DFL

Celebrating last-place finishes at the Olympics. Because they're there, and you're not.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Signing Off

Well, that's it. I'm not sure I knew what to expect when I launched this blog a bit more than two weeks ago. I wasn't sure what the last-place finishes would look like, or what the response would be to this blog -- or whether anyone would even notice. As it turned out, lots of people noticed, and the response has been almost unanimously positive.

As for the results, we didn't get the last-place story that the media always hopes for: the ludicrous last-place finish. (They tried with the women's marathon, but given the severe conditions and the 16 DNFs, any finish was an achievement.) Partly that's a result of the IOC's crackdown on the novelty acts. And partly it's because last-place finishes, like medal finishes, come in all shapes and sizes.

Athletes come in last for all kinds of reasons, whether it's spectator interference, injuries, or deliberate strategies -- these were some of the more interesting last-place stories from these Games. But by and large last-place finishers were just like any other athletes at the games: some had a shot at a medal but it didn't work out, some were strong contenders, some had no hope but tried their best all the same -- and some might even test positive for steroids.

Last-place finishers are just like any other athletes. Most get ignored. Lucrative endorsement deals won't be waiting for the last-place finisher, but they won't be there for the seventh- or fourth-place finisher either. They won't be showboating at the end of the race. Their officials won't be demanding a duplicate gold medal. As far as the media is concerned, those off the podium hardly matter except as cannon fodder for the victors. But they're the nine-tenths of the iceberg beneath the surface: they're where most of the Olympics can be found.

This is my last post to DFL. I've been asked whether I'll do this again; I haven't decided yet. I've got other projects to work on -- and, believe it or not, I have to look for work. Keep an eye on my personal blog if you're interested in finding out what happens next. This'll be a hard act to follow, though.

I'll leave comments open for a few more days. Reader feedback, whether in the comments or by e-mail, has been a definite highlight of this little project. Thank you very much.

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DFL Media Roundup

International coverage of DFL was largely based on the Reuters and Agence France-Presse reports (see previous entry on news coverage). In addition to the stories mentioned earlier, I've received links or reports of stories appearing on the web sites of Le Figaro, L'Unità, Il corriere della sera (Milan), and Il corriere del Ticino (Lugano), as well as this Argentine web site, this French web site, Yahoo! France, Ynet in Israel (registration required), TV 2 of Denmark, Australian IT, a Spanish radio station, XTRAMSN (New Zealand) and probably a zillion other places I've missed. Suffice to say, it's gotten around. I'm given to understand that reports also appeared in Colombia, China and on South African radio.

I had an interview with the BBC World Service that turned into this pretty good article. I did another interview for their morning show in East Asia just after the Games to sum up the results. Separately, I had an interview with Irish National Radio as well. (Just keeping track, is all.)

From what I've been able to read -- and for the most part it was just the wire stories translated into other languages -- I'm pretty happy with the coverage: they understood what I was trying to do, and the focus was on the athletes and my arguments about their performance, rather than on me personally.

On the other hand, Canadian coverage focused an awful lot on me, as though I and my background -- the junior high track meet anecdote and my snake breeding was brought up more than once -- were as interesting as what I was doing here. I've never been accused of being boring, and I suppose the fact that a Canadian was responsible for something that was getting international attention was of interest to a national media that will look for the Canadian angle in anything, but I didn't think I ought to have been the focus of attention. I didn't think I ought to have been the novelty; the site should have been.

Of the print stories, the National Post article was probably the best -- well my mother liked it -- though it's for subscribers only online. The Ottawa Sun and Toronto Star articles were, I thought, less good -- the latter looks like an awful lot of cutting and pasting. It also apparently made La Presse, but I didn't see the article.

Other than that, I was on the radio a lot -- I had short interviews with news radio stations in Kitchener-Waterloo, Regina, Toronto and Montreal -- and last Friday made the rounds of the television news networks: first live on CBC Newsworld, then CTV Newsnet (taped then repeated throughout the day). I taped bits for CTV's and Global's national news coverage, but I'm not sure whether they ran. Here's a screenshot provided by a friend from my Newsworld appearance:



This was early in the interview, mere seconds before I learned the fine art of looking into the bloody camera. (They fixed me midway through; it was my first time on live TV.)

Surprisingly, other than the Yahoo! News story and the blogs, there doesn't seem to have been as much U.S. coverage as there was in the rest of the world. Make of that what you will. (I had a few inquiries that I wasn't able to respond to, for example, a couple of radio morning shows that focused a bit too much on the freaky and wacky for my comfort -- I'm not sure they were in it for the same reason I was.) Still, I had plenty of visits from American readers, so word got around even if the U.S. media wasn't by and large interested.

It did make a few "wacky news" digests such as this roundup of Olympic news tidbits -- which interestingly says,
Crowe drew his share of critics for the concept, but give him his due: He invented the one Olympic competition in which a disgruntled runner-up won't be demanding a duplicate gold medal.
Cute line -- but what share of critics? Does Dwight know something I don't? All I've had is a couple of trolls writing e-mails or comments deliberately trying to pick a fight -- typical for a site with any profile. No one has yet mounted a serious attack on me, this site, or the concept. It's a bad media practice to invent a controversy just because you think something might be controversial.

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