Let the Lolo Games begin
Like seemingly everything Olympic-related, the focus on Lolo Jones has always been disproportionate when the Games roll around.
So here we are again, paying more attention than perhaps we should to all things Lolo, even treading over familiar ground.
But then, that's the point, isn't it?
Jones said Monday in her first Sochi news conference that her initial reaction to the negative response over her making the U.S. bobsled team was, "Wow, this is a sequel."
She followed that by saying, "I just wasn't prepared for it," which is where she starts veering into that territory where she loses people. Because here's the thing about Jones, and it should not come as a news flash: As easy as it is for some to love her, she is just as easy for others to dislike.
Especially for those who have followed her closely, the Lolo-ness can wear thin: the quotes about herself in the third person; the wide-eyed wonder and innocence coupled with the video zipping -- and unzipping -- her uniform that she posted recently on Twitter; the marketing buzz surrounding her, which has always overshadowed her results.
That part is what fuels the harshest criticism, and it's where I have the hardest time picking a side. She is a beautiful girl with a backstory she was unafraid to tell (among other things, that she is -- was? -- a virgin).
If a girl with a little less body and beauty told the same story and posted the same video, no way she faces the same scrutiny -- positive and negative. But that feeds into it all as well, which a recent USA Today headline so succinctly expressed.
"Lolo Jones: Don't hate me because I'm popular," it read, referring to this somewhat confusing quote:
"[It has] just gotten to the point, for some reason being popular -- at the same token, you're taught when you do your media stuff to be charming and to answer the questions and be genuine," she said. "I don't know how that comes across as being negative [or] how people will try to use that against you. Like, 'She has too many Twitter followers, so now we hate her.' But wait, when I had a thousand and you wanted me to be outspoken and show you who I am; I don't know."
Right, don't hate me because I'm popular, she says with a confused shrug. The crux is that here is a woman who was a favorite for gold in the 100-meter hurdles in the 2008 Olympics only to trip over the final hurdle and come in seventh. In the 2012 Games, Jones placed fourth in the same event, all amid attention (read: endorsements), disgruntled teammates mumbled, that was out of proportion to her results.
Jones then decides to go out for the 2014 U.S. bobsled team. Lolo and behold, disgruntled almost-teammates claim it was because of the marketing draw she possesses that she made the squad instead of them.
"I should have been working harder on gaining Twitter followers than gaining muscle mass," one such disappointed and more experienced Olympic hopeful, Emily Azevedo, told USA Today.
Katie Eberling said she felt there was an "agenda" at play, which led others to speculate conspiracies involving the U.S. Olympic Committee and NBC -- in short, that they needed a sex symbol after Lindsey Vonn dropped out of the Olympics because of her knee injury.
Not such a far-fetched theory, but it has about as much chance of gaining traction above a yawn as demanding the heads of the U.S. figure skating folks who decided they would rather have an established skater who underperformed at nationals (read: fell, twice) than another woman who stayed on her skates but has less cred with Olympic judges.
It's the Olympics. It's weird. It's often unfair. It also needs the backstories to keep many of us interested.
Would it have been wise for Azevedo and Eberling, as justified as they thought they were, to resist making comments that made them look like jealous junior high girls? Probably. Just as Jones does herself no favors when she tweets another photo of herself in her skintight uni with the comment: "You can dress me up all cute like a teddy bear. But I'll still compete like a grizzly."
She's annoying. But she's Lolo. Let the Games begin.