Photo: Jon Curnow
When I was learning how to drive, my mother would sit in the passenger seat, tilt her tensed torso straight back and press her useless foot into the floor mat. "Break!" she would say anxiously. She'd fully extend her right leg and caution me, "Break! BREAK!" My eyes rolled at her so many times, I'm surprised they never did "get stuck like that."
You see, I understand backseat drivers. Back seat uneven bar-ers, however, I had not been familiar with; until last night's Olympic Games. Aly Raisman, your typical American teenager (if you consider a teenage Olympic gymnast typical) may have qualified to compete for the gold last night, but it is her parents who stole the show.
If you missed their performance, you can watch it here: http://gawker.com/5930003/you-have-to-watch-us-gymnast-aly-raismans-hilarious-parents-react-to-her-bar-routine
Being mortified by your parents is par for the childhood course. My Dad was famous for intentionally turning me crimson with embarrassment. He'd pass gas just to get my goat. By the time I was 16, I would apologize to waitresses in advance of our meals. I would invite friends over with lengthy warnings of cheesy teasing and puns ahead. But never, ever ... ever, did my parents pull a Raisman.
I was watching their bizarre bleacher behavior last night, thinking, NO NBC! STOP! DON'T SHOW THIS! ALY WILL DIE!! CUT AWAY! CUT TO CHINESE GIRLS VAULTING!! PLEASE STOP.
I felt for poor Aly, who in that moment had no idea that her parents were mortifying her internationally.
Moments later, after Aly was selected to compete in the "All Around" competition, the cameras cut back to her folks. They were sobbing. No longer bobbing awkwardly in unison, the Raismans were overjoyed. They were sweaty and worn out from the stress of the stands, but their child had just wowed the world, and they were there to see it happen. What a moment.
The Raismans are bound to be razzed about their Olympic moment for years to come, but they don't strike me as the kind of people who will really mind. Their daughter is clearly at the wheel ... they're just back seat driving. No matter how embarrassing.