Saturday, January 25, 2014

Elitism, or Skiing in Jeans

Before you get feeling too sorry for poor persecuted homosexual athletes at the Sochi Olympics (I doubt few of my reader would!), let's offer a few reflections on who it is who actually gets to go to the Olympics - especially the winter ones.

Getting to the Olympics means that you had countless thousands of hours to devote to perfecting your skill. The particular skills featured in the Winter Olympics mostly includes bombing down a sheer cliff at a hundred kilometers per hour.
Courtesy of a divorce from a Beatle.

Now, I don't ski. I have skied in the past, as a teenager, about perhaps a dozen times max, perhaps twice a winter for a few years. The good graces of our friends' parents, who were usually the ones who took us, and the fact that my parents were generous enough to foot the bill a few times a year, meant that we had these occasions to do this fun thing. We didn't go from car to lift, though. We had to go to the ski rental place, line up for what seemed like an excruciatingly long time, try on boots and skis, until finally getting back out to line up for the lift. Then we awkwardly stood, freezing, in line in our Sears winter coats and jeans, next to the Nordic super-people in their appropriate neon, Goretex fabrics - our betters, clearly - waiting for our turn to go up the hill.
Not me, but would be me.

It's not that all those Nordic super-people  were actually wealthier than us. Just like kids who play competitive hockey, whose parents pay the exorbitant fees and then buy the incredibly expensive gear, weren't likely wealthier than my parents, it was mostly a factor of priorities. My parents could not justify paying thousands of dollars per child per winter for us to ski or play competitive hockey. They opted to pay off the house. I don't blame them for one second.

Now, the Nordic super-people I saw on the local hill weren't headed to the Olympics. These were mere demi-gods compared to the sort of people I am speaking about. Something more is required to climb the heights of Mount Olympus, to sit with the full-fledged gods. Just as I was to realize many years too late about the academic world, it is a privileged place where only the very wealthy need apply. What is required to become the best of the best? Innate talent? Sure, there is that. But more than that, especially in the case of skiing, an endless stream of money that allows a kid the chance to perfect the skill.

Becoming as erudite as I am required thousands, tens of thousands of hours. At minimum wage, for instance, ten thousand-hours of reading could translate into one-hundred thousand dollars missed wages. Who can afford that? So it is with skiing, hockey, whatever.

My point in all this is that we should realize that most of the people who make most of the noise about rights, are wealthy and privileged. Winter Olympic athletes, human-rights lawyer and politicians of every stripe, academics, mostly all came from wealth. They deserve neither your pity, esteem, nor resentment.

Anyone who ascends to public attention is wealthy. Almost always is this the case. Keep in mind who is spinning these underdog stories. The fight between the homosexuals Olympians and Putin is the fight between people of extreme privilege.


  1. I enjoyed this post. I have always held downhill skiing in disdain precisely because of the elite factor attached to it. The ski-permission form came home the other day from school and I threw it in the recycling. It seems like a form designed to separate the sheep from the goats especially since this year the ski day doesn't seem to be simultaneous with a skate day for the, ahem, less-rich kids!

  2. Is it fair that certain sports have that stigma of elitism attached to them - like skiing, golf and tennis? Probably. The poor man's sports are the ones in which black people do well: running, soccer and basketball. No overhead, no infrastructure.

  3. Ha, I had to laugh when I saw a report today of the "appalling" conditions of the Sochi Olympic hotels. The athletes will have to stay in rooms with *gasp* two or more people. With only *gasp* one bathroom. I just read a commentary that said the reporters that have gone to Sochi early have been met with crap conditions - no running water, doorless hotel rooms and rooms without curtains. While I feel bad for the no-water bit, I still laughed. Heartily.

  4. $50 billion doesn't get what it used to, I guess.