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Somewhere Out There

The world is caught up in Olympic fever as people tune in to the nearly non-stop coverage, cheering on their home country to gold and admiring the performances of the athletes who soar to new heights on this, sport’s most dramatic stage.

Yes, I can admire the athletic skills we see in sports ranging from track and field to gymnastics to swimming to basketball to tennis and shooting and bicycle riding and horse riding and archery and…well, just about every damn thing. But the thing that amazes me isn’t necessarily the athletic feats but the stories behind them; the people from all over the world who sacrificed the normal social life of adolescence to practice, to hone their skills so that one day they’d have a crack at even trying out for the Olympics.

They come from small towns and big cities. They come from every corner of the globe. Some are athletic talents, nurtured from the earliest moments of their life with the expectation of a big future. Others are underdogs, not expecting much out of their passion but giving their all nonetheless because on that one day, some miracle might happen and gold might be theirs.

But these miracles don’t just happen. They take long hours, hard work and dedication by not just the individual who will be stepping into the spotlight on international television, but by their parents. Their coaches. Their siblings. Their friends. And even their nations, who spend big money to operate training facilities for their athletes.

There are some who complain at the money spent (although in this country almost all of it comes from corporate sponsorship) and feel that the money could better be used to fix the ills of those countries. I can’t disagree that if we spent the billions that are spent on Olympic training, facilities for training and for the games themselves and for the infrastructure surrounding them, a legitimate difference could be made in world affairs.

Is all this worth it? Is national pride more important than feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and curing the sick? If the United States were to spend on education what we spent on the Olympics, would our kids have a better future than the one they have now?

I think that it might be true but the Olympics are also an intangible. They inspire national unity as well as the will to achieve. Neither can be measured and quantified but I do believe that those are important elements of life just the same. We need to be inspired not just taught. We need to feel elated, not just satisfied. We need to have someone to root for, not just something to hope for. We need the Olympics and this is coming from someone who deplores the massive amount of spending that goes into them.

I don’t watch a lot of the events. Unlike Da Queen who will switch back and forth from various channels covering the games, I watch a few events here and there but not always. Some days I’ll just sit and watch from noon to night; others I won’t watch at all. It depends on my mood. Still, I’m fairly aware of what’s happening and I read about the games often. I’m aware of what’s happening. Maybe I’m typical, maybe not – I think most people are more into it than I am – but then I get hyped out pretty quickly about most things. Don’t even start with me about the Super Bowl.

The Olympics are different. Despite all the hype, all the glitz, there is still at the core the innocence of the amateur. While professional athletes make up the high-profile basketball and hockey teams in the winter, the bulk of the sports are contested by people who are not paid directly but compete for the love of the game whatever it might be. A select few – a Michael Phelps, a Gabby Douglas, a Tyson Gay – might achieve big endorsement deals but otherwise most will return home after the games whether they medaled or not and a life of relative normalcy.

But while they return to lives of post-Olympic anonymity, the seeds for the next generation have already been planted. Somewhere out there a child is watching Olympic glory and wanting it for themselves with all their heart. Somewhere out there a coach is drilling a young gymnast to repeat their grueling routine again and again and again. Somewhere out there the next feature narrated by Bob Costas is taking form, ready to inspire yet another generation to come


One Response

  1. I don’t watch the Olympics but I love that the ancient Greeks who taught a healthy mind in a healthy body started this . It s as you note about excellence,good enough is not good enough. So thanks again

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