Tracy Tindale was at her wits end. This was the Olympics in which she was supposed to shine. Instead, she was struggling again. While most of the problem was mental, it wasn’t all her fault. In fact, her condition had recently been given a name. It was going down in the medical books as a modern ailment. Often, despite all efforts to resist, she would find her head spinning like a figure skating diva.
Her Olympic career had started at the Vancouver-Whistler Games. Tracy was a star in the firmament of ladies’ downhill, super G and giant slalom ski racing. At the age of 18 in 2010, she made a respectable showing but didn’t make it to the podium. That had never really been in anyone’s expectations, including her own.
The media spokespeople had used the usual phrases to describe her first appearances on the Olympic stage. She was coming back nicely from injury, a bad bruise from a nasty fall in a world cup event at Val d’isére France. She was well-positioned for the next Olympics scheduled for 2014 in Sochi Russia. And she recorded several personal bests. No wins, but personal bests. That was the consolation prize that had seen many another top athlete through a tough time.
When the 2014 Games arrived and Tracy again failed to medal, there was a little more disappointment expressed at her performances. But she stepped up in the rankings. Also, in events immediately prior to and after the Olympics, she did very well. In fact, her career took off. The product endorsements flowed in and life in general became much easier. Still, there was the nagging dissatisfaction with failing to achieve success under the biggest microscope of all, the Winter Games.
Now it was 2018 and this was supposed to be Tracy’s year. In fact, the whole nation was counting on her. What everyone else did not know, however, was that Tracy had developed a severe case of nervous distraction. The offending party was advertising. She had consulted, in secret, several sports psychologists and was surprised and relieved to hear that she was not alone in her distress.
In fact, the medical fraternity had only recently given her condition a name – Games Advertising Philia or GAP for short, not to be confused with the clothing store chain that had its own love of advertising. Rather than putting her mental energies to work attempting to analyze her moves on the hill, Tracy was spending all of her time trying to figure out how various products might be of benefit to her.
The Olympics were a special case when it came to promotional efforts. Every firm wanted to tie its products or services to the Games in some way. This resulted in some strange alignments. Tracy could imagine the connection between an athlete’s training regimen and healthy food products, energy drinks and vitamins. This might also extend to coffee – lots of people need a jolt to wake up in the morning – and beer – lots of people need a relaxant to take the edge off after a stressful day.
The connection was more tenuous when it came to motor oil, rust-proofing and auto body shops. Of course, there was always the issue of transporting oneself to various venues. The relevance of other ads was more remote. Computers? Come to think of it, Tracy was able to study her digitally recorded moves on her laptop while resting. How about cell phones? She laughed to herself when she imagined phoning for the latest weather conditions as she was hurtling down the slopes.
Financial services? Tracy struggled to come up with much of a connection. Except that she would be a lot more likely to put this product to good use if she came first or second in one of her events. The lost opportunity cost of failure was steep.
Nevertheless, Tracy’s obsession with advertising was jeopardizing her chances of success. What she would have dearly liked was the insertion of video messages in the lens’ corners of her goggles. That way she could monitor products and services while both training and racing. Alas, that day was still some distance away.
To give the appearance of de-commercializing the Games, actual signage had been banned from ice stadium boards and the fencing along mountain ski runs. It was a smart public relations move by Games organizers. Tracy was grateful for that much. She had little resistance to temptation. Had the signs been up, she just knew she would be pausing to check them out while shushing down the slopes.
Tracy had it bad. Her addiction to advertising was debilitating. Thankfully, she had learned one valuable lesson in life. Be careful who you jettison on your road to the top. The people you encounter along the way can really be important to you. You never know who is going to become your friend over the longer course of life.
Tracy had met Inga way back in Vancouver. Inga was from Estonia and they had been bitter rivals on the skiing circuit. Tracy had found Inga’s aggressive approach to competition off-putting. But over the years, they had developed a grudging respect for each other, at first, and then a deeper appreciation and affection.
Ultimately, Inga was the one that Tracy chose to confide in. Missing gold, silver or bronze was costing Tracy millions of dollars in extra endorsements. Somebody should be made to pay. Inga had contacts who would know what to do.
While Inga represented an Eastern European nation in sporting events, she did her training in the United States. She became part of an active expatriate community. Inga was the one who introduced Tracy to certain people who were able to help her, along with several others, when her latest Olympic dreams collapsed.
Sven Lindquist and Vladimir Kolnitzen were a pair of North American-trained lawyers who respectively left their homelands in Sweden and Russia in their early teens. Standing somewhat apart from their other classmates, they became close friends in law school and set up practice together as personal injury attorneys. Initially, they represented asbestos worker and motorcycle accident victims.
Lately, they had branched out into a new lucrative arena of legalistic legerdemain. They started taking on the grievance cases of champions whose mental faculties, senses of well-being and, not insignificantly, financial fortunes had been adversely impaired by corporate advertising. Due recompense was their stock in trade.
Inga took Tracy to meet the two attorneys, who both had shiny little eyes. The quartet sat down at the law firm’s opulent board-room table to discuss strategy and set long-term goals. Tracy was doubly pleased with the meeting for another reason.
Lindquist and Kolnitzen had written a catchy jingo that was ubiquitous over the airwaves. As a result, they had become minor celebrities in their own right.
“When an ad goes bad, call Sven and Vlad,” was the opening to their pitch. It was highly effective at pulling in an elite clientele for class-action GAP cases. The beauty of the proposal lay in the infinite number of enterprises that could be sued.
The irony of going after companies for lost advertising revenue caused by a surfeit of advertising was lost on Tracy. Not so, the law firm of Lindquist and Kolnitzen.