Sunday, August 19, 2012

"McKayla Is Not Impressed" ... by Michael Little

Silver medal?
McKayla is not impressed.
Fall from grace.
In case you've been on Mars, or on Martian time, and missed it, one of the funniest stories (and ultimately a life-lesson story) to come out of the London Olympics this summer involved a young American gymnast, McKayla Maroney.  McKayla used to be famous for being the world's greatest woman vaulter.  She soars, she twists, she amazes.  She was a shoo-in for the gold medal.  But in London she ... well, as she put it later, "I fell on my butt."

"Bond.  James Bond."
"Not impressed!"
No gold medal.  She was crushed.  Unable, or unwilling, to be a good sport and smile and congratulate the Romanian vaulter, she stood on the podium to receive her silver medal.  Then she made THE FACE.  She said later that she was disappointed and listening to another country's national anthem being played and "that's what my face did."

Sorry, Ferris.
McKayla is not impressed.
Oh no!  Sore loser, we all thought.  We forgive you for falling on your butt, but we have trouble forgiving you for THE FACE.  McKayla, please apologize.  Please!  And then ... and then ... someone started a meme on, making lemonade of McKayla's sour face.  "McKayla Is Not Impressed" (check it out) went viral.

To me it's one of the great spinoffs of a spectacular Olympics.  It's a gift that keeps on giving.  McKayla, it turns out, is not impressed by so many things, including James Bond and Mr. Spock and Ferris Buehler and Machu Pichu. Oh yes, and the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile.  Is nothing sacred?

So many captions, so little space.
So Gabby Douglas, golden in the all-around competition, the one they call "the flying squirrel," whose winning personality and smile had made her the face of the USA women's gymnastics team, now has to take a back seat to McKayla, famous for THE FACE.

Then last week, like gentle rain falling on our thirsty post-Olympic satirical spirits, the team gold medal women gymnasts appeared on Letterman.  The moment we had been waiting for.  Would Dave ask McKayla about THE FACE?  If so, how would she handle it?  Ah, the suspense.  Ah, the hope.  A chance at redemption.

Please, McKayla, please win us back.  Not that I was tired of laughing at the McKayla Is Not Impressed show.  That show goes on, by the way.  But on Letterman here was the moment of truth.  When you're sixteen, how do you cope with all this?  The pressure of Olympic competition.  The pressure of having missed out on the gold when she was the best woman vaulter in the world.  The pressure of having made THE FACE.

Here's how it played out Tuesday evening.  Letterman asked McKayla about THE FACE.  We held our breath.  McKayla laughed.  "It is pretty funny," she said.  The other four gymnasts laughed.  McKayla, they revealed, has taught them all THE FACE.  And they all demonstrated it.  Great team support for McKayla, who sat in the middle of the group.

A golden moment.  A light moment.  Laughing with friends.  Laughing at oneself.  Pressure's off.  Well done, McKayla!  America loves its Olympic heroes.  And now, once again, America loves McKayla.  We've always loved a good redemption story.  I don't know about you, but I'm impressed.