We didn’t know he was controversial.

American evangelicals were simply enjoying the Winter Olympics like everybody else. We chuckled at photos of two toilets in the same bathroom stall, and we heard about all the stray dogs being rounded up in Sochi. There were the athletes, of course, and some new stars being born as medals were won. Despite Bob Costas coming down with an eye infection, everything seemed to be going off without a hitch.

And then an NBC Sports website covering the Sochi games posted a story about David Wise’s “alternative lifestyle.”

And Christian media outlets and bloggers went, “huh?”  

The kid from Nevada who’s a halfpipe skier? Who just won gold?” What’s so “alternative” about his lifestyle?

We braced ourselves for what NBC’s Skyler Wilder was going to reveal about Wise’s  bizarre habits, personal preferences, and worldview.

Turns out, Wise’s “alternative lifestyle” is what we evangelicals consider to be normal family life. For Wilder, however, and young skiers in the daring, radical culture of the halfpipe world, Wise’s lifestyle choices are bizarre. Wise isn’t a carouser, or a ladies man, or a party animal, with Wilder’s implication being that any of those activities would make him “normal” in the elite orbit of Olympic athletics.

Instead, Wise is happily married and the proud father of a little girl. And he’s all of 23 years old – an age that NBC’s Wilder can’t seem to fathom.

“He’s not like the rest of the field,” he marvels. “Wise is mature far beyond his years. At only twenty-three years old, he has a wife, Alexandra, who was waiting patiently in the crowd, and together they have a two-year-old daughter waiting for them to return to their home in Reno, Nevada.”

So, that is the “alternative lifestyle” of David Wise? Being married and a father? All at the age of 23?  

Wilder writes as though Wise has discovered some strange new universe in which morality, matrimony, and paternity are actually desirable and possible. Throughout his article, Wilder never tries to hide his amazement at Wise and the contentment Wise expresses about the beliefs he holds about marriage and family.

Granted, part of Wilder’s incredulity may have been a literary strategy to make his article about such a squeaky-clean halfpiper more attractive to NBC’s jaded audience of sports enthusiasts. Particularly young sports enthusiasts, who might, as part of our nation’s growing cohort of single never-marrieds, be even less generous towards Wise’s lifestyle than Wilder is. Wilder seems to at least be in awe of what makes Wise different; other observers might simply scoff in derision at the throwback to what they consider to be an anachronism: monogamy and paternal responsibility.  

After all, if being an Olympic athlete as well as a married father at 23 wasn’t news, NBC wouldn’t have had a story. Wise’s life is considered newsworthy today because it doesn’t fit the norm. If the Olympic village at each of these games wasn’t the hotbed of sexual activity it’s reputed to be, Wise would be just another family man who happens to provide for his family through sports. As it was, one of the biggest side stories of these games was how athletes were using social media to, um, broaden the pool of fellow athletes they could date.

Still, even though the Olympics and its athletes aren’t exactly representative of society at large, it tells us a lot about our culture when the media perceives that somebody like Wise has become the exception to the rule, doesn’t it?