Maybe I have Olympic amnesia, but is it a long-standing tradition to drape winning U.S. athletes in the American flag or is this a new practice? Not to take anything away from Shaun White’s spectacular win in the half-pipe, but should we really be handing a flag to athletes so overcome by emotion that they don’t realize they’re dragging and stepping on it? Sign me, Flag Fashion Police
Action Line has been around for 15 Winter Games but really hasn’t been paying attention, other than to laugh at how scandals always manage to taint ice-related events.
This year’s Olympics was no exception, with a Russian curler being charged with doping.
Um. It’s curling. That’s the sport in which a person pushes a rock across the ice while teammates sweep its path with brooms. What possible need does a curler have for performance-enhancing drugs?
But it’s Russia.
Good thing we never colluded with these cheaters and gold meddle-ists.
In any case, let’s get back to athletes and flags.
And who better to answer an Olympic question than someone who has been to them?
Naturally, that person is our good friend Mike Elliott, a three-time racer in Nordic skiing.
Mike competed at the Winter Games in 1964 (Innsbruck, Austria), in 1968 (Grenoble, France) and in 1972 (Sapporo, Japan).
“I don’t remember anyone grabbing the flag out of the audience and waving it around. It just wasn’t done,” he said.
“At the time, we really tried to soften nationalism,” he added. “There were even some people who had a problem with raising flags and playing national anthems.”
Thus, Olympians wearing the flag like a cape is relatively new.
And, to be curmudgeonly, just because something is “new” doesn’t make it good. Take MTV.
Seriously. Take it.
Wait a sec. Didn’t MTV and the act of wearing Old Glory as an athletic victory prop start around the same time? Coincidence? Hardly!
Therefore, it’s MTV’s fault that Olympians sully the colors.
But let’s not let our attention flag.
The 3,000-word advisory U.S. Flag Code covers flag etiquette. Google it. It’s worth reading.
You’ll discover that the flag is not to be used as a “ceiling cover” or “receptacle for merchandise.”
For vendors who would promulgate patriotism, “the flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.” How many times do you see this standard ignored? “No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform.” However, first responders and military personnel can wear a “flag patch.”
Celebrators take note: The flag should never be used “as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled or damaged in any way.”
In addition, the flag isn’t an art canvas. Also, it should hang freely and “never be festooned.”
Action Line had to check on that one.
Festooning is when suspended fabric is drawn together to form loops or scallops. So let’s impugn an inopportune buffoon who would festoon, particularly during a June afternoon monsoon.
That’s a double whammy, festooning a flag and doing it during inclement weather, when flags should be taken in unless it’s an all-weather model.
One final thing about Old Glory: A flag got Durango 15 minutes of fame years ago on the late-night David Letterman show.
Dave had this bit called “Small Town News” in which he’d read amusing clips from local papers. One night, he quoted from the Durango Herald police blotter regarding the theft of an American flag from the Durango Mall. “Subject described the stolen item as red, white and blue with stars and stripes.”
To which Dave feigned shock and said, “I think I’ve seen it somewhere!”
Action Line thought he’d run that joke up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes.
Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you knew that Betsy Ross might not have sewn the first flag.