Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Americans love the Olympic medal counts

So things got busy for me over the last week of the Olympics, and even though I watched many hours of coverage, I still was pretty lost. But that's not surprising. It's a lot to keep up with. Tonight we are recording a podcast episode to discuss some of our thoughts, and we'll have that posted ASAP.

But one thing I thought was funny was the constant medal count. I know this is nothing new, for Americans to keep a running tally of the medals our athletes have won and to compare ourselves to the other countries. Of course we want to "win" the medal count and the mythological Olympic title that comes with it.

But do you think other countries do this? Like, do you think the media in Kazakhstan or Croatia were constantly reminding citizens of their medal totals compared to USA and Russia? (Each of those countries won one medal, by the way.) I seriously doubt it! That has to be an American thing. It's not enough for us to win a bunch of medals. We want to win the MOST medals! If we had our way, we'd actually like to win ALL of the medals, I suppose.

I was talking to a friend last week, and she is from Poland. I was joking around and trying to talk a little trash about the Olympics, honestly not knowing how many medals Poland had claimed. Well, she immediately started telling me about a couple of golds they had won already and was very proud to be discussing it. It wasn't about the total (I think it was two or three at the time, and Poland ended with six). But she was very happy that some of her country's athletes performed well enough to medal in the games, and she was ready to discuss each individual performance.

The idea of winning the medal count is clearly a matter of cultural perspective, much like the Dutch speedskating coach who called Americans "foolish" for playing football, a subject we'll definitely be discussing in tonight's podcast. But I feel like, if we're going to make up some contest, we should at least do it correctly. Shouldn't we be rewarding gold medals over silvers and bronzes?

The final total kind of came down to the wire, with Russia eventually edging us out at 33-28 in total medals. But what if we used a point system, where golds got three points, silvers got two, and bronzes only one? Using that system, which seems like a more accurate scoring method to me, Russia would've blown us away with a score of 70-53. Furthermore, Canada would've outscored us with 55 points, while Norway would've matched our 53. It's hard for us to accept, I know, but I think if I were really trying to win a medal total, I'd be happier with the double-digit golds captured by Canada and Norway.

Either way, it was definitely a fun two weeks, and we have a lot to discuss tonight. But I'd love to see more Americans get to a point where they can just appreciate all of the athletes and focus on the individual medal winners instead of the total medals won by each country.

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