The Olympics are over, and I barely had a chance to see any coverage. Nor did I refer to them, in daily journals.
On the other hand, I had to call and make appointments, or negotiate social outings with friends, so that our visits didn’t interfere with the second half of final Olympic games. That’s how I navigated the past few weeks, in order to see people who watch the Olympics, when I was otherwise working, completing projects, or handling family logistics regarding college stuff for Sarah and myself.
So I haven’t even mentioned or acknowledged that the past few weeks were the Summer Olympics 2012 in London. And that we have friends in England who are covering these events for the BBC in their county. And that we’re cheering for US athletes, but also for every other big-hearted athlete in any competition, regardless of nationality. And that I sneak online to catch up on the highlights, but I have friends who rivet themselves to a large screen every night, watching-watching-watching. And that I cry when I watch.
Now Chris and I don’t follow any sports in particular. Not even baseball or football. We’re fans of New England teams, because they’re our “local” teams. Red Sox. Celtics. Bruins. Tigers (our home town team).
And yet, when I see out-takes of the great feats and competitions of these events, I weep while I watch. Yes, I’m a Kleenex-carrier, because I cry and sniffle at almost any emotionally-demanding experience, like weddings, sappy commercials … or moving Olympic “final moments.”
Now if you ever DARE to compare your life experiences to those of an Olympic athlete … if you say, for instance, “Don’t you feel like you just ran a marathon? Or got a gold medal?” Well, anyone on those global teams might roll their eyes. It’s sort of like comparing your life experiences to being under fire with other soldiers, without ever having had that combat or military experience.
Sure, we can make comparisons. But if we haven’t lived through it, we can’t imagine it. Can we?!
And yet, the whole point of these games is, in part, to involve all of us in these adventures. To encourage us to identify with young, visionary athletes who dare to dream and strive and reach and fail and win. In a sense, we believe they’re like us, and we could be like them.
Well … let me say … there’s a certain level of justice to the comparison between every-day heroes and Olympic athletes. We all, I think, live through personal times that demand extreme efforts from us. We take on Herculean responsibilities, sometimes because we volunteer for them, and sometimes because we are required to undertake them due to circumstances beyond our control. Most of us, I think, are eventually called, one way or another, to rise up and respond to an extreme situation.
That’s why pediatric cancer patients, for instance, identify with their favorite athletes. We used to hold parties in the resource room during events like the Superbowl, and bald patients would paint team logos on their scalps. Why do they root for their team during baseball’s World Series or football’s Superbowl? Go, Pats! Go, Sox!
Does it matter who wins? Yes, and no. Symbolically, a child may be identifying with a superstar or an underdog team, and if they’re winning, then the child feels inspired by that win … maybe it metaphorically promises the possibility that a child will recover and survive, too. And if they lose … well, the child and other fans realize that a feisty team has put up a great fight, and shown the spirit that inspires us all to keep cheering and believing, against all odds.
In such circumstances, we can imagine ourselves as Olympic-level athletes or fierce warriors. Fighters. Competitors. Winners.
And in that circumstance, who will argue with the comparison? And in that time, don’t the Olympics inspire you all over again?
Maybe we won’t all break speed records or earn medals or stand on the risers while the world sings our anthem. And yet … yes, I do believe, we are all required to perform Olympic-sized feats in our own lives. And so these young athletes inspire us. Remind us. Challenge us.
Like them, we reach for more. Like us, they keep going.