that we weren't already likely to win? What did we stand to gain from this alleged deal? If we're as corrupt as the rest of the world seems to think we are (not without reason), why would we go about this particular alleged deal so incompetently? I mean, all else being equal, if we'd won pairs' or men's,[*](Apologies to Abbott and Brown; I didn't mean that you're not capable of winning Olympic medals. I only meant that, based on the performances as they were given, it would have been weird if either of you had won gold. Particular apologies to you, Jeremy Abbott; you were the hero of Sochi as far as I'm concerned, and I'll remember your courageous performance long after I've forgotten who won the gold medal.) then you would have grounds to be suspicious and outraged, but Davis and White were always going to be gold medal contenders, and anyone with more than two functioning brain cells who has been paying attention for the last four years should have known that already!!! I get why people like to hit out against the US, but Davis and White are innocent victims of malicious gossip in this situation, and they don't deserve to be the target of your suspicion and outrage.
And when we're talking about the US in general: yes, there are a LOT of valid criticisms that can be made about our country in general, but we are hospitable enough to allow skaters from all nationalities to train in our country. Virtue and Moir have benefitted from that for seven years. It's a privilege, not a right, and one that can be revoked on the grounds of mere arbitrary whim. For example, in the lead-up to the Sochi Games, Russia decreed that only Russian skaters could train in Russia; skaters of all other nationalities had to pick up and move to train elsewhere. And it seems to have worked out pretty well for Russia, having won three of the five available gold medals, although it didn't win them much international goodwill. We could have done that, too. Oh, you say, "We were with Marina before Meryl and Charlie were"? Tough titties, we could have said. You're not American, so it doesn't matter, we could have said. Go back and train under your precious Maple Leaf, we could have said. But we didn't. By the way, where did a lot of those skaters displaced from Russia end up training? In America. You're welcome, global figure skating community.
At first I was just disappointed in Virtue and Moir, but now I feel a little betrayed by them. I'm nonpartisan when it comes to figure skating; I support the skaters who touch my heart or stir my senses, no matter where they come from. More importantly, I support skaters who are equally gracious in victory and defeat (or in this case "defeat"), and I categorically refuse to support skaters who aren't gracious, no matter where they come from. In the past four years, I've invested just as much in Virtue and Moir as I have Davis and White, and I've supported them equally. And while Virtue and Moir may not be hitting out against Davis and White, they're not sticking up for them, either, which could be construed as tacit approval. That's not how friends are supposed to behave, is it? Any friend I've ever had who treated me like that, I didn't stay friends with for long.
I guess the thing that really hurts is that I initially chalked their peri-Olympic comments up to thoughtlessness in the heat of the moment. Now they've had time to think about what they said and how it might have affected other people's feelings, and yet they're not really saying anything different. I appreciate honesty, but honesty doesn't have to mean saying every little thought that comes into your head. It's possible to be honest while being considerate of other people's feelings. They haven't said anything to the effect of, "We know how hard Meryl and Charlie have worked, and we don't want to take anything away from their accomplishment," which makes me think that maybe they do. And maybe they are genuinely surprised by the negativity sparked by their criticisms of their coach, but I find it hard to believe that anyone in the figure skating world could be that naive (see my earlier analysis of the ugliness behind figure skating reportage).
My philosophy when it comes to the Olympics in general, and Olympic figure skating in particular, is that once you win a gold medal, you forfeit your right to complain forevermore. And that's because of Michelle Kwan, who is arguably the greatest figure skater to never win an Olympic gold medal, and she's never, ever complained or made excuses about it.[*](And she has EVERY RIGHT to complain about being left off the '94 team in favor of Tonya Harding, arguably the Ugliest American ever to take the ice.) So if you already have an Olympic gold medal and you start making excuses, I have zero sympathy for you. None whatsoever. I don't care who you are or where you're from. Moreover, if you're an athlete from Canada, the homeland of Alex and Frederic Bilodeau, you have NO right to complain about ANYTHING, unless the Bilodeau brothers give you permission.[*](I suppose it's not very nice of me to invoke them without knowing where they stand on the matter. Maybe they think Virtue and Moir were robbed too. Please don't be mad at me, Bilodeau brothers; I love you both, and I meant no offense.)
On the other hand, maybe I'm the one who's being thoughtless and insensitive. There is a lot of cultural baggage that goes along with this, and from the Canadian perspective, they have gotten the short end of the stick a lot when it comes to Olympic figure skating.[*](While they're third in the overall medal count, they only have four golds, which drops them down to seventh on the medal table; I can imagine how that must sting a bit.) The most obvious example, of course, is the pairs competition from the 2002 Olympics, in which they were inarguably shortchanged (although that was rectified later). And then there was the fabled 1988 "Battle of the Brians," which probably could have legitimately gone either way.[*](Although if Brian Orser HAD won gold at Calgary in '88, Alex Bilodeau's story would have been far less memorable, and he probably would have had a harder time raising money for cerebral palsy research, so...I don't know, Canada, are you willing to put aside your hurt feelings, look at the big picture, and admit that maybe it was a blessing in disguise? Because I think that this makes for a far better story, but then that's easy for me to say from where I'm sitting, isn't it?) And there are probably a lot of other examples that aren't seared into my consciousness, not being Canadian myself.
Getting back to the interview...then it got worse. Asking seemingly random questions, the interviewer asked them if brother-sister ice dance teams weirded them out, and they said yes. On the one hand... Wow, HUGE (albeit indirect) slam on the Shibutanis out of NOWHERE! Are you just bound and determined to piss all over our ENTIRE ice dance team? Like, "Oh, I hate people who change partners after getting their Achilles tendon severed."
On the other hand, when Tessa says, "I would never do the things I do with Scott [on the ice] with my brother," she makes a good point. For example, go to YouTube and look up their exhibition program to "Stay" by Rhianna. I won't link to it because I have standards, but of course you wouldn't do that with your brother; you would get arrested! But sibling dance teams, insofar as they are able, take a different approach.[*](All programs have required elements, and the short dance in particular has a compulsory element, determined at the beginning of each season, in which everybody has to do the same step. So if the ISU sets a tango or a rumba as the compulsory element, then yeah, that can get a little uncomfortable when it comes to sibling dance teams.) The Shibutanis said in an interview that it forces them to be more creative in planning their programs. Unlike the other teams, they can't default to, "Let's caress each other's faces and pretend like we're in love,"[*](Virtue and Moir seem to default to this a lot. Personally, I think Davis and White tend to have a lot more variety in their programs from year to year, and that versatility might be part of the reason for their success.) but what some might see as a disadvantage, they turn into an advantage. Individual mileage will vary, of course, but speaking for myself, I much prefer watching the Shibutanis being adorable than watching Virtue and Moir stylistically simulate sex acts on the ice, thank you very much.
Well, I feel a little bit better now, but honestly, it just makes me want to cry. It genuinely hurts my feelings.[TMI](To be fair, I am also perimenstrual at the moment, so that might have something to do with it.) I don't know; I'd appreciate an objective, disinterested opinion if anyone has one to offer. Am I being unreasonable? Am I too close to it to see it objectively? Am I getting worked up over nothing? Am I just another Ugly American underneath it all?