We have been glued to our TV these last few weeks cheering on members of Team USA, watching these phenomenal athletes from our country ride the roller coaster of heartache and triumph. But I’ve been appalled at the downright cruel comments that have streamed in over everything from Shaun White dragging the U.S. flag behind him after winning his third gold medal in the men’s halfpipe, to the complaints that Nathan Chen let his country down with his short program performance (after which he said “screw it” and used that setback to launch himself into Olympic history by landing five clean quad jumps during his free skate).
Lindsey Vonn’s own father said he wasn’t thrilled with her bronze medal, saying it reminded him of “something that Buddy Werner used to say: ‘there’s two places in the race, first and last, and I only want one of them.’”
But the latest thing in sports that has received massive criticism wasn’t at an Olympic event. It was at the NBA All-Star Game, and it was “The Star-Spangled Banner” sung by Fergie.
Trying to do something unique actually came across as risqué, and fans watched — and listened — with raised eyebrows as the pop singer infused our nation’s anthem with sultry blue-jazz tones.
“Here’s the thing about taking risks when it comes to the national anthem,” said TV host Jimmy Kimmel. “Don’t. Just don’t.”
Fergie responded to tweets of her performance being “the worst rendition ever” by releasing a statement that read, “I’ve always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA. I’m a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best.”
I can’t understand how we can sit here and mourn the recent loss of so many innocent lives from a horrible act of violence in Florida and talk about how this world needs more love, more understanding, more connecting, more reaching out and then turn around with internet shame on anyone and everyone who makes a mistake.
Competing on live television and showcasing your talent on a worldwide stage is a ridiculously difficult thing to do. I know — I’ve done it. Singing arguably one of the most technically difficult songs ever written in front of thousands of people is also a very hard thing to do, especially when it’s one of the most “judged” songs. I’ve done that, too. (OK — one of the most technically difficult songs in my opinion besides “Never Enough” from “The Greatest Showman.” That song is just beyond. If I ever meet those writers, I don’t know if I’d shake their hands and bow down in wonder or slap them upside the head because who can sing that song?!)
Getting criticized for something you’re genuinely trying hard to excel at is devastating. Putting yourself out there as an athlete or artist is not easy, especially with eager hands on social media ready to praise or pounce, depending on the note you hit.
“Happy, peaceful people who are content with who they are don’t need to tear people down,” my mom always told me. “If they are insulting you, they are feeling angry, inferior or hurt inside.”
There are a lot of people feeling angry, inferior or hurt. The answer to being a happy person isn’t to spread those feelings around more.
If you don’t like the way someone did/sang/wrote/performed something, fine. Expressing your opinion respectively is one thing. Tearing someone down to dirt is another, and it’s what’s causing everyone to have emotional distress and self-doubt. Enough.
If we ever want to dispel this hateful darkness that creeps ever thicker, we need to do more building and less bullying. If someone falls, instead of kicking at them while they’re down, let’s take a lesson from Scott Hamilton’s book and cheer for them to get back up.
He tweeted to Chen: “I respect you. I admire you. I believe in you. Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow is up to you!”