By Tim Hayes


In the spirit of the Vancouver games now under way, today we inaugurate the Winter Rhetoricalympics, a recognition of notable, surprising, or inspiring statements that occur within the timeframe of the real Olympics but that do not necessarily have anything to do with the Olympics.  Okay, got it?  Here we go…


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In third place, taking the Rhetoricalympics Bronze, is famed movie critic Roger Ebert, who has lost his jaw, his ability to eat or drink, and his ability to speak after several surgical procedures to combat thyroid cancer.  In a wonderful, touching piece in Esquire magazine, Ebert at one point scribbles on a Post-It Note – the only way he can communicate, and a method he uses to the hilt – these words:


“There is no need to pity me.  Look how happy I am.  This has led to an exploring of writing.”


Having become famous through the TV show “At the Movies” with his friend, the late Gene Siskel, people forget or never knew that Ebert is first and foremost a fantastic writer.  He still reviews movies and one visit to his website at proves that he’s not lost a step. 


Yet his life has changed so drastically that it’s truly an inspiration to know that Roger Ebert’s joy in living and in writing remains so strong.


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Earning the Rhetoricalympics Silver is Kutilda Woods, Tiger’s mother.  During the 13 minutes of confession and apology that the world’s most famous and infamous golfer shared this week, it became impossible to not notice the conflicting combination of shame, embarrassment, love, and pride that perhaps only a mother can bear.


Mrs. Woods at times could not bring herself to look at her son directly as he tried to place the first brick in the long process of repairing his family, rebuilding his reputation, and restoring his career.  At other points, her gaze was so intense at Tiger, almost willing him on silently from her front-row seat.  She was the first person he went to after the remarks were finished, and her comments to the media after the event had a strong flavor of maternal defiance and protection.


Say what you will about Tiger, but you can’t fault his mom.


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And the top prize in this edition of the Rhetoricalympics, taking the Gold, is U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, a politician who had the guts to say what millions of Americans think – that our current crop of leaders in Washington, on both sides of the aisle, deserve to be broomed out of office this November.  On Feb. 16, it was reported on Yahoo News that:


Newly retiring Sen. Evan Bayh declared the American political system “dysfunctional,” riddled with “brain-dead partisanship” and permanent campaigning. Flatly denying any possibility that he’d seek the presidency or any other higher office, Bayh argued that the American people needed to deliver a “shock” to Congress by voting incumbents out en masse and replacing them with people interested in reforming the process and governing for the good of the people, rather than deep-pocketed special-interest groups.


In the days that followed, political observers opined on what pushed Bayh to express such taboo ideas.  Maybe it’s just a matter of someone finally deciding to speak the truth in Washington, DC?  Now, this blog is not meant to be a stage for political debate, and I am not taking sides here.  I just believe that anyone with the gumption and the guts to so boldly break through the stifling political chatter deserves some recognition.


See you in 2012 for the Summer Rhetoricalympics!


Copyright 2010 Tim Hayes Consulting