AFTER THE WHISTLE

Dinner roll is not enough

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It was a tough crowd at the Bashor Bowl Friday afternoon.

But don't take my word for it; just ask freestyle skiing legend Jonny Moseley, who, despite his 1998 gold medal run in Nagano and his infamous "dinner roll" at last year's Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, was basically laughed off the slopes following his performance in the big air competition at the Paul Mitchell Ultimate Bumps and Jumps competition.

This is a skier who made a name for himself in the freestyle world of moguls -- but he just didn't measure up to the fans' expectations in either the superpipe or the big air events, which were held Friday.

Despite his lackluster effort in the pipe, where he basically went through the motions, and his big air showing, which would have been all right if the guy were skiing in the junior division of a Rocky Mountain Division meet, I held out hope for the guy. I even defended his performance prior to the start of the mogul events on Saturday morning to one disgruntled fan.

"Hey, the guy skis moguls," I told the poor fellow, who asked me what was up with Moseley and if it would be in the paper. "I mean how many times do you think he's trained upright aerials in the last 10 years?"

"Wait until you see him in the bumps, he will be better," I said.

But when the guy with the microphone at the bottom of the hill announced that Moseley wouldn't be skiing in Saturday's duals events, my arguments kind of went out the window.

I mean the guy agreed to show up, and the people at the Paul Mitchell Ultimate Bumps and Jumps used his name to draw people to the slopes this weekend, so why wasn't he skiing?

The guy on the loudspeaker gave some lame excuse saying Moseley just wasn't feeling strong enough to compete. That went over like a lead balloon with the guy standing next to me.

His argument was the guy showed up one day, gave a halfhearted effort and then pulled out altogether. Can you say lame?

I had to agree because Moseley's showing was a hard thing to defend to a freestyle skiing fan that was standing outside in a driving snowstorm just to see the guy ski.

But I'm still going to try to make some sense of it.

I didn't get a chance to talk to Moseley. The fact is, he didn't factor into the results in Friday's events, and then he pulled out before I got a chance to speak to him on Saturday.

Maybe the guy was sick. Or had some other excuse.

I'm sorry to say, but I just don't know what was up.

But the truth is that all that really doesn't matter -- at least not to the hundred of locals who left the slopes with a bad impression of the guy after the events.

How quickly they forget.

I still think Moseley has been good for the sport, and I even think that he's basically a good guy at heart.

Why, you ask?

Well, I just happened to be at the bottom of the Bashor Bowl Friday doing an interview when Moseley made his final jump. I think it was a spread eagle, but judging by the reaction of the crowd it didn't cut the cake.

But what did impress me about Moseley was the way he responded after the jump. He didn't speed out of the finish area and head back to his condo for a cold beer and a steak. Instead, he hung out and even visited with a couple of older fans who stopped him as he started to leave. It wasn't like there was a crowd lined up to get his autograph.

But while he was talking, another fan decided to approach the skier and ask to have her picture taken with him. Moseley said "yes" and stood there patiently for several minutes while the excited fan fumbled through her coat looking for a camera. Moseley then put his arm around her and smiled for the photo.

It doesn't seem like much, but after that, Moseley just didn't seem like one of those bigheaded stars that are only interested in taking care of No. 1.

Instead, he seemed gracious and polite (outside of the spotlight), despite the fact several hundred other people had just laughed at him a few minutes earlier.

I mean this is one of those guys who boosted freestyle into the spotlight, has become an excellent spokesman for the sport and has handled the pressure of being a celebrity with grace and style.

This weekend's events were not his cup of tea -- that was easy to see.

It is also true, however, that despite his groundbreaking approach to freestyle, Moseley is not a freeskier. He doesn't pretend to be one of the sport's rising stars and seems content to let that role go to guys like Tanner Hall and C.R. Johnson --the guys who really deserve it.

What Moseley is is a mogul skier who has brought some of freeskiing's best moves into the international spotlight. No matter how you feel about his showing this weekend, he has been a groundbreaking force in the world of skiing.

But somehow this weekend all that really didn't seem to matter to the diehard fans who showed up at Steamboat to see a show -- and I can't blame them.

I know a lot of those people are not going to agree with me defending Moseley after the fact. But like I said, Jonny, it's a pretty tough crowd.

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