I Doubt He'll Ever Grace the Cover of "People"

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I Doubt He'll Ever Grace the Cover of "People"

Over the next few weeks, we'll see a lot of profiles on TV of the members of the U.S. Winter Olympics team. These profiles will have all of the usual elements -- still photos of the athlete as a child, strategic use of "soft focus," cheesy music, and a storyline that is built around the ingrown toenail or other tough challenge that Bob or Cindy so-and-so struggled to overcome and make the Olympic team.

It's the television equivalent of the Hallmark card, designed to make us not simply cheer these athletes on, but to view them as one part Mother Theresa and one part Mark Spitz. To be fair, I'm sure some of these athletes have gone through a lot. But some of these portraits seem to be heavily embellished, perhaps even falsified in one way or another.

So maybe that's why I'm kind of enjoying the fact that U.S. Olympic Committee executives must contend with an athlete who isn't willing to play along with this warm-and-fuzzy, made-for-TV image.

Skater Johnny Weir is definitely not a comformist, and his public comments suggest he may be gay -- something that probably adds to the anxieties of these olympic officials. Consider this AP story:
Johnny Weir brought his candor — and his particular need for creature comforts — to the Winter Olympics.

“I am very princessy as far as travel is concerned and having a nice room and things like that. Sorry to say ‘princessy,”’ he added, laughing, “but that’s what we do.”

Known for his outspoken manner, the three-time U.S. men’s champion isn’t afraid to declare that the Olympic Village “is not very comfortable.” “It’s a little dusty, very underdecorated, the beds aren’t very soft,” Weir said Tuesday, “but I’m enjoying it!”

... Outlandish remarks are not unusual for Weir, who describes himself as a “wild card” for a medal but is more likely to be left in the dust next week by Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko.

Weir, 21, got into trouble with U.S. Figure Skating officials last month when he described the tempo of a competitor’s short program as “a vodka-shot, let’s-snort-coke kind of thing.” He’s also previously described his costumes to “an icicle on coke” and “a Care Bear on acid.” But he refuses to bow to any sort of self-censorship.

“I think people are definitely very wary of what’s going to come out of my mouth and they’re very worried about the kind of image I’m portraying for figure skating, as far as I’ve heard,” he said. “That’s cool. People should stay scared.”

When a TV reporter asked him to say hello to his fans back home in Newark, Del. ... Weir was gracious and thanked the “many people who have touched my life and enriched it and helped me get to the point where I’m at.” .... He also mentioned “a lot of people there, though, that didn’t support me at the beginning, so all of a sudden, they are. And that’s not something that I enjoy. I don’t like two-faces.”
Neither do I.

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