…In the year of 1898 a leading luminary of the social-democratic ( “progressive left” in today’s parlance) movement, Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov, had published his most famous work, The Role of the Individual in History.
… Some 120 years later a certain Norwegian skier has decided to retire – thus inadvertently proving that nothing has changed in a way the human society runs itself.
There are tell-tell signs that without Petter Northug Jr. competing and, perhaps more importantly, making his sarcastic remarks on and off the trail…people are turning away from watching/reading about cross country skiing.
Norwegian public broadcaster NRK run a story on the weekend showing to what extent the country’s media as a whole care about the great sport of cross country skiing during and after Northug – take a look at the graphs.
Stats don’t lie:
In 2016/17, when Petter was still seen as a top contender for gold, there were around 5000 stories about men’s skiing in the period of December 20 – January 28
In 2017/18, when Petter was struggling with his form, but was still seen as an Olympic Games’s candidate, in the same period of time, there was 5500
This season, with Petter announcing his retirement on December 12, the numbers came crashing: just over 3000 stories – and that with fellow Norwegian Johannes Klaebo quite literally wiping the floor with opposition in every sprint ans some distance races too.
Interestingly, that, according to TV2 Norway
, Northug is NOT the country’s most popular athlete – that title goes to Aksel Lund Svindal. In fact, both Johannes Klaebo and Therese Johaug narrowly beat Petter in popularity.
But that’s hardly the point. All three above Petter are classic “good boys/girls” ( Johaug’s doping ban non-withstanding) while Northug always was and remains enfant terrible – be it in his personal life, behavior on the trail or, especially, his loose tongue that lashed left, right & center during his 18-year old sporting career. In other words – people might not call him favorite example, but they will always click on the story about him.
And will note “ who’s shirts he wears” as David Bowie used to sing.
In the same story, NRK expert Fredrik Aukland puts it bluntly:
“… Northug has had a huge impact on the income of the Norwegian Ski Federation. They have been able to enjoy that for many years. Now they have a challenge. I predict that revenues will go down now that Northug is gone…”
Good piece of news for skiing? Northug has not gone far, luckily. On April 12 there an inaugural edition of the ski race of new type – the one that has Petter Northug’s imprint all over it: Red Bull Janteloppet in Hafjell, Norway.
Something tells us Petter will make the ski world to talk about the race that bears his name for a long, long time yet.
All photos are courtesy of nrk.no and Petter Northug Jr. Instagram