Thursday we are headed for London to see my son Silas row the pair for the US. I’m really excited, mostly for reasons having to do with seeing his dream come true. If he had qualified for the world Twiddlywinks championship I assume I would feel similar parental pride.
But there’s also something about the Olympics.
What’s not to like?
–the commercialism. (Did you know you can’t make a t-shirt with the Olympic rings? They are too important a source of revenue.)
–the nationalism. I’m as patriotic as the next guy, but I think the Olympics are at their best when we come to admire an athlete who excels despite the fact he’s not an American. Usain Bolt is a great example.
Does it really matter whether China wins more medals than we do? Not to me.
What’s good about the Olympics is that athletes who ordinarily work in utter obscurity gain, for a fleeing moment, worldwide attention. If I had my way they would eliminate basketball, soccer and cycling, which have their own world-focused events. Swimming and track, on the other hand, are only really feted every four years. And other sports–like rowing–are even more obscure.
I can tell you from personal observation that these athletes work like dogs, in obscurity, in poverty, in order to compete. Preparing for the Olympics is a grueling full-time job with a stipend equal to a part-time job at McDonalds. Most of these athletes have spent years preparing. Most of them don’t make it. The Olympics is the one and only time when the world notices those who do.
You can watch basketball any day. Instead, follow a sport you don’t get to see, with athletes you never heard of. That’s what’s good about the Olympics.