While frozen to a bus station bench, I realized that the National Broadcasting Company’s public relations explosion for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi had missed a golden opportunity. (Well, maybe not a golden one–ivory, perhaps.) The polar vortex’s recreation of the Martian surface in North America provided free advertising for Sochi–an option that the network ignored.
Mother Nature’s nipple slip afforded fruitful grounds for NBC’s quadrannual media campaign. What better way to sell a major sporting event in the non-Siberian half of Russia than to take on the cold? Everybody loves good vodka, but alcoholism and faked Russian accents just won’t cut it. PR requires more creativity these days in order to attract a sizable share of the market. (For further reference, see statistics on how many people watch the Super Bowl for the actual football game…)
At the same time, the potential exists for so much good press in an icy sea of violence, protests, and hate speech–Bob Costas notwithstanding. Russia’s much-publicized ban on homosexuals and pro-gay propaganda, the international response of condemnation, and the White House’s appointments for its official delegation all point to the need for such innovative advertising.
This is where NBC had the chance to take the initiative, utilize the occasion, and do some good. The network could have been the better party and spoken out against these fear mongers, while generating interest in the games. Because, as everyone currently living in the northern hemisphere knows, this is a time of intense social and political struggle. Nations and peoples regularly battle with one another this time of year, hoping to sway the general opinion.
No, I’m not talking about typical American “hot buttons” like the prochoice and prolife movements, the legalization of marijuana, and Fox News’s aptly-named “homosexual agenda”. I’m talking about something that, thanks to our recent frigid freak of nature, every God-loving and godless American (sans Florida) has now experienced.
No single entity receives more vitriol from North Americas and Russians alike than chilly temperatures and the weather phenomena that accompany them. (The only thing hated more than the wintry climate in New England is the New York Yankees.) And, like Russia’s government-sponsored homophobia, fear and misunderstanding are to blame.
Cheimatophobia–the fear of cold weather or of being cold–is a serious matter. Just as schoolchildren protect themselves from their bedrooms’ boogiemen via carefully-placed blankets and sheets, grown adults bundle up within a multitude of layers to guard themselves against the cold’s chilly tendrils. Yes, such protective measures are necessary for survival–the monsters under the bed must be kept at bay, and subzero temperatures must be separated from exposed skin.
Even so, such segregation is wrongheaded. Why must we discriminate against ice and snow, but welcome sunlight and beach weather with open arms? Frosty the Snowman warmed (see “metaphorical language”) the hearts and minds of schoolchildren via the 1969 animated short, yet the titular character had to “leave” in the end. His exposure to the others was short-lived and fanciful, qualities that disallowed opportunities for real advancement. Frosty was an anomaly, Frosty wasn’t supposed to be–a message to developing children that conveyed a one-sided picture of winter.
These double standards are dangerous and harmful. What results is suffering—the suffering of polar bear challenge swimmers, construction workers in the igloo-building industry, and athletes in the Winter Olympics. We cannot allow this meteorological discrimination to continue. Instead of offering only half-assed attempts at children’s entertainment (see “brainwashing”), or outright ignorance, perhaps we ought to directly approach these issues without filters of any kind.
Remove the bed sheets! Lose the jackets! Embrace the cold! (But don’t lick the metal.)
The polar vortex presented an amazing chance for NBC to grapple with these important issues on an international stage. Instead of simple commentary from the obviously-nonathletic and arbitrary scores given by bought judges, the network could have initiated a campaign of connections–between Wisconsin cheeseheads and Swedish skiers, between Twin Cities truck drivers and Canadian curlers. Seeing these televised connection and experiencing the perils of the nippy outdoors could have brought more and more viewers to the games in Sochi next month.
Alas, the network ignored this and let the weather fade away into oblivion. “Normal” winter climate patterns have returned to the American Midwest and New England, Texans and Californians no longer have to question their reality in the face of freezing temperatures, and Floridians can, well, remain as warm and senile as they always were.
Perhaps a similar chance occurrence will accompany the months prior to the 2018 games in PyeongChang, South Korea. For the sake of cheimatophiles everywhere, one can only hope.