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Sports Imperialism Took at Huge Hit in the Wee Hours of Saturday Morning When the USA Curling Team Won Gold!

I split this commentary from the Official Tout because it seemed appropriate to honor the Olympic curlers without any extraneous commentary.  But it came to me as I was writing the Official Tout for the Gold Medal USA Curling Team:  I think sports imperialism took a huge hit with this curling win.

What I call “sports imperialism” (to the best of my knowledge no one else has used the title in this manner) is the tendency to bring in professional athletes to the Olympic Games, which is bad policy since for a nation to have a realistic chance to medal that nation will need enough professional sports infrastructure or league or have enough population to fill a team in a serious pro league in that sport and that this leads to unsporting results such as this.

Curling has few – for all intents and purposes none – “professional” athletes.   Now we have this fabulous result:  USA wins men’s curling gold.  I would suggest this is a huge blow to the pro sports in the Olympics movement; people don’t really like it even though they might accept it.

Consider the coverage in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Yahoo Sports for example:

Yahoo Sports first:

America, meet The Rejects.


Four years ago, John Shuster, skip of this year’s quartet and a four-time Olympian, stumbled home from the Sochi Games, his team battered and bruised from a second straight weak Olympic finish after a 2006 bronze. Shuster planned to work with USA Curling to ensure such a debacle never happened again. USA Curling wanted the same thing—only, without Shuster involved. USA Curling developed a new “high-performance curling circuit”—these would be the sleek bad guys in that ‘80s movie, though they’re surely decent dudes in real life—and Shuster found himself on the outside looking in.

“They said, ‘Sorry. You’re not wanted.’ That’s maybe what hurt the most,” he told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune recently. “That day, I committed for the next four years. I was driven. When someone tells you you’re not part of the plan, it’s always nice to show them you’d better be part of the plan. To prove somebody wrong on that scale is very satisfying.”

Now the Star-Tribune:

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — John Shuster was already a three-time Olympian and the most successful American curler in history when he applied for the U.S. high performance program after the Sochi Games.

He didn’t make the cut.

So Shuster approached a couple of the other spurned candidates about putting together a foursome of their own.

“He said, ‘Hey, let’s form our own Team of Rejects and see what we can do,'” U.S. second Matt Hamilton said.

And here is what they did: They won the U.S. championship, beating those selected instead of them, to force their way into the program that directs funding to teams with the best chance of success. They won a bronze medal at the worlds, another national title and then finished first in the U.S. Olympic trials to earn a spot at the Pyeongchang Games.

Sounds like a Disney movie, doesn’t it!   (I do not gamble but I would not bet any sum of money that a movie will not come out of this.  It’s too good a story!)

It also cannot happen in, for example USA Basketball.   That is a pro team chosen in a (figuratively) smoke-filled room.  Cannot happen in Olympic Golf.  Or Olympic Tennis.  Or the pre-2018 Olympic Ice Hockey.

These men are not pro athletes.  You might walk into a sporting goods shop or a liquor store (hint:  Try near Duluth, MN) and be waited on by an Olympic gold medalist!

GANGNEUNG, South Korea—So a liquor store manager, an environmental consultant, an R&D specialist, and a Dick’s Sporting Goods store associate slide into the Olympics…

You’ve spent the last two weeks hearing about how all these Olympic athletes are “just like us”—you know, except for the fact that they’re world-class athletes who train year-round in highly orchestrated and regulated conditions. Friends, it’s time to get up close with some Olympic athletes who aren’t just “like” us—they are us.

From another Star-Tribune article:

“When I saw that quote [rejecting Shuster for the high-performance program], that’s when I decided that was not the case,” Shuster said, with a wry grin. “And I was going to make sure that was known. By winning.”

In late December, Shuster sat in that same room, as the skip of the U.S. team for the Pyeongchang Olympics. Just as he vowed, he proved USA Curling made a mistake when it rejected him. Shuster rededicated himself to being the best male skip in America, then assembled a team of equally driven athletes who have rolled to top-five finishes at the past three world championships.

People met around the country in the early AM at curling clubs (mostly I suspect) to see the big win.

From St. Paul, MN:

Craft beer, peanut brittle and homemade fondue prepared a curling club for a party that started on Friday night and didn’t end until Saturday morning.

Members of the Frogtown Curling Club cozied into their St. Paul facility for the “Gold Medal Lock In,” an event centered around the U.S. men’s Olympic curling team going for gold against Sweden.

And in Atlanta, Chicago and Denver, they partied almost until sunrise!

And now this:  Miracurl on ice!  The story went viral throughout the nation.  I especially liked this comment I found at the Star-Tribune in the run up to the gold medal game (from TheDarkOne):

As Herb Brooks might say: “If you don’t beat the Swedes, you’ll take this to your grave! Your bleeping grave!”

That sums it up well.  Brooks was quoted at the end of the movie Miracle:

“…a few years later, the US began using professional athletes at the Games: Dream Teams. I always found that term ironic because now that we have Dream Teams, we seldom ever get to dream.”

The real dream team is Shuster, George, Hamilton, Landsteiner and Polo.  I appeal to the IOC:  Have both an amateur and pro division in every Olympic sport.  Let’s end sports imperialism once and for all.

DISCLAIMER:  I guess a lawyer can’t write for a blog without a disclaimer.  Here it is:  I am not a member or officer of the Curling Club of Virginia nor active in USA Curling.  All opinions are mine alone.





About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

2 Responses to “Sports Imperialism Took at Huge Hit in the Wee Hours of Saturday Morning When the USA Curling Team Won Gold!”

  1. Michael Smart says:

    The Olympics became much less interesting when they opened it up to professionals. Watching top amateurs pursue their dream of fame and fortune was what made the Olympics exciting.


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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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