Say it ain’t so! I guess it was only matter of time before I came across an article like this one from yesterday’s Globe and Mail. Sports columnist Stephen Brunt graciously highlighted the sad fact that winter sport coverage in Canada is right back where it used to be – the back pages – after the media frenzy leading up to and during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. To quote Mr. Brunt:
Spotlight shrinks for winter athletes TORONTO— From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail Published Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010
“Perhaps you remember these folks.
Fresh-faced young sports heroes, the embodiment of the new national spirit, their stories spun out on multiple media platforms, inspirational tales of personal challenges conquered and obstacles overcome, pointing toward that single shining moment when one of them would become the first Canadian to win an Olympic gold medal on home soil, all of that accompanied by the theme song that you just couldn’t get out of your head.
That was one year ago.
And this is now.
Tuesday morning, some of the members of Canada’s World Cup alpine ski team were introduced to the media at the same downtown Toronto venue where they took the stage almost exactly 12 months earlier.
Many of the faces were the same, as were the corporate sponsors, whose commitment extends at least for this one year beyond the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. But there was no forest of television cameras, no wave upon wave of representatives of the great Olympic media consortium trolling for new biographical details.
Instead, just the two rights-holding television networks, CBC and Rogers Sportsnet, were represented, along with a tiny handful of reporters who like and follow the sport.
There’s the new reality – or perhaps more accurately, the old reality – in the wake of the great patriotic sports orgy that climaxed last February with the Winter Games of Vancouver and Whistler.
“We knew there was going to be a lull afterwards,” downhiller Manuel Osborne-Paradis said. “It is a bit of a downer to see this turn out at this kind of thing.”
The skiers didn’t produce a single medal in Whistler, but in terms of post-Olympic attention, they do enjoy a couple of advantages over some of their Canadian confreres. Unlike, say, the sliding sports, or cross country skiing, or biathlon, alpine skiing has always enjoyed at least a core following – and an audience significantly larger than that during the glory days of the Crazy Canucks in the 1970s and ’80s.
Canadians’ temporary passion for skeleton in 2010 is going to be awfully difficult to reignite, but other than figure skating, curling and hockey, the World Cup circuit has the most mainstream appeal of all the Winter Olympic sports.
And this is a team blessed with strong, appealing personalities who are just beginning to come into their own.
Last year, Erik Guay closed the season in spectacular fashion following his two fifth-place finishes in Whistler, winning the crystal globe as the world super giant slalom champ. And Osborne-Paradis won two races, finished on the podium in the classic Lauberhorn downhill in Switzerland, and is already considered among the world’s best in the sport’s glamour event.
But perhaps just a little bit of that Olympic magic will stick. Perhaps when a result turns up in the paper or flicking by a race on television, Canadians will remember how they got to know these people, how they embraced them, how they lived and died with them for the better part of three weeks last February.
They deserve at least that much.”
For the record, I’m not complaining. I’m acutely aware of just how lucky we are that we and our favourite sports had the chance to be in that spotlight at all, even for just a short while. I know the reality of news media and what sells and what doesn’t. I can accept that lesser known sports like biathlon and speed skating are not universally palatable to the masses. Unfortunately for us that is the way the world works.
But I gotta tell you, sometimes what sells just breaks my heart. Without getting too provocative, it seemed to me just a little bit sad that when I opened the sports section of the local paper today I was greeted with this lovely photo. If this is what sells, what I want to know is, who’s buying? I’m generally not one to be inflammatory, I’m just sayin’…
… Maybe you like hockey fights, maybe you don’t, but if this is the image of sport we uphold in Canadian society, it’s no wonder we amateurs don’t stand a chance.