Matt Mitcham update post

August 26th, 2008

Because my favorite Olympic athlete is getting almost no media attention in the US, I decided to beef up my coverage of Matthew Mitcham in hopes of raising his profile, if just a little bit. So maybe the only people who will read this were already searching for info on him. At least I contributed to the coverage.

First up, I saw an interview with Mitcham form Australian TV (which I can’t find anymore!) where he said that the pretty Chinese woman guiding the winners from poolside understood him when he asked if he could hug his mom, after which he ran up to hug his mom and his partner. I apologize about my wrong assumption: I should have known that China would be smart enough to make sure their most visible workers knew English.

Then there’s the fact that nearly every article and every post on him mentions his sexuality almost immediately, either in the title or the first sentence. Part of me is still annoyed that Americans are still so hung up on sex that we can’t talk about what is clearly a newsworthy upset (a lone Australian who struggled just to get to the Olympics wins a gold medal and denies China from sweeping the gold in diving) without bringing up what for almost every person* on the planet what’s nothing more than a trait, like handedness or hair color. Is it because the mere suggestion of sex gets people’s attention almost immediately? There’s a Monty Python sketch** where some hapless sap is going door-to-door giving presentations on insects or something stupid, and this couple watch a minute of it before getting bored and telling him to go. That’s when he makes up all this stuff about the insects being sexual deviants and going into detail of the bug’s mating process as the couple listen with great attention, making sure to make comments about how ‘disgusting’ these insects are. Is it really like that? This guy just did something that very few people can accomplish, a little respect please.

But then I think that Mitcham could be a hero for gays struggling with their identity. Picture four years from now: he’s been practicing since the Beijing Olympics and is even better – that at the London games he doesn’t just win a single gold medal, he becomes the star athlete in diving. Now this happy guy with a quick grin and four more years of experience can say something like, “Sure, there are people out there who have a problem with the fact that I’m gay. But who cares?” The potential is there, and he could use it to inspire some unhappy people out there dealing with the problem of being something they can’t help, that’s not entirely accepted by society. We’ll see.

The pressure’s on now for Mitcham to deliver in four years.

I’m not going to get into the whole “NBC ignored Mitcham!” hullabaloo. The games are done and over with, NBC has a policy not to mention an athlete’s sexuality, and the real reason is that NBC has pretty mediocre Olympics coverage anyway like spending too much time with inane segments on American athletes. I mean, if they can’t figure out that simulcasting the most popular events online with TV coverage would actually increase the number of viewers, they’ll underreport important developments in the games. Besides, the only people who seem to be getting bent out of shape with this are gay media outlets which are fairly shrill anyways*** (except Towleroad, who’s currently reporting on the Democratic National Convention).

Alright, I’m done with this. Normally I couldn’t give a care about sports, but this has more to do with a good story than talking about boring athletes and stupid rules to a game I’m not interested in learning. Like basketball. God I can’t stand basketball.

* Except Perez Hilton.
** I’m sure I got this wrong, but if you’re going to correct me, know this: I’ve seen this sketch dozens of times, and I don’t care if I didn’t retell it correctly. Pick on someone else.
*** Like Perez Hilton.

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