A love story of Olympic proportions
March 17, 2010
The Olympics have always been a love story for me.
Growing up, the games are a family affair. Me and my sisters glued to the tv set, alternately enthralled with the thrill of victory and reeling from the agony of defeat. The hyper-excitement of the games, the nerve-wracking intensity of the competition, the good looking hunks...
And so I mourn the passing of the 2010 Winter games, yet another love story begins.
This love story begins on a drive to the folks' house—a trip which requires an hour and fifteen minutes of road time. Road time is radio time and I'm enjoying every minute of it. It's a week before the games and NPR highlights several aspects of the event. From how officials are cleaning up inner-city Vancouver before they're in the spotlight of the world to who to watch in the games, they're all over it.
A story about Olympic sponsorship in these lean economic times catches my particular attention. The reporter mentions that some usual corporate giants—Bank of America, Kodak among others—pulled out, prompting some U.S. athletes to scramble for support. The reporter goes on to say for the first time in years, the tough economy has given "the little guy" an opportunity to sponsor athletes in the Winter Olympic Games. Colbert Nation comes up with three grand to sponsor U.S. Speedskating when another major sponsor goes bankrupt. Other examples are cited. Ophthalmologist Carey Silverman offers speedskater Katherine Reutter Lasik eye surgery for free and covers her travel and hotel expenses out of sheer love of sport and the Olympics. A 30-employee company called Bioenergy Life Science Inc. out of Minneapolis provides her as much of her favorite energy powder as she can handle and the Champaign, Illinois police department pitches in toward their hometown gal's Olympic effort. I love it.
A cross-country skiier who grew up running through pear orchards in Washington state, for the past six years Torin Koss proudly wears the logo 'USA Pears' on his racing caps. He says "it's a sponsor he can believe in." I love it, love it, love it.
Then there's the little eight-employee company called HeadBlade Inc. I learn the Los Angeles area pioneer of head shaving products is sponsoring 30-year-old skeleton racer Zach Lund. It seems a match made in Olympic heaven— "Head First HeadBlade." I am head over heels, headlong, heads up in love for sure.
The story goes like this: Skeleton racer Zach Lund was expected to bring home a medal in the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. Unfortunately, what should have been his shining moment ended up being his darkest hour as he was disqualified for using a banned substance called finasteride. Finasteride is used in hair restoration products like Propecia. At the time, it was thought that finasteride could mask steroid use. It is no longer on the banned list. It seems even the most outstanding among us are not without insecurities—Lund was insecure about losing his hair.
In deep disappointment and shame, Lund thinks about shaving his head and HeadBlade's owner Todd Greene makes a simple statement that changes everything: "HeadBlade negates the need for hair loss remedies."
Lund takes the plunge. Shaves his head and embraces the new look. Says it's something he wishes he would have done years ago. And HeadBlade supports his courage and Olympic spirit by sponsoring him in the 2010 Winter games.
Though he didn't bring home a gold, Lund made an outstanding showing in his Olympic debut with a solid fifth place finish.
And I fall in love with all of this. I learn things of Olympic proportions: I love the fact that Lund met his insecurity "head on" by shaving his head; and the fact that HeadBlade saw an opportunity and a kindred spirit. I love that Greene is quoted in an AP article saying maybe Lund would win "by a hair."
As an individual who is often dismayed by the homogenization of the United States through corporate saturation by global companies and/or "investor groups" whose only contribution to consumers is to create an increased appetite for consumption, I am uplifted by these Olympic gestures and the fact that sometimes the human spirit can and does usurp the bottom line.
Email Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.