‘I’m Not Impressed’ takes on viral life

You see that young lady in the photo? That’s McKayla Rose Maroney of Laguna Niguel, Calif., in the San Joaquin Hills. She is pretty, and, at 16, precocious. She also has powerful thighs. She was a member of the gold medal-winning U.S. women’s gymnastics team at the London Olympics.

You see that expression on her face? That’s called “McKayla Maroney Is Not Impressed.” It’s the wry smirk she sported after stumbling in the vault and settling for the silver medal. It’s the wry smirk that has made her a far bigger star than she would have been had she won only the team gold – not that winning the team gold wasn’t impressive, because the Russians were pretty good.

If, in the esteemed estimation of David Gates and Bread, a picture paints a thousand words than this one of young McKayla on the medal stand painted about a million.

Al Trautwig, the gymnastics announcer, could have spoken a billion words, or a gazillion, and they wouldn’t have said as much as this photograph that became one of those Internet memes. It was more viral than the shirtless Old Spice guy, or the kid who made a basket from the top of a football stadium, or a picture of a cat with some witty or profound expression typed in a bold font.

I have seen Photoshopped images of I’m Not Impressed McKayla Maroney at the Mars rover landing, at the news conference signing of Dwight Howard, in a green field beneath a double rainbow, at the Sistine Chapel, at the Atlanta Olympics with Kerri Strug, at the Royal Wedding, at the “Man on Wire” tightrope walk, at a Justin Bieber concert, surfing the Banzai Pipeline, in front of the Taj Mahal, at the Great Wall of China, in an art gallery with a Van Gogh painting, at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in the situation room during the bin Laden siege, in front of the Bellagio fountains, on an error message that says one cannot connect to the Internet.

Some of these are done better than others. All of them make me laugh. Now that beach volleyball and Olympic kayaking are over for four more years, a lot of creative people are using the Internet who have a lot of free time on their hands. This much is obvious.

Eyes dark, like daggers. Pursed lips, curled into a scowl. It’s an iconic image, for sure. Like those before and after pictures on Yahoo! of Kirstie Alley. Or Nick Nolte’s mug shot. Or Princess Kate, sunbathing. Or any shot of Phil Spector.

But how long will it last? How indelible will it become? As indelible as the photo of the Unknown Rebel standing before a column of Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square? Probably not. With all due respect for the rigors of Olympic gymnastics training, stumbling in the vault is not the same as standing before tanks.

But I always will admire this photo of precocious McKayla Maroney with the powerful thighs. I admire it for its honesty. McKayla Maroney is just 16, but she’s an athlete. A fierce competitor. Fierce competitors do not like to finish second. The Minnesota Vikings finish second. Miss Iowa finishes second. Miss California usually wins.

Like Dale Earnhardt said in that TV movie (and also probably at Daytona, where he had a flat tire on the last lap and lost to Derrike Cope), “second place is just the first loser.” That’s how a lot of people in sports see it.

But I also fancy that photo because it has so many uses. It’s like a Swiss Army knife for introverts.

Nothing says “I just got docked a tenth of a point for artistic merit by the French judge” like an “I’m Not Impressed” wry smirk.

Or “Whaddya mean $2,500 for a new transmission? The other guy told me it was probably just a hose.”

Or “You said your mother was staying only for the weekend.”

Tax audits, jury duty, algebra, Snooki, sliced bread, desperate housewives (except for Eva Longoria), iPhone5, losing to Northern Arizona in football.

One picture.

Three words.

I’m Not Impressed.

Which brings us to tonight.

McKayla Maroney was supposed to be flip, flop and flying around the Thomas & Mack Center along with the other gold medal-winning dynamos with the powerful thighs at the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions. But last week, during a similar exhibition in Ontario, Calif., she fell during a dismount and fractured her left tibia.

So now the “Fierce Five” is the “Fierce Four.” And now I’m the one who is not impressed (though I am sympathetic, because fractured tibiae are painful, even for 16-year-olds).

I had downloaded the photo of precocious McKayla Maroney and the wry smirk and printed it out on glossy paper. I had every intention of having her autograph it and then using it as my computer screen desktop because, at 55, I have become cynical and somewhat cranky.

Like most men my age, I’m Not Impressed by much of anything.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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