The Olympics have the unique power to make people care about things they would never think about at any other time. If someone walked up to you and said, “I can do three backflips on a beam three inches wide,” you might respond with, “That’s great, Susie. Can I have an order of fries with that?”
It’s also odd in that there are so many events. They have cool names like “shot put” because that sounds better than “throw this heavy piece of lead” and “javelin,” which sounds far more impressive than “stick throw.” It seems like the track and field events were the beginning. How fast can you run? How high can you jump? You know, the basics. Then there had to have been some sports marketing genius who figured out that it would be cool to add things to jump over or a long stick to jump with. Who was the first person to say, “Sure, you’re fast, but can you jump this high eight times while running?” I think all the Olympic events started as dares.
Eventually, there was an odd need for the Olympic competitions to pair a cause (something to run or swim or jump for) with a villain (someone to defeat). Enter politics, and exit innocence.
Over time, we found more sophisticated (but still odd) ways for Olympians to measure themselves against each other. At some point, someone decided that taking a stick and trying to hit a rock so that no one could catch the rock would be a good game. On that day, Olympic baseball was born. Tying strings to a branch, then hitting a ball over a net and inside some lines with it would be interesting too—ta-da: Olympic tennis.
Olympics soon became a big business (not odd at all—follow the money), something for people to watch and oddly feel a part of. A host country was designated where athletes of different backgrounds could gather in peace, play games, and make NBC almost relevant for two weeks every four years. Now, we all can enjoy the televised events paired with relevant commercials, such as for carbonated beverages, Frito Lay, and La-Z-Boy recliners. I am going to take a wild guess that the athletes don’t drink carbonated beverages, eat Frito-Lays, or recline much, but I could be wrong. Nah. Uncle Cousin Craig is never wrong. Host countries pay billions to be able to host these events and build cathedral-like stadiums while their citizens don’t have enough to eat or access to clean water.
When you are a business, winning becomes more important than ever. Some countries allow professional players to compete. The old standard of championing the amateur status of the games has now become “bring us your best pro,” resulting in seasoned veterans’ crushing talented young athletes who can barely find the money to survive and train. Other countries turn a blind eye to steroid use, human growth hormones, and other chemical cheats and allow their athletes to become more than human.
However, despite the Olympics’ shortcomings, I love that during the Summer Olympics, we cheer on 207 nations, 11,551 athletes, and 306 events in 28 sports. For 17 days, we focus on our common love of competition, celebrate the underdog, and watch young athletes strive to turn their long, brutal hours of training into gold, silver, and bronze medals for their countries. We set aside our political differences and shake hands with each other. It’s like a scene in the gang movie The Warriors (Google it) in which all the gangs are together and the leader says, “We got all these gangs together in one place, and nobody is wasting nobody.” In the movie, of course, he is shot dead shortly after that.
OK, maybe that’s not a perfect analogy, but my point is that at the Olympics, the Germans and the Brazilians can come together in peace, and the Americans and the Canadians can stop the hate and compete as friends. Tiny nations such as Trinidad and Tobago can compete and have the opportunity to be the best in the world in their events, and best of all, nobody is wasting nobody. That’s pretty cool. Can you dig it?
We didn’t waste nobody! And there were some amazing first and feats brought to us by the Summer Olympics.
- The incredible Simone Biles. One of my favorite quotes: “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.”
- This year, the Olympics had its first ever refugee team, representing not a country but the 65 million people displaced by war and persecution.
- Usain Bolt smile as he won his third straight gold medal.
- Kyle Chalmers’ grandparents…If you didn’t see this video…you must!
- And of-course Michael Phelps. . .
Yep, Cousin! I dug it! Thanks for sharing your witty, odd Olympic thoughts with us!
Old Loves Company,