Here’s what I know about snowboarding and Shaun White: .
I consider myself an expert.
But when I posted yesterday about Shaun White’s loss and the asshole-ish reaction of Bill Plaschke, I immediately got feedback, and read articles, about why White is hated in the snowboarding community: he’s too good and successful. Apparently, that’s a bad thing, intimidating to a bunch of otherwise underachieving stoners that make up the community.
But candy and casual brilliance have never been Shaun White’s game. In a recent New York Times Magazine profile, Elizabeth Weil noted that ever since he was a kid, other riders have “resented White for snubbing them, not even pretending they were all friends, an attitude that is central to snowboarding’s self-concept.” Before the Vancouver Olympics, White was criticized for refusing to let other snowboarders train on the expensive halfpipe that was built for him by one of his corporate sponsors. “The whole snowboarding community doesn’t really like Shaun,” American snowboarder Brandon Davis recently told Time. “He’s apart from everyone. He’s the lone wolf. When he goes out there for a contest, he goes out there to win.”
Davis was next in line for the Olympic slopestyle berth that went to White, who pulled out of the event days before it began, citing the danger of the course. White made a calculated decision—one that didn’t work out in the end—that he’d have a better chance to win gold in the halfpipe if he skipped out on slopestyle. A pair of Canadian rivals, Sebastien Toutant and Max Parrot, mocked the American star for thinking so strategically, tweeting that he backed out of slopestyle because he knew he didn’t have a chance to medal. This is how other snowboarders view White: He cares more about winning than about the pure joy of cavorting in the snow. They are absolutely correct.
Wait, let me get this straight– Shaun White is the most successful athlete your sport has ever had and has brought it all sorts of legitimacy and attention and money and exposure and pushed it to new heights? Yeah, hate that guy.
I’m now going to draw a parallel between high-level Olympic snowboarding… and the Philly blog scene. Because those things are very similar. And because, obviously, I can relate to a guy who gets paychecks from Red Bull, Target and Oakley. Obviously.
I started this site, in 2009, with the intention – pipe dream – of turning it into a full-time venture, a business. I fucking hated everywhere I worked before this and would’ve considered killing a man to… not have to do those things anymore. [I didn’t kill a man.] Until that point, the Philly sports blog scene was full of a bunch of half-assed, infrequently updated, inside joke laden, poorly written, nonsensical nonsense. And a couple of good sites (today– Zoo With Roy, Broad Street Hockey, The School Philly, Bleed Philly). It was a community of friends and link-sharers, none of whom were going to get ahead enough to truly succeed because each deferred to another on specific subject matters and individual posts. Someone already covered the fan falling down the steps behind home on live TV? WE CAN’T TOUCH THAT! It was fucking stupid. Like if Wendy’s couldn’t make a chicken nugget because McDonald’s already did that. There’s a difference between stealing shit and competing. And there was certainly money to be made with independent sports websites in a city like this. Anyway, I treated it like a business. I didn’t want to make friends with other bloggers. I wasn’t opposed to being friendly, but, ultimately, I wanted more people to read my site than theirs. I had one quasi notable local blogger and tweeter, who now writes excruciatingly long and indulgent pieces for Bleacher Report, email me to tell me that it wasn’t a good idea to piss off the competition. Thanks, man. Good business advice! Anyway, the site needed to make money to be good. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a full-time venture, wouldn’t be updated as frequently, and probably wouldn’t exist for that long. Half those other bloggers hate me. Some don’t have their sites anymore. A few do. A handful are stringers for local papers. And I don’t wear pants to work. It’s a net victory– for me, and for the many people who read and enjoy this site. I’m truly baffled by anyone who would find something wrong with that viewpoint.
So let’s bring this fucked up, self-aggrandizing analogy full-circle. Other snowboarders are the 2009 Philly blog scene. You all want to be friends and share that massive new half pipe your sponsor built you so your competitors can compete with you, beat you, and steal all your earnings? Yeah, real smart, hippie. Shaun White viewed you as his competition… as competitors? GASP. He… wants to win?! What. An. Asshole.
These people act like competing for the love of the game and winning are mutually exclusive things. No one accuses Peyton Manning of being a selfish, sellout-ing asshole. In fact, people, peers, applaud him for that. Michael Jordan was an assassin, and he made a fuck ton of money. Yet he’s regarded, by everyone, as one of the greatest athletes ever. And as we’ve discussed, figure skaters will cut bitches for gold. But Shaun White? He’s an asshole because he wants to be better than everybody else and not redistribute his success to the competition.
Shaun White doesn’t not enjoy snowboarding. He fucking loves it. He’s the best to ever do it. You don’t get there without loving it. But he also wants to win. He wants to crush you. He’ll sit out an Olympic event to increase his chances of crushing you more in another one. And if he makes a lot of money doing it? Good for him. Meanwhile, that quote from Brandon Davis is one of the most sunshiny, liberal things I’ve ever read: “he goes out there to win.” Like that’s a bad thing. Go fuck yourself, dude.