February 19, 2010

It seems the quote of the day is
Are you stupid?
It really ought not to be all that unfamiliar or shocking. After all, it is asked in blogging and commentary at least a hundred times a day, usually by an extreme of one partisan position of its polar opposite: how can you possibly fail to see it my way, the only possible logical way? Why are people so dense!

It should not be at all surprising that sight unseen, most observers are quick to jump to a conclusion. In most cases, that conclusion condemns either Sven Kramer, gold medalist in men's 5000 metre speed skating, or the unidentified NBC reporter.

Before jumping to conclusions, it might be worthwhile to review the clip.

Kramer happens to be a highly recognised celebrity in the Netherlands. In most other parts of the world, including the current Olympic venue and most of the rest of N. America, he is one among thousands of previously unknown athletes.

At the beginning of the clip, the reporter asks him to identify himself and the sport he has just won. Of course these answers ought to be self-evident to anyone who has just watched the event or is reporting on the event -- but it cannot possibly be self-evident to the unseen television and Internet audience. They rely on local camera work to see the events, and on local reporters to explain what has just been seen. This begins with identification which often seems painfully obvious.

Yet don't be too quick to condemn Kramer either. Where the language is not our own, the distinction between request and outright question can blur. From a reporter with a camera, "I need you to say your name" comes aacross not so very differently from "Who are you?" Misunderstandings happen easily.

Kramer also happens to be one of the more vocal Olympic athletes about local conditions, in his case the speed skating ice. Is this a case of a chronic complainer, or of an athlete who is using his status to bring across a valid concern? Certain it is that Vancouver ice conditions have been ... challenging. Yet without knowing his history of other complaints in other conditions, we cannot know whether possibly justified complaints are the exception or the rule.

Add to all this that despite high hopes, the Dutch men's speed skating team had just been shut out entirely from the men's 1000 metre speed skating podium in the most painful way, coming in 4th, 5th, and 6th; and that Kramer's gold medal, first for the Netherlands in this Olympics and a relief for his entire team, came with a new Olympic record.

Who among us ever takes all the context into account, let alone at first viewing?

Comments:
Viele Grüße aus dem schönen Fischerdorf Greetsiel.
 
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