Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Fine Art of Pissing Off All The Right People

 
Sometimes it's not who you know, it's who you don't want to know...


A few things have happened during the Olympic slopestyle event that will have some interesting knock-on effects for snowboarding:

  • Slopestyle was the first event of the Olympics and happened to fall on the weekend, which meant it got great TV coverage and a huge audience.
  • The event itself was quality. The course didn't become the story, the level of riding was right up there and we got a bit of everything; from winning creative runs to a lady smashing a helmet in two. It's going to stick in people's minds.
  • The women's slopestyle event was particularly strong. They were taking on equally large jumps as the men and going massive. For a public used to seeing male dominated sports, the equality of the course and the standards was a revelation.  Of all the people proclaiming they were thinking about taking up snowboarding after watching the event, the demographic was noticeably weighted towards women. And that's a good thing for our own particular historically male dominated sport.
  • People who don't usually watch snowboarding were excited about slopestyle it in a way they never really have been about the halfpipe. It's an instantly understandable sporting concept and it was much easier for the layperson to get a feeling for the huge amplitudes/athleticism/risks involved.

And finally

  • Snowboarding displayed a level and depth of personality which was very different to the other Olympic events. All the traditional Olympic sports rules we're out the window and it was completely at odds with what people expected to see. 


There was some inappropriate knitting...


The competitors were relaxed and friendly to each other.

The uniforms were baggy and impractical.

The Swiss riders were proudly displaying the Swiss flag across their arses.

The sported a variety of shitty haircuts.

There was a massive doll in the middle of the run.

They didn't seem to care if they won or lost.

They didn't care.

The Russian and New Zealandish riders we're primarily there to get laid.

They all had personalities and were interesting to interview.

They had weird names for everything.

They talked weird all of the time. No one could understand a thing that Sage Kotsenburg said and no one knew if what they were saying was a trick name, snowboarding slang or just swearing profusely.

& finally...

In the UK the commentary was something us Brits are really not used to. It was done by people who really care about the sport, it was funny, hectic and it was chocked full of passion. And lo and behold, 300 people immediately complained to the BBC. It caused quite the kerfuffle and required an official BBC response.


What's interesting, is that the other programme people have taken time out of their busy schedules of being insufferable twats to moan about, is the biggest and most successful motoring programme in the world. Top Gear didn't reach that position by running the same car review programme that everyone else did, they got their by doing their own thing, fully aware that if you do something right you're going to piss off some people. Pissing off those people is the right thing to do, they're not going to be your audience so don't cater to them.

Unlike TopGear snowboarding isn't something run by a few people who can carefully control what they do, its a very lose collection of a huge number of people and businesses from all around the world. But through our history and due a huge dollop of chance, when it came to this event there was an overriding trend: snowboarding had a clear identity of people doing incredible things and having a good time doing it. A simple mix, but one that just isn't common and because it's different and outside the expected, it's going to piss some people off.

There is an art to pissing people off. The complainers weren't getting pissed off because snowboarding or snowboarders were intentionally trying to piss them off, they're getting pissed off because they are imbeciles. Just pissing people off doesn't work, that just makes you a charmless git and no one will be interested, but doing the right things and pissing off the right sort of people, will take this sport a long way.



And now let's take a look at exactly the sort of people we don't want. Here are some of my favourite comments by the Daily Mail audience from a variety of their shonky Olympics coverage including this piece of journalistic vomit.


Do one, smokinggun12

Do one, Ally from Scotland; you know, that bit of the UK with all the mountains. 

Do one, Scotty the man wit the amazing goldfish memory said commenting on an article he'd just read about Jenny Jones.

Do one, upthesock. I think the U.S. won all the medals with the sub-prime mortgage crash

Do one, Peter27. Missing you already.

Do one, Bruno. Never heard of you either.

 Do one, norstar. Go back to watching the travesty that was The Jump.

 Do one, benji mcpherson and take your 90s cultural references with you.

Ouch

And finally, some classic Daily Mail...
Do one, Davetherave you bring the world nothing


A final word of warning

Go back a hundred years and the Olympics was an amateur event, each sport was new, largely casual and unique like the snowboarding slopestyle was this year. Over the years as they 'professionalised' they all lost their character. There's a danger this could happen to snowboarding too, you can see it in what happened to slalom and what seems to be happening to the halfpipe. 

Snowboarding needs to be remain different and retain it's identity. 

Shaun White was a fierce competitor and a granted, a bit of a dick, but whatever you feel about him he is a character and he has his own style. He's divisive because he does things his own way. He's one of those disparate elements that makes up the current character of snowboarding. In a big group there is a constant rush to conformity and Mr White is a good example of someone pillarised for doing things differently by the snowboarding community. Despite our need to want everyone to be like us and feel the same way, we must be aware that all these differences are healthy and they matter. Any time some snowboarder is forced to conform slightly by community opinion we lose a little more of our identity. 

It's internal pressures from the world of snowboarding that could bring that bland fate about, not pressures from the casual viewers that watch the Olympics and complain once every four years. We should be pissing some of these occasional Olympic audiences off and to remain healthy we should also be pissing ourselves off all the time. Difference should be encouraged. For snowboarding the historical embrace of difference and being different is what made the slopestyle at the Olympics really work. We need to do everything we can to stop conformity from happening, to stop us become just another bland Olympic sport. 

As the saying should go: You can't please all of the people all of the time, but if you piss off some of them all of the time, then you're on to a winner.

Have a nice day


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Go Huck Yourselves! - Olympic snowboarding commentary draws 22,000 complaints about 300 complaints

1 comment:

  1. that's a really good article. i like that. thanks r

    ReplyDelete

 
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