Tuesday, June 29, 2010

“Vintage Platinum Medal”

PS Magazine, May/June 2010

For Immediate Release:

Dateline: April 1, 2010, Rochester, MN

Jimmie Santee Awarded “Vintage Platinum Medal”

In a touching ceremony attended by no one, but beamed by satellite to certain areas in Russia, Jimmie Santee was awarded the Vintage Platinum Medal for his performance during the 1988 Calgary games. “The fact that I was performing with Disney on Ice during those Olympics doesn’t mean anything… I mean I did beat Brian Boitano once in 1977. I’m sure if I was given a spot on that Calgary team I could of won" said Santee. Following the lead of the Vancouver Games Platinum Medal winner, Evgeni Plushenko, a secret but select committee of former non-medaling Olympians felt the need to recognize Jimmie as the true winner. When asked for a comment regarding the award, a former Olympic Silver medalist who asked to remain anonymous said, “Fantastic! Perhaps a note from Obama and a visit to the White House comes next!” When asked what he going to do now, Jimmie responded, “I’m going to the PSA Conference and Trade Show in Colorado Springs, May 27 – 29!”

…For those of you who missed the original Platinum Medal ceremony, Evgeni Plushenko allegedly awarded himself the medal following his 2nd place performance in Vancouver. I say allegedly because his agent, Ari Zakarian claimed that it was unauthorized and that Evgeni knew nothing of it. That contradicted what was reported on Yahoo sports; a picture of Evgeni wearing a platinum medal was found on his official site. The caption read, “Silver of Salt Lake, Gold of Torino, Platinum of Vancouver.” Regardless, the actions and words of the silver medalist made the claim believable. It was also one of the worst examples of sportsmanship…ever!

It also brought back a flood of memories of poor sportsmanship; the South Korean short track skater who threw his countries flag to the ground following disqualification after winning a race for gold in Torino. How about the Isaiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer of the Detroit Pistons walking off the court before the end of game 4 of the 1991 Eastern Conference Championships? Following the 1988 Olympics, Debi Thomas was being interviewed on live television said, “Anybody want to trade an ABC pin for a bronze medal?” I remember how mad I was when I heard that statement…I would have given anything just to be on the Olympic team. I thought how could anyone be so disrespectful?

If Plushenko had only made one bad quote, it would be easier to forgive him, but he went on and on. An article in USA Today by Steve Wieberg, may explain his behavior. In his article, a study by three U.S. academics shows that bronze-medal winners, on average, are happier with their finishes than silver medalists. Those scholars analyzed heat-of-the-moment reactions and interviews of Olympians, during the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
“When we documented the trend, there were some silver medalists who were delighted and some bronze medalists who were crushed,” said Thomas Gilovich, chairman of Cornell's psychology department and one of the study's co-authors. “But on average, the weight of the data showed there was this significant tendency for bronze medalists to be happier.” Steve Wieberg reported of the study “…that expectations, who was favored, who wasn't — were taken into account.”
Back in the early 90’s, I had to the chance to meet Debi Thomas and have dinner with her and a few of the other skaters from the Sun Valley show in Idaho. While sitting across from her, I brought up the quote. How she replied really changed my opinion of her. Debi had been a favorite going into the games. As the first black U.S. and World Champion in 1986, there was an enormous build-up of pressure prior to the games; not only from the skating society and media but by the black community as well. Debi was sitting in first place heading into the long, but a poor performance dropped her to the bronze. Her feelings Debi told me, was not that she thought she should have won, but of not doing her best. Her comment meant to be funny, came off as flippant and disrespectful. I don’t think her reaction would nave been different in she won the silver…she just didn’t skater her best and was crushed. Sometimes a lifetime of emotion just come out at the wrong moment.
Comparing Debi to Plushenko - In spite of of what Evgeni claimed, he also did not skate his best. In fact, go to u-tube and watch his long from Torino and compare it to Vancouver. I find it amusing that he was quoted as saying, “Quad is quad. If the Olympic champion doesn't know how to jump the quad, I don't know…Now it's not men's figure skating, it's dancing. That's my point.” My point Evgeni is your Vancouver program was – A. a dummied down version of your Torino program. Where was the quad/triple combination? Where was the Triple Axel/ Triple toe combination? And – B. the worst choreographed IJS program …ever! Unfortunately for Evgeni and his coach Alexei Mishin, in the four years they were out of the sport, it passed them by. They did not take the opportunity to grow with the system. Either through arrogance or stupidity, they decided that he was “owed” the gold. One thing Evgeni said was right, this isn’t dance. He had to earn his gold on the ice. Forget about a platinum medal, he should get Roger Ebert’s “Rotten Tomato” award.