So had people written off the smiley Jason Brown after he finished fifth at Cup of Russia (seventh in the short) with a host of bobbles?
Not so consistent any more, some said. Not so easy with the mantle of the U.S. on his shoulders?
Brown’s face when he finished his free skate told the real story, although we didn’t see it at first. It was one of utter grief, sorrow, not the picture we are accustomed to seeing from this popular guy . On his knees at the end, he buried his face in his hands. So at first blush, it appeared he was just really, really disappointed with his performance.
A tweet he issued today told another very real tale.
“This has been an extremely difficult and emotional week,” he wrote.
It’s because his manager, Shep Goldberg, died the morning he left for Russia. Shep – because we all knew him as Shep – was larger than life, with a big but quiet presence. His death, from pancreatic cancer, happened with dignity. He didn’t trumpet his misfortune. He dealt with it. He was an omnipresent kind of a guy at skating events, as manager for Michelle Kwan and then Evan Lysacek. He always sent holiday greetings at Christmas. And while Shep managed Kwan, young Michelle used to send me Christmas cards, too.
“I wanted to dedicate last night’s free skate to him,” Brown wrote. “It wasn’t perfect, but I fought and I gave it everything I had just like he has always done. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
“Over the past eight months we’ve worked together, he left such an impact on my life.”
So the facial expression at the end of the skate isn’t always about the skate. There is a world outside the rink and Brown felt it and expressed it the only way he knew how, with his face and his blades. And life isn’t fair and life isn’t easy. But it’s the way we handle it that matters. And Brown won this test.