One of the joys of watching Stephen Colbert do what he does is seeing the reaction he generates from people who A) Don’t know that he’s being sarcastic, and B) Have no sense of humor of their own. Fitting squarely into this category is US Olympic speedskater Shani Davis. You might remember Davis from his bizarre feud with speedskating teammate Chad Hedrick during the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. Or the time someone from Davis’ website wrote an editorial calling Chicago Tribune writer Eric Zorn a Nazi and a jerkwheat. Ouch, that hurts. No one likes being called a jerkwheat. That’s the worst insult there is.
Well, Davis now finds himself at the center of a small media firestorm after calling Colbert a jerk to the Associated Press. We go to the blockquotes:
Stephen Colbert's Canadian-bashing isn't sitting well with at least one American speedskating star.
"He's a jerk," Shani Davis said Thursday when asked for his take on the comedian's criticism of Canucks. "You can put that in the paper."
Davis declined to elaborate, making the comment while vetting potential questions from The Canadian Press before rejecting an interview request and walking away…
Colbert stepped into a void for the American skaters after the team was left with a $300,000 shortfall when Dutch bank DSB declared bankruptcy and pulled out of its sponsorship. He put up a fundraising link on his Web site — a similar plan helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for wounded American soldiers and their families — in exchange for becoming the skating body's primary sponsor.
Soon after, Colbert used his show to aim some pointed barbs north of the border, while picking up on complaints that Vancouver Olympic officials have been limiting international athletes' access to facilities for the 2010 Winter Games.
"Those syrup-suckers won't let us practice at their Olympic venues," Colbert said.
As you can see, Shani Davis may have missed a few things about Colbert’s jokes, like the fact that that they were jokes and that he didn’t actually mean any of it. Davis also is apparently unaware of Colbert’s past fake feud with the Canadian city of Oshawa. Or his feuds with Miracle Whip, Richard Branson, Korean pop star Rain, Barry Manilow, Kanye West, Jon Stewart, Mike Huckabee, bears, and the town of Canton, Kansas. Those feuds were all made up, Shani. They weren’t actually real.
I suppose Davis will also take Colbert at his word when the host goofs on Davis at some point next week. Again, let’s all band together to inform Shani Davis that what Colbert is going to say about him is going to be done with a sense of playfulness and irony. But I don’t think I‘m being playful or ironic when I say that Shani Davis is a humorless dolt.
Drew Magary is a writer for deadspin.com and one of the world’s foremost speedskating historians and scholars.