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  Comments (12) Total Friday Apr. 18, 2014
Something to Cheer For
Like I was Sayin....
If you’ve been watching the Winter Olympics, you’ve likely seen the commercial for consumer goods giant P&G. It shows children falling, his or her mom picking them up, the children growing up, falling some more, and ends with their mother embracing them as their son or daughter accomplishes their lifelong dream – in this case, winning an Olympic medal. The piece ends: “Thank you, mom.”

It’s a powerful spot because it resonates with most of us. I remember my mom doing the same, over and over again. I was an abnormally destructive child, prone to spills well into my teens. I would get injured on the soccer field during elementary school recess and then hurt myself on my skateboard in my teens. And my mom was always there to bandage my wounds and offer words of encouragement. All the while she held down a full-time job with the school district helping special-needs students.

So that commercial rings true for me, and probably for many of you. And so do the vignettes that NBC airs in between events during its Olympic coverage. The majority of them include Olympians’ family members who provide the support and often the financial backing for U.S. athletes. I especially liked the piece on Nick Goepper, the 19-year-old who earned a bronze medal in slopestyle skiing at the Winter Olympics.

His story featured his mom Linda, who would drive him to the 300-foot local ski hill in Indiana; a woman who Nick said “was always supportive and always let me do my own thing.” His dad also built him a rail out of PVC pipe on the grass in his backyard. Nick’s neighbors helped him raise money to pursue his dream by paying him for a variety of odd jobs. The support required for an American athlete to reach the Olympics is somewhat unique to this country.

Many American athletes are broke because, as The Christian Science Monitor pointed out, “Among top Olympic nations, the United State is alone in providing no government funding.” Thus, the United State Olympic Committee must run itself like a business and sell its members’ stories to potential sponsors – sponsors like P&G.

For every Shaun White, the snowboarder and household name who makes loads of money from high-profile sponsorships that built him a private half-pipe, there is a Keri Herman, who arrived in Sochi with broken ski boots and borrowed outerwear from a teammate.

“Sure I need a second job to support myself but I’m here because I love skiing and I could not think of any other way to be happier,” Herman told the Denver Post.

And that’s just one of the reasons we love the Olympics. We can relate to the athletes more than, say, professional football players. When Whitefish’s Maggie Voisin made the Olympic team, an online fundraiser helped send her family to Sochi to watch her compete. Unfortunately, Maggie suffered an injury during training, but it’s another example of how communities rally around their athletes.

The USOC and many of its competitors must do more with less. But that’s also part of the allure of cheering for your country as an American. The athletes’ backstories are as big a part of the Olympics as the actual events and the sponsors know that. And so does NBC.

In many ways, viewers are personally invested in each of the competitors. And while some scoff at the pro-USA coverage and the USOC’s tax-exempt status, compared to other countries that pour millions of dollars of taxpayer money into training Olympians, our system is surprisingly frugal. And considering this event is so often associated with excess and waste, that’s something to cheer for.
On 02-24-14, Gators commented....
Last two posts..well said.  I know some people get a raw deal in life.  I am willing to help them, and I do. But I think the percentage is low maybe ~30% of the people now really need the help. It’s the other ~70% that I…
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