Friday, October 18, 2013

Something we can all agree on (think Rocky IV ...)

In honor of the president's renewed calls for bipartisanship (he just will never give up!), today I write about something that all of us can get excited about: supporting our present and future Olympic athletes.

It often surprises Americans (and almost always surprises people from other wealthy nations) to learn that our Olympic athletes receive very little state support -- at most a small stipend and travel money if they make the "A" team for their sport. (Most athletes in the developmental pipeline receive zero.) And most Olympians still have to fund-raise. Jesse Diggins is the rising star of the U.S. cross-country ski team and a World Championships gold medalist -- and, frankly, given her appearance, if she played just about any other sport, she'd be a millionaire by now -- and yet here she is raising money to fill in the gaps in her travel budget by offering a slide show and dinner at a cafe in Stillwater, MN. Meanwhile, Kris Freeman, the anchor of the men's national team for more than a decade, was unceremoniously booted off the team last year because, in an era of budget cuts, he was deemed unlikely to medal. Even the Wall Street Journal has chimed in here, writing in an editorial a couple days ago entitled "The Skier who got the Cold Shoulder" that "The USSA leadership has made some great decisions of late. But they made a bad call earlier this year when they cut former national champion Kris Freeman from the U.S. cross-country team."(That's right Katie and Brian: Kris Freeman made the WSJ! And if you guys want to read an extended interview with Freeman, you can find it here on

So I'm hoping you'll give $10 -- or maybe even the suggested $25 -- to support the National Nordic Foundation's Drive for 25, which supports nordic skiers throughout the pipeline. Please consider giving through my page here:

Now, let me address some potential objections you might have.

Objection 1): are you kidding me? You want me to help rich a bunch of rich white people on skis when children are dying in Syria?

Answer 1): Ok, fair enough to a point. Cross-county skiers are not generally hungry and homeless. But as I write on the fund-raising page,, I hope you will donate to Syrian refugees, too (and I provide a link). And yes, all of us would like to see a wider variety of people take up cross-country skiing. If you are serious about this issue, then I encourage you to give to the Loppet Foundation, which is working to diversify the sport.

Objection 2) sorry, but after I give to Syrian refugees and to the Loppet Foundation, I don't have anything left for the NNF.

Answer 2) Well, if you can truly state that your charitable giving is a zero-sum game -- that you have a fixed budget for how much you give, and that's that -- then fair enough. But if you don't give $25 here, would you really give that money to other causes, or would you in fact spend it on Epics or espressos or Whole Foods kids snacks or DVD copies of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil?

Objection 3): I know you: you must be getting something out of this, too.

Answer 3) Well, it is true that for setting up a fundraising page, I am entered in the raffle for a U.S. Ski Team down puffy jacket. And yeah, I'd like one of those. But my odds of winning it are very slim. Mostly I'm doing this because I love the sport and I love that our skiers are starting to surprise the world.

Objection 4): You shouldn't use your blog to fund-raise. It's annoying.

Answer 4): You got me there. 

So, patriotic Republicans and Democrats alike, I know the Cold War is supposedly over, but do you really want to lose the medal count to the Russians this year in Sochi? Thanks a lot. Please click here to get started.

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