To stanch the flow of death threats for not covering it, this story is to remind you that the 2009 World Cup overall title, downhill title, and super-G title were captured by a 24-year-old American girl with blond hair that she periodically shakes as if she were in a shampoo commercial.
Never mind the fact that Lindsey Vonn is actually likable. This is the racer who elected to take a cow instead of prize money after her 2005 win at Val d’Isère, whose worst injury of 2009 came from cutting her hand on a broken champagne bottle, who speaks to the European press in German. (See? Likable.) But would we still like Vonn if she weren’t American?
In his book Sport, Nationalism, and Globalization: European and North American Perspectives, Alan Bairner argues that Americans are going to start caring about “global” sports, and soon. He wags a finger at American sports fans, we jingoists who don’t care about ski racing because we put so much stock into team sports like football, at which no nationality can touch us.
Except when we win. America celebrated Greg LeMond for winning the Tour de France in the late ’80s and early ’90s. This was followed by a long nap when legendary Spaniard Miguel Indurain won five back-to-back Tours. Then—surprise!—everyone loves Lance. Suddenly we all want to cure cancer because, while it’s OK if it knocks off Grandma, God forbid it should afflict celebrity athletes who, you know, go surfing with Matthew McConaughey on the weekend.
And when we win at ski racing? America certainly cares about Bode Miller. We like to think that it’s his explode-or-win style and his disdain for the media—a refreshing break from the spray-tanned athletes quipping sound bites more scripted than The Hills. But would we care if Bode were a Fritz from Austria? Unlikely.
Same goes for Vonn. Even though she’s talented and charming, the sad truth is that her countrymen wouldn’t care if she were a Gunhilda. But since she’s a Lindsey, congratulations!