Monday, August 18, 2008

Finally, a post on the Olympics

I’ve tried a couple times to write a post about the Olympics. Generally speaking, it dissolves and fizzles out into a list of my thoughts on each individual event/athlete/commentator. I go back and read it and think, “Good golly, who on earth will ever ever care about that nonsense?” and relegate the piece into the will-never-be-posted folder on my computer. Trust me, you do not even want to know what else is in there. Its an ugly little place with 1970's wallpaper and it smells like mothballs.

I have considered a few times having some friends over for an informal cookout and then some light watching of the Olympics as we talk about our weeks, our vacations, our kids, our houses, etc. But almost as soon as I have this thought, I realize it will never ever work. You see, me, being the person I am, created by God Himself in His image, I am just a bit, competitive. Which in turn, depending on how you see it, makes watching a sporting event with me quite a spectacle. Even moreso when its televised and I can hurl insults at the t.v. without getting escorted out of the venue. Simply put, if I had been at the Water Cube when Michael swam, I would have Lost. My. Mind.

I get a little bit into it. Evidently, I cross lines now and then and Hubby has to tell me to just be quiet for a while. My favorite event of the Olympic games, thus far, has been me criticizing the announcers/commentators/interviewers. They seemingly make these sweeping generalizations that either doom someone to failure (like when they say, “He has been absolutely perfect so far as these Olympic games” and the poor gymnast goes splat) or they spew out negativity thereby making everyone think she is so bad I could do better (and then, inevitably, the athlete does WAY better than they expected).

Also, these interviewers who ask the same question 100 times over - they irritate me. Honestly, let’s ask Michael Phelps a question other than “How does it feel to win 8 gold medals and break Mark Spitz’s record?” We all know he will say, “I’m just at a loss for words.” Which I think is his way of saying, “Seriously, can’t you guys come up with a better question than that?” So far, I’ve only seen two people do what I would consider a ‘good job’ of interviewing him. Someone should tell the media that the other male swimmers, they were not there solely to win medals for Michael. Every single one of those guys has said, “Well, its cool that he won 8 golds, but I was swimming to get the gold for myself - for my country. I wasn’t so concerned about accomplishing his goal for him.”

I get a little worked up, you see, over all the predictions and analysis. I get tired of all the “warnings” about an athlete’s questionable consistency. I just want to watch them do the very best that they can do and then celebrate them for that outcome. I like to watch them stand on the podium, with medal dangling in their boquet of flowers, and an awe-struck grin on their face. I like seeing the other athletes going to the other events and cheering on their fellow countrymen and women. I love it when the commentators lose their minds and scream out their play-by-play and when they go completely silent because its so good they just don’t know what to say to make it any better. More screaming, less talking, I say. Which pretty much sums up the way I watch the Olympics.

I have loved watching the swimming, the gymnastics, the rowing, the marathon running, and the sprinting. Yes, even that silly sport - synchronized diving - has given me a few moments of entertainment. And I am completely exhausted from staying up WAY WAY past my bedtime just to see Shawn Johnson flip through the air and land on a strip of wood that’s only 4 inches wide. (I was in gymnastics for a few years when I was younger, and oh so much smaller, and I KNOW how impossible it is just to do a friggin’ cartwheel on a balance beam.) It all gives me goosebumps and butterflies and this incredibly patriotic tightness in my chest.

For 1,460 days (more or less - 4 years) we don’t really even have these awesome people - these Olympians - on our radar. And when I hear the commentators say that so-and-so trains in Baltimore, I think, “Wow. For 4 years that sounds ridiculously far away. But when I watch them on t.v. in the Olympics, I feel like they’re my next door neighbor! Like somehow they belong to me because we live in the same country!” Because they have brought such joy to our nation when we watch them do the impossible as we cheer from our living rooms. Even the ones who have faltered, their courage alone as made me smile.

The only down side to all this Olympic stuff - aside from the loss of HOURS of sleep - is the feeling of “Wow, am I ever out of shape!?” Honestly, staring at all these perfectly toned, sculpted bodies is a bit overwhelming, don’t you think? Let’s be honest, they have muscles in places I’m fairly sure I do not.

Its something I don’t understand - being so good, so talented, so driven, so devoted, that you are the best in your nation. That you train your entire life, your world revolves around a “sport”, your years and years of hard work come down to one singular, brief moment. That you go the Olympics and ultimately find everything you ever dreamed of or leave with a broken heart. No, I don’t know that life. I don’t know that kind of determination. I don’t know what it means to have that experience. I don’t know. But I love watching those that do. And it makes me proud that they wear the name of my country on their chest. Even if that’s the only thing we have in common, its enough.


Anonymous said...

I could not have said it better myself. You have captured my feelings exactly.

Dale Deur said...

Jean - you can come watch with Kathy & I anytime. We live in the country, we can yell at the tv all we want.