I get why Charles Cooke and Mark Hemingway are irritated by this. Having an NBC reporter say “At such a young age, Wise has the lifestyle of an adult” about a 23-year-old man does make me feel like I’ve just woken up in some “Planet of the Apes” scenario where a race of Pajama Boys now rules the world.
But even so, I think NBC’s getting a bad rap on this one.
Not to say the rest of the freestyle skiers of halfpipe are not mature, but Wise is mature far beyond his years. At only twenty-three years old, he has a wife, Alexander, who was waiting patiently in the crowd, and together they have a two-year-old daughter waiting for them to return to their home in Reno, Nevada.
At such a young age, Wise has the lifestyle of an adult. He wears a Baby Bjorn baby carrier around the house. He also attends church regularly and says he could see himself becoming a pastor a little later down the road…
While the rest of his competitors are hanging with their friends, traveling the world searching for endless winter, hitting the party scenes accustom to their action sports lifestyles, Wise is hurrying home for quality time with the family. That is what sets his mental game apart from his competition. He likely has the most stable life of them all…
It was that ability to take himself out of the Olympic frenzy of becoming a worldwide superstar that let him, well, become just that. He did end up winning the gold, after all.
The article’s headline: “David Wise’s alternative lifestyle leads to Olympic gold.” Alternative to what, though? To Americans generally? In that case … yeah, actually, he is a little different from most of the rest of the pack. The average American man doesn’t marry these days until he’s almost 29 and he doesn’t have his first child until he’s, er, 25. Strictly speaking, Wise is unusual in assuming family responsibilities as a 23-year-old, even though that was the norm within living memory. But then, the objection here isn’t to NBC noticing that he’s a young husband and dad, it’s to them using the loaded phrase “alternative lifestyle.” We haven’t reached the point as a culture where a guy who’s several years into adulthood is some sort of fringe-dweller for having a wife and kids and believing in God, are we?
I don’t think that’s what NBC’s saying. When I read the piece, I thought they were drawing a contrast not between Wise and the general public but between Wise and the average Olympian or even the average Olympic skier. The stereotype of Olympians is that they’re consumed with training, to the exclusion of most major distractions. Wise shatters that stereotype in that he’s made it to the top of his sport while building a family in the meantime. Note the passage in the excerpt about how the rest of his competitors spend their time. That’s what the line about Wise being an “adult” was about, I thought. In fact, we’ve all read stories about the endless supply of condoms that the IOC’s obliged to provide to the Olympic village every two years, just because apparently there’s that much action happening between the Games’s many singletons. (Tinder is the app of choice this year for athletes on the make.) If, say, Ryan Lochte is what most Americans think of when they think of the “Olympic lifestyle,” then yeah, Wise is indubitably alternative. Maybe NBC was being cheeky with the headline, as a goof on how most Olympians live (or how we think they live), but I doubt there was any offense intended.
Here’s a chat with the man himself. Click the image to watch.