The Wieber Fever Moments.

  • BY Lisa Byington
  • 8.01.12

I remember “moments.”

Which doesn’t make me different from any other Olympic watcher. In fact, it bonds us.

My all-time favorite was Kerri Strug’s vault back in 1996. Take five minutes and give yourself a refresher/introduction of that moment on YouTube. I did. It was the first time, since 1996, I looked back at it unedited. Brought me to tears again. Probably still remains my all-time favorite.

But the gymnastics world drew me in again for the last 72 hours.

For two moments.

Sunday, Jordyn Wieber sobbed.

She was a hop and a hobble away, in the judge’s eyes, from competing in the All-Around.

Tuesday, she smiled.

Ohhhhhhh, she smiled and jumped and cheered for her teammates. Yeeeeessss, she smiled after her vault, her bar routine, and multiple times DURING her floor exercise. But it was the smile she flashed the second she was done with floor, which created “that moment” for me. It took me back to Strug, the moment when an athlete struggled, then redeems.

I played two sports at the Division I level, but never came close to being an Olympian. And though not on that kind of stage, I competed long enough to have some wonderful memories and some heartbreaking moments. People are right, the pain eases with time and perspective. What they might not tell you, is the pain never truly goes away. Jordyn Wieber will always carry a part of that moment from Sunday with her. But it kinda gives us all hope, that she also will carry the joy from Tuesday as well.

I don’t care who you are. Not a sole exists who has lived a life completely of happy endings. We all have rejoiced. And we all have cried.

Jordyn Wieber, whether she realized it or not, was competing for Team USA, for herself, her family and all the people out there who are dying for a second chance.

I crave the happy ending. Especially after seeing someone work so hard for a goal. It’s what the Olympics do. Make us feel so personally a part of the highs and lows.

I worked with a TV director who writes on his football roster sheets … “losers”. At first, I thought he was being insensitive, so I asked what he meant by that. He explained that when working in a production truck, especially in the closing minutes of a college football game, it’s easy to lose perspective on the “big picture.” And while it’s natural for the cameras to follow the winners, the ones celebrating in the final minutes, this director said, “I have to remind myself there are always two parts to the story. There is always more than one team competing.” So in the heat of the moment, he tries to capture both emotions. Both moments. The High’s and the Low’s.

I was reminded of that again on Sunday. It was troubling to watch Wieber stand in the background, behind Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, doing interviews for NBC. I couldn’t take my eyes off a 17 year old, trying to compose herself. She found words for that moment. I don’t know if I would have.

I was reminded again of the contrast on Tuesday. Jordyn celebrated with her teammates — tears of joy streamed down their faces. NBC then cut to other tears — The Russians. Devastated. Heartbroken.

To me, it was a lesson I have been trying to wrap words around for some time. Sports…life…is a constant cycle of rights and wrongs, good and bad, loss and luck. Moments we remember. Ones we’d like to forget. Moments, sometimes, which define our legacy here on this planet. Watching the last 72 hours of the Olympics, I am once again reminded there are always two sides to Sports. Sometimes to Life.

We all, like Jordyn, will continue to find ourselves standing on both sides of that dividing line. The cycle doesn’t stop. But on Tuesday, for a moment, it did for Jordyn Wieber.

And in this case, I cried when she did. I smiled when she did. It was nice to see her moment work out.

about the author

Lisa Byington has worked for BTN, FOX, CBS, Turner, and ESPN. She earned her BSJ and MSJ from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She also played four years of basketball and two years of soccer for the Wildcats.