NEW YORK – A new study out of Columbia University has determined that nearly all of the U.S. medalists from this year’s Summer Olympics have now fully transitioned back into the inconsequential existences they led before arriving in London, despite just three months ago being nationally celebrated for their athletic heroics.
The study found that though their heart-stopping accomplishments earned them a brief spell of godlike celebrity, the Olympians are now no more significant to the average American than any other schmuck they’d pass on the sidewalk.
“I don’t want to say that the achievements for which they worked their entire lives were a total waste, but certainly no one beyond their immediate families can remember any of their feats, let alone their names,” said Dr. James Patten, who authored the study. “Other than the basketball guys, the gymnast girls, and a couple of the swimmers, the rest of the athletes will now live the remainder of their lives in a downward spiral of disappointment and anonymity, forever removed from those two magical weeks when the world pretended their sports mattered.”
The study placed photos of the U.S. medalists among an assortment of ordinary items—a can of baked beans, a mop, a wad of used tissues, a tire gauge, etc.—and asked subjects to identify what, if anything, among the items had any measure of cultural significance. In 98 percent of instances, subjects failed to identify the Olympians as culturally relevant, compared to 63 percent for the baked beans.
Kayla Harrison, who won a gold medal in judo, admits that the precipitous drop from the spotlight has been unexpectedly swift.
“It was only 90 days ago that Bob Costas—the Bob Costas!—was interviewing me in front of a television audience of 100 million, and my face was showing up on every gossip site on the planet,” she said. “Now I’m applying for jobs at Applebee’s and using my gold medal to hold together the broken rod on my towel rack.”
For those few whom the country hasn’t entirely forgotten, it’s hard to say whether they’re appreciating their lingering fame.
“It’s cool I guess,” said swimmer Ryan Lochte, who was sitting amidst a bevy of bikini’d women, sipping from a $10,000 bottle of champagne. “Whatever.”