| USA TODAY Sports
GANGNEUNG, South Korea — There are volunteers at the Winter Olympics who have to stand outside in subzero temperatures for the entirety of their 12-hour shifts. On Wednesday, a worker at an Olympic Park food stand saw his entire tent and much of his product blown away by gale-force winds.
But the grumpiest man I’ve seen in Pyeongchang isn’t one of them, or some last-place finisher or athletes struck down by injury at the worst time.
It is Shani Davis.
Davis seems utterly determined to be unhappy and to feel like everything is against him. He likes to set rules for others that he doesn’t want to stick to himself. He is one of the greatest speed skaters in the history of the sport, but he has sabotaged his public reputation with regularity. And he gives no sign of caring about any of that.
His Olympics began with a piece of extraordinarily bad PR, when he angrily tweeted about the perceived injustice of him being overlooked as United States team flagbearer in favor of Erin Hamlin, who was given the honor when a tied vote between her and Davis was broken by a coin toss.
Addressing it for the first time with the American media on Tuesday, he told questioners to stick to skating. If only he had.
It is a shame, because there are plenty of young skaters and their parents who will tell you he is a tremendous source of support, guidance and advice.
Enough people say it that away from skating he must be a good guy. A good guy, who seems utterly determined to come across as a jerk to the public. He’s a walking, or skating, contradiction.
He rails on the news media for not telling a balanced side to the story but when asked to clarify whether he meant disrespect to Hamlin, he refused to answer.
The funny thing is, there have been times when Davis has stepped outside of skating and has come across in a highly positive light.
Before the Sochi Olympics in 2014, I conducted an extended telephone interview with him which, in truth, he agreed to only as part of an endorsement deal that presumably required it.
Yet he went into depth about his admiration for football great and Chicago legend Walter Payton, and it was real, emotional, moving stuff. He liked how the piece turned out, too, according to some people who knew him. It doesn’t matter to him. He sees what he wants to and believes what he has chosen to.
This week, despite his tweet that took the shine off Hamlin’s golden moment in a completely inappropriate manner, the coverage of him has been more than fair. Virtually all mentions of the tweet in articles used the phrase “posted from his account,” leaving the door open for him to clarify whether it was his own thumbs or someone else’s that had written it. He didn’t say.
Columns have been written expressing some sympathy and understanding and certainly not throwing him under the bus like they might have.
But no, in Davis’ view the American media are bad and are against him and want him to fail. That’s his story, and he’s so entwined in it that its almost laughable.
Only the media in the Netherlands, where he is far more well-known than in the States, is fair to him, he believes, which is why the only comments on the Hamlin matter went to a Dutch newspaper.
If Davis showed a fraction of the personality of teammates such as Joey Mantia, Mitchell Whitmore or Brittany Bowe, he could still be a star of sorts, even in the twilight of his career. He has been to five Olympics, and that means something.
Instead, he’s just an angry guy hurtling rapidly toward irrelevance.
But, you know what, it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t seem to care. He has probably left a bunch of money on the table by being surly and unsmiling and paranoid and if it means so much to be that way that you effectively pay to do so, then go for it.
He’s hurt no one but himself, and perhaps he has only hurt himself financially. If you don’t care what anyone thinks, then you don’t care that people don’t like you.
If you’d rather be angry than rich, then the price is worth paying.