The Real Reason the Olympics Suck

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Mariel Zagunis, the U.S. flag bearer in the Olympic opening ceremonies, lost her semifinal sabre match yesterday. She was a two-time medal winner facing enormous pressure. She was way ahead of her opponent during most of the match and then collapsed utterly in the last couple of minutes. Afterwards she was in a daze. All she could talk about was how badly she had done, how disappointed she was. In the midst of all that, she failed to fulsomely congratulate the play of her opponent.

This is what most of us call “being human.” A devastating disappointment affects people like that, at least for a few minutes. But Washington Post columnist Mike Wise doesn’t care:

Say buh-bye, America. Mariel Zagunis’s Q-rating just left the building.

….I met Mariel Zagunis in Athens in 2004. Zagunis then was this likable teen with a blond ponytail who did spot-on impersonations of a three-toed sloth because she watched so much Animal Planet….Contrast that with Wednesday’s unsmiling, hyper-focused, I’m-not-talking-to-anyone-but-my-coach-between-matches ball of stress, who remained in an autopilot daze even after she lost.

Etc.

Yep, that’s what’s important. Zagunis, in the aftermath of a crushing letdown, wasn’t quite the bubbly teen that Wise remembers from eight years ago. She’s not as media savvy as, say, Kobe Bryant, and after her bout she continued to say that she could have won if she hadn’t lost her concentration, instead of vacuously thanking God for the mere opportunity of attending the games, the way you’re supposed to. And for that she deserves to be publicly slagged by some idiot columnist searching out something new to write about.

I think this is what I dislike most about the Olympics. Not that it’s tape delayed. Not that the commentators are annoying. Not the commercialism or the nationalistic hype. It’s people like Mike Wise. Go back into your cave, will you? Leave the rest of us alone.

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This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

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