The men’s half-pipe competition in snowboarding is a high-flying, insane-as-hell event which any normal person would die attempting, and American Shaun White is the greatest competitor in the sport’s history. Before last night, he had already won two Olympic golds in the event as well as eight X-Games golds, and even at age 31 he was a threat to win gold in PyeongChang. In last night’s finals, he threw down an incredible run on his first attempt (each snowboarder gets three total, best score counts), and it seemed like it might be good enough for gold on its own. Then Japan’s Ayumu Hirano bettered him by a point, and White couldn’t respond with his second run. That set the stage for his final run, which also the final run of the night, with White needing to beat an extremely high score of 95.25. That’s when he did this:
I'm an Olympic nerd who devours summer and winter games alike, and it easily goes into my top-ten moments of all-time. White scores a 97.75, took home his third gold, and put a capstone on the end of a brilliant career.
As you might imagine, White was thrilled. You can see some of his reaction in this video, and you can see even more starting at the 1-hour, 35-minute mark here. There were shouts, hugs, tears, a couple f-bombs, and a lot of American flag-waving.
Since this is 2018, there's absolutely nothing that can be pure across political lines, and some conservatives watched a miraculous Olympic performance for America and came away…pissed about the flag stuff. It seems White inadvertently dragged the flag through the snow at certain points in his celebration, which is apparently against protocol, and the “flag code” police were out in numbers, and sanctimony levels were high.
Fox News took particular delight in roasting White—maybe because snowboarding is seen as a liberal sport?—with a headline declaring that he was “lit up” on social media. Here are a few examples of the anger that spread on Twitter:
Amazingly, that was followed instantly by someone asserting that White dragged the flag on purpose, and it's because he was from California:
The clamor grew enough that White actually had to apologize:
“I remember being handed the flag but I was trying to put my gloves on and hold the flag and get board,” White said. “Honestly, if there was anything, I definitely didn’t mean any disrespect. The flag that’s flying on my house right now is way up there. So sorry for that. But I’m definitely proud — very proud — to be a part of Team USA and being an American and to be representing for everyone back home.”
I don’t really know how to end this post, except to state the obvious: Our political discourse sucks. The Olympics are supposed to be that mythical magical time when differences are put aside, but we can’t even have a great gold medal moment without conservatives losing their minds over a piece of cloth accidentally hitting the ground. For a group that so readily tosses out the term “snowflake,” the hyper-sensitivity over a few actual snowflakes is pretty staggering.