Sports don’t always give us what we want

America loves a good redemption story, and there was one teed up for anyone watching NBC around 11 last night.

We all know the first act of Lindsey Jacobellis’ story, and for those of us who didn’t, or didn’t remember, we were going to be reminded of it.

There’s a great passage in this Michael Rosenberg’s story: “Snowboarding and freestyle skiing and their wacky variations were still relatively new to the Olympics, and Jacobellis accidentally stepped into a cultural minefield. She wasn’t just a kid who made a mistake. She was held up as living proof that certain sports did not belong in the Olympics.”

I’m pretty sure I said something about a dumb kid showboating, and how that was the type of thing one of those dumb kids in one of those dumb sports would do, even though snowboard cross remains the only one of them I actually like.

That was 2006 in Turin. The second act was the failures in 2010 in Vancouver and 2014 in Sochi. There was no hotdogging, just something that happens.

But last night was going to be the final act, the end of the story arc, where Jacobellis finally won gold.

Even though she still has the curly blond hair for which the term “ringlets” was invented, the kid from Turin is a 32-year-old woman now. The repeated questions over the past 12 years have no doubt been highly annoying, but she had hired a mental coach to help her deal with what she knew was coming.

It was time.

Except it wasn’t.

Even though it’s popular to say sports are a diversion from “real life,” sports are part of real life. And in real life, the story doesn’t always end the way we (or the people living it) want it to.

She got beat.

She led most of the race, got passed and couldn’t catch up. She finished out of the medals.

Deserved or not, not winning gold, especially the way she didn’t win gold the first time, will be what we think of when we think of Lindsey Jacobellis.

Which sucks.

But since this is America, and these are the Olympics, we’re already teeing up the next redemption story: “Chen’s time as the golden boy has passed in the blink of an eye. It’s a cruelty particular to this sport. But in 2022, if all goes well, we’ll get to watch something even better than a young phenom’s stunning debut—a comeback story. The work starts tonight.”


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