Hundreds of millions will be watching the London Olympics. Yet even more hundreds of millions will not. I wondered why, so I asked some of them. They made a lot of sense...!
We are told the games are a noble statement about humanity's pure pursuit-of-excellence and lofty border-less camaraderie. As to the camaraderie, there is that. Although many of these athletes are also' thinking of the paying testimonials you get if you get the gold.
However, putting human greed aside, it's the first claim that bothered so many of my interviewees. The adulation about the purity of athletic excellence. 'Time Magazine' had a front cover several years ago with a full-frame face of Michael Jordan and the headline: "The Most Dangerous Man In America." The point was this: There are only 4 or 5 Michael Jordans in basketball, kids, so why are tens of thousands of you devoting all your time to becoming someone you won't; and thereby wasting years of your lives in which you could be getting an education and pursuing far more realistic and rewarding dreams.
To a person, my interviewees agreed.
It's all well and good to have a vision, train your body, pursue your regimen, devote endless hours and years to those few sacred minutes on the track, in the field, or in the pool. But...! Investing so much of your life to a monumental flight of muscle and ego? When you stand back, how much sense does this make? How much good does this accomplish? And really how much will this add to the rest of your life?
My friends -- athletes themselves -- said the Olympics were good for what they are. Especially for what they were meant to be thousands of years ago in ancient Greece. But to elevate one race or game or event to a shimmering example of what's best about humanity...well, most of them would bestow that honor on the closest first-responder in an ambulance, fire truck, squad car, or desperately crowded ER.
Nothing wrong with our Olympians. Just sorting through our priorities...
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