Apathy and fandom

Everyone knows the story of how Bode Miller failed to win any gold medals. What made the tale more media-friendly was his lack of enthusiasm to win. It set off a reaction in many sports fans that felt a little inappropriate given the circumstances. (Several of my friends said they 'hated' Miller.)

That said, I couldn't quite put my finger on what bothered me about it (nor did I really try -- downhill skiing doesn't really rate on my watchability radar, even once every four years for the good ol' USA) until I read a great little commentary piece by Chuck Closterman:
    I am no different than anyone else: Almost all of my favorite sports personalities display an unquenchable desire to win, and I'm sure that unquenchable quality is central to my appreciation of those particular people. And the reason I feel that way is probably because they possess a personality I cannot relate to. There are those who argue that sports are important because they symbolize the middle-class laymen who spend their paychecks on season tickets, but that is not always true; sometimes they are important because they embody feelings we can't experience. Most of the time, we don't love players who are like us; most of the time, we love players who aren't like us at all.

    You are not like Cal Ripken Jr. You aren't that dedicated, you aren't that intense, and you care about your job a whole lot less. Ripken might be your favorite player of the past 25 years, but the two of you have almost nothing in common. In fact, I bet there are many days when you wish you could just take a suitcase of money to Australia, drop out of society, grow out you hair and smoke cannabis all afternoon while having sex with whoever you felt like. In fact, if you had the chance, you'd probably do it tomorrow. But you know what? I bet you also think Ricky Williams is despicable.

    I can't read Bode Miller's mind, but I bet the interior monologue bouncing around his cerebral cortex sounds something like this: "My job is OK, and I'm good at it. I suppose I could even be better if that was the only thing I cared about, but I'm not sure what the benefit of that would be, beyond appeasing a bunch of people I'll never actually meet. And if I can get paid this much money for being myself, why would I want to force myself to become somebody else's caricature? I'm already content with who I am."

    Now, it is possible that such sentiments would make you hate Bode Miller even more. It's also possible you hate him because you feel exactly the same way.

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