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If you haven’t watched Top Shot on the History Channel, season 2 of which just concluded, then you will be bored to tears by this post; probably best just to leave now.
Also, if you think you will watch it, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet, well, best to go away now. Big time spoiler alert.
Top Shot is a marksmanship competition/reality show that begins with 16 excellent shooters divided into two teams and ends with four individuals competing for the title of Top Shot and a prize of $100 K.
You have to have seen the season that concluded last night for anything else I’m going to write here to make any sense at all. So here it is:
George Reinas is the ideal American, and we’d be a hell of a lot better off as a country if more of us were more like George.
For most of this season, to me, George was aggravating as all get out, with his cocky comments about other shooters, his arrogance, his utter irrepressibility.
He was also competent as all get out, a sniper instructor who sniped the sniper challenge — “one shot, one kill” — even if that meant another contestant actually won the challenge by getting a quicker ”kill” on the target using two shots. George stayed loyal to his own standards.
George was great TV, but that’s not why I see him as the ideal American. He was great TV because he was willing to be seen. When another competitor shot poorly, there’s the interview where George says, “He sucked!” When George shot poorly, there’s the interview where George says, “I sucked!” George clearly is someone who can both dish it out and take it.
When the challenge involved dropping from 120 feet while shooting at balloons, and George doesn’t apparently like heights very much, he put on his game face and smoked the competition. One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen was in that episode: George starting with his laughing letting-it-all-hang-out face and drawing his hand down, leaving behind his scary game face mask. In a second he went from the jerk at the beach to a serious fighter, someone not to cross.
George was also an amazing shooter, and part of the reason I see him as the ideal American is that all his cocky talk was backed up by his competence. After all, is it really arrogance if you really are that good?
He also stayed loyal to his people, and there’s where he went from an excellent and intimidating competitor, fighter and shooter, to an ideal we all need to be trying to achieve.
In the finale, which aired last night, we see George deliberately miss a plate with a pistol shot at 25 feet, what had to be a very easy shot for him. But Chris Reed would have been eliminated immediately had George made that shot, and George obviously believed Chris deserved and needed to fight for his place in the competition. Chris was in the midst of an uncharacteristic bad run — this was the only time Chris seemed to be struggling; Chris had picked the strongest team at the outset of the competition and performed superbly all the way through; George was Chris’ first pick, in fact.
George’s loyalty to Chris inspired his decision to allow Chris a path to remain in the competition. And then Chris hit the plate, tying with George and avoiding elimination. And then Chris beat George in the next competition, using a Sharp’s rifle to shoot a plate at 50 yards.
AND THEN Chris beat Gunny Brian Zins in the very final competition to win Top Shot.
If George had hit the plate with the pistol shot, Chris would have been eliminated and the finalists would have been George and Gunny. George didn’t throw the competition to Chris; he just gave Chris the chance to stay in it, and Chris shook off his own funk and got right back in it. It was a gift, and Chris knew enough to seize the chance and not dishonor himself & George both by refusing the gift. This episode was so amazing to watch, we were shrieking at the TV.
So here’s George: bright, brash, skilled, a fierce competitor; confident to the point of arrogance; saying what he felt about everyone, including himself. At times infuriating, but always so honest that it was easy to forgive him. It didn’t appear that he held grudges, he just let it all out immediately and then returned to excelling at the task at hand. When he might have had a chance to win, he revealed something about himself we could easily have missed: a huge heart and a sense of loyalty.
I spent a lot of season 2 of Top Shot feeling quite annoyed at George, and I imagine if life conspired to make us friends, I’d still get annoyed at him frequently. But I would also spend all my time trying to deserve his loyalty and respect, because his loyalty and respect is worth deserving. George is who we want at our back (and he’s an Air Force sniper instructor, so we have him at our back!) and he is who we never want to let down.
This is what America and Americans used to be: bright, brash, skillful, fiercely competitive, confident to the point of arrogance, loud, sometimes infuriating, and blessed with honor, loyalty, and huge heart. This is the spirit we need to revive, whether we call it cowboy spirit or Jersey attitude.
George Reinas is the ideal American. I hope I get to tell him that someday!