What do the Olympics make you feel? Proud of those who represent your country, i.e. nationalism? Amazed at the speed, the bodies, the determination? Wistful for your youth? Lazy and abject? In some ways, I feel all of the above. Watching the summer games makes me so proud of everybody, so much so that I cheer for anyone who is competing (let alone winning), with no regard to country colors or flags being waved.
Though my kids professed disinterest, they have been lulled to the screen, mainly because their TV addiction doesn’t allow them to walk by without stopping. Also, I cheer loudly. And it’s the only TV in the house. And it’s a small house.
Whatever feelings that are invoked in me, the Olympics have the opposite effect on my kids. Watching excellence in action reminds them that, and this is in their words, they “haven’t done anything yet.” Watching makes them feel like losers. Can a 15-year-old even qualify as a loser?
Right off the bat, they started making comments like, “Wow, she sucked. Did you see her foot?’ Of course, I said no one sucks at this level. These are the best of the best of the best. A tenth-of-a-one-hundredth deduction for wobbling on a 4-inch-wide beam after completing a standing back flip does not constitute “you suck” status. Ever. I can’t even walk straight on a balance beam without wobbling. I’ve tried!
I’m sure there are all kinds of Olympic blogs and articles right now and I’m probably last in sharing my opinions since the Olympics are almost over. But I don’t want to talk about how great they are…we all know that. It’s not about the 22nd gold medal won by Michael Phelps, or Gabby as the first African-American gold medal winner in gymnastics (Did I hear that right? I dunno.)
As the media profiles certain athletes, it’s often humbling to see what frustrations, setbacks, and obstacles affected some athletes and drove their will to win.
For some great writers, pain and hardship opened a creative door to express themselves in ways they normally couldn’t. I also maintain a theory that comedians are funny because they were made fun of, for whatever reason in their youth, and laughing at oneself was originally a safety mechanism to deflect pain; similarly, some of these amateur athletes are running, swimming, or jumping from their own youthful demons.
What I condemn is that my kids and others have downplayed the determination that drove these people to obsession with their sport. The obsession that became achievement. The achievement that became excellence.
Who are we to denounce any of their efforts? Who dares to make fun of Gabby’s hair? Who dares to talk about a back-busting dive? Like an official sponsor for detergent, we all are the official couch potatoes of champions, the backseat drivers, the armchair quarterbacks. We should just shut up and cheer.