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Monday, February 10, 2014


I have always hated the Olympics, even when I was a kid.  ESPECIALLY when I was a kid, actually, because in the time before cable, there were only three broadcast networks, and those three broadcast networks ALL aired Olympics and Olympics ONLY round the clock for what felt like eons.  I awaited each new cycle with a dread that bordered on rage; who in their right mind wants to watch amateur sports and only amateur sports for weeks on end?  WHO??  WHO??? 

Well, apparently a lot of people who are not me because the Olympics are still around, although thankfully no longer on every network and blessedly not around the clock.  God, those endless days of Olympics with nothing else to watch, especially in the winter!  My own personal hell.  I admit I am not a fan of sports in general, but I can enjoy a rousing game of basketball with the best of them, or even listen for up to five minutes when my husband or son drones on and on about football.  But the Olympics are a total drag, imho.
I can just imagine people getting all outraged about this because I think it is most likely considered “un-American” to hate the Olympics, and what worse crime is there than being “un-American”?  America was built on the competitive spirit!!!   The drive to excel!!!...but I would argue that it was actually built on the foundation of cooperation and community driven initiative.   Personally, I don’t give a damn who wins the Olympics because, to trot out another clich√©, aren’t they already winners if they made it to the Olympics? 

And while I am certainly not advocating NOT doing your best, I also recognize that my best varies tremendously from day to day and I assume this is true of most people, even Olympians.  I assume that plenty of people have maybe gotten the (gasp!) bronze when they are capable of the gold, just because they were having an off day.  Or maybe someone else was just really having an ON day, who knows?  My point is, I really couldn’t care less about who came in one tenth of a second ahead of somebody else, if you can forgive me for this.

I have seen kids bawl their eyes out over big team losses, small team losses, coming in a tenth of a second behind someone else and losing a game of Go Fish; to me it is all the same.  Essentially meaningless.  The percentage of people who will go on to play professional sports is negligible, and those who will be professional card players even fewer.  To me, it is all the biggest “WHO CARES?” on the planet, and frankly if you can’t have fun either way I don’t know why in the world you would bother to play the game, no matter what it is. 

Losing is part of life, a pretty crucial part of life, actually.  Theoretically at least, it should teach you self-compassion, other-compassion and how to sort out the meaningless from the meaningful.  When you die, the headline might read “Gold Medal Winner Passes Away”, but what really matters about your life and how you lived it will be completely absent from that banner.  You could win a gold medal and be a truly terrible person.  Or you could win a gold medal and be the greatest person who ever lived.  But the latter is not dependent on the former and never could be.
Look, I am not trying to yuck anybody’s yum here; if you just love watching a bunch of kids you don’t know compete against each other at various sports, go for it.  I think we can all be moved by the personal stories, the purity of purpose those young people seem to embody.  But the next time you watch some little ice skater crying her eyes out because TODAY of ALL DAYS she had to fall in the middle of her routine, remember that she has given up having a normal life for this day. 

She has given up sleep, a lot of fun food and the better part of her social life for this day.  She has LIVED FOR THIS DAY and THIS DAY ONLY for most of her life and guess what?  It didn’t pay off.  She was having an off day and she choked, like we all do a thousand times in a lifetime, but hopefully and usually we have sacrificed very little to our screw up and we can just shrug and say tomorrow’s another day.  She can’t and I am not okay with that.  As gold medal winner Tara Lipinski put it, “You have so much pressure on you, and there's so many people relying on you, and the rest of your life is riding on four minutes”.   The rest of your life is riding on four minutes.   I do not think a culture that promotes that idea is okay.  To me, it is not okay at all. 

People are so derisive of the “everybody gets trophy” mentality in children’s sports, but I am not one of those people.  You don’t have to be a star, baby, to be in my show.  If you are here, not being a jerk and having some fun, I am glad to have you.  Once when she was little, my niece was playing with a group of children (including her cousin, my son) and decided she was going to give everyone a prize.  So she got out the crayons and paper and made a medal for every kid who was there.  She picked out a strength she noticed in their behavior and gave them a medal for it. 

How unbelievably great is that?  How would it be, if instead of training children to compete against each other in various endeavors, we taught them to notice and appreciate the strengths and gifts others bring to the table with gratitude, not envy?  There is a time and place for competition, but as Emerson so perfectly put it, “The roses…do not compare themselves to former roses or better ones; they are what they are.”  And so are we, each a perfect rose in our own way.  We are not all going to be Olympians, but we all have a lot to contribute on our good days, our bad days and every day in between.  So today you get a medal, whether you fell during your “routine” or not.  You get a medal for getting back up, and for remembering that tomorrow is another day.

1 comment:

  1. You sound like a socialist in this piece. I love it.