You either eat or get eaten


Sanne Peek

No matter how talented an athlete is behind closed doors, when the lights shine bright and all the pressure is on, there is no telling how an athlete is going to perform. The ability to handle pressure is one of the defining traits that separates great athletes from the greatest of all time.

Luke Lawhorn, Assistant Sports Editor

The media will chew any public figure up and spit them out if given the opportunity. However, what separates the best from the greats is how they respond.

On Wednesday, Feb. 9, Mikaela Shiffrin skied out of her first run in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. After doing so, she sat down on the ground next to the track for twenty minutes before getting up and being asked by a reporter, “What are you still processing?” and responding with, “I’m basically questioning everything about the last 15 years.” Since then, Shiffrin has been both crushed and heavily supported by the media, and rightfully so. Shiffrin is a human being with emotions of disappointment and embarrassment, and any viewer should be able to sympathize. However, the media’s coverage and what transpires from it is totally acceptable and a part of being a professional athlete.

Regardless of one’s profession, whether it is being an author, politician, athlete, actor/actress or a chef, there are critics out there to call out what they see. When someone is at the highest level, they get the highest criticism. Even when they started locally, they received local criticism. They then receive state-wide criticism, then national criticism then ultimately worldwide criticism. But what separates the best from the greats is their acceptance of criticism and proving the media wrong. 

When an all-time athlete like Shiffrin takes on the biggest stage, they bring on the biggest coverage. Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Katie Ledecky and Allyson Felix are considered the greats in their own respective events, and always took on the pressure of the media. When one is truly great, they do not meltdown; instead, they prove people wrong. Shiffrin’s legacy is far from diminished, but definitely shows a weakness. It is the human weakness all people have, but the greatest ever seem to hide this flaw with ease regardless of the pressure.

The media also has a job to create stories. When athletes have a tough loss, it is part of the job to be interviewed and looked at. Though the viewers and reporters should not be surprised or condemn the players when they give a rude remark, it is still within the media’s job to cover the story. 

When Russell Westbrook gets asked a question about a poor performance, his response should be totally acceptable because he is human, but it is not out-of-line from the reporter to ask that question. Just as if one failed a test, they would not like to be interviewed publicly about how they felt about their failing grade. But that does not come with being a student. The media creates stories from events, like the Olympics. 

Simone Biles this past summer had to exit the games for mental health reasons, which of course is more important and acceptable. This brought tons of backlash and negative light toward Biles for being a “quitter.” This brought attention towards her, which she ultimately brings on by being a professional athlete. It is within the media’s rights to cover it and speculate because that is the job required to do, and it is the athlete’s to either prove themselves or others right.

Shiffrin should not be judged by her reaction to a bad performance as it is expected from meltdowns. Working really hard for something and having it crash down is a pain all people deal with, but without the public light. That does not change the fact that it is perfectly acceptable for the media to make these upsets national stories, but still should not be condemned. 

After the 2016 Super Bowl, Cam Newton walked out during the postgame interview and was crushed for the entire off-season. The media was well in their right to ask whatever football-related question, but again should not be shocked with Newton’s reaction. These make great headlines and spark conversations the media wants. In every single televised game, the camera is always panned on the star of the losing team. In last year’s AFC Championship game, Buffalo Bills star Stefon Diggs was being filmed while watching the Kansas City Chiefs accept their AFC Championship trophy and was used as a great headline. When the Philadelphia 76er’s lost in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019 to a buzzer beater in game seven, Joel Embiid was filmed crying all the way to his locker room. After game five of the 2012 NBA Finals, Kevin Durant was filmed crying to his mom during the walk to the locker room. All three of these examples came in losing efforts and instead of filming the winners, the media followed the star “loser.” The media — within their rights — followed the story which is simply part of being a professional athlete. 

The great athletes always step up to the challenge. Shiffrin is one of the best athletes in the Olympics and had an understandable meltdown during her event. However, the media was just doing their job and gave a top-level athlete, top-level criticism.