Why The World Should Stop Everything And Watch The Olympics

Published in The Ferndale Record, August 15, 2012

During most of my adult life the Olympics have been almost mandatory viewing in our home. Kind of like staying tuned to the Emergency Broadcast System during a tornado warning.

For the past few weeks, media outlets and social networks have saturated us with reports from, about, on top of, under, and around London—and with good reason. It’s important, and here’s a short list of why:

*Because the Olympic Games have been and continue to be the pinnacle of sports achievement. If you make it onto the Olympic team, you’re among the elite at what you do. The Games are more important to athletes in general than the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA Championships, the World Cup, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but also the Indianapolis 500. Nothing tops an Olympic medal.

*Because for every Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, there’s an athlete we know little to nothing about, who gave it everything they had and made it onto the team. Sometimes we see them, sometimes we don’t. But when we do, and they seemingly come out of nowhere to win a gold, silver or bronze, it makes no difference which country they’re from. That moment is magic, and if we’re watching, we get to see it.

*Because for a couple of weeks every two years we watch sculpted abs and chiseled forms honed into instruments that look like human bodies, but at around 2 percent body fat, probably don’t resemble our own. They do things that look impossible, but apparently aren’t. As someone with the athletic prowess of celery, I respect and admire Olympians. Plus, the eye candy is delicious.

*Because as one of the oldest Olympic competitors at age 39, Bulgaria’s legendary gymnast Iordan Iovtchev, owns the rings, and makes discipline, dedication and aging well, look easy and beautiful.

*Because when South African sprinter and double amputee Oscar Pistorius, running on his blades, advanced in the semifinals, but did not make it to the final in the 400 meter race, the winner of the heat, Grenada’s Kirani James, approached him after they crossed the finish, and traded race bibs. Apparently, James was simply honored to be in the same race with him.

*Because after their 10,000 meter run, and respective gold and silver finishes, competitors and training partners Mo Farah from Great Britain, and Galen Rupp from the United States, embraced and became national heroes for changing up sports history.

*Because all nations march and compete together. Because history is always made. Because hurdlers stumble and fall, and get back up to finish the race. Because there is no stage greater than the Olympics. Because in that venue, the words “faster, higher, stronger” are not just dreams, but realities.

*Because even though we want to see our colors fly, and our teams win, even though we’re told it’s a sure thing, it’s the Olympics, and the truth is, you never know. And that’s the beauty of it. Seeing an unknown from Lithuania top the podium, knowing he is literally the champion of the world at his particular event—sorry, TNT, but that’s the real drama.

We find art in a museum, in nature, in music, language, and the way people live their lives. I contend we also find it at the Olympic Games.