Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Torch Burns Bright....Still

"The Human Drama of Athletic Competition...."

Even though the line was written for the introduction to ABC's Wide World of Sports, it perfectly applies to the Olympics.

In terms of pure athletics, there is no better venue than the Olympics. The media are doing what they can to influence their own version of drama upon the athletes. But, if you take out all the "up close and personals," you're left with some really exciting moments of athleticism and that intangible yet palpable feeling that you and the athlete are somehow as one.

The first Olympics I remember watching was the '72 Munich games. Mark Spitz, not Michael Phelps, was the household word. I remember Franz Klammer's unbelievably wild downhill run that brought him gold in '76 for what was then East Germany. And, Dorothy Hamill, of course, who we saw at a skating exhibition two years earlier when we visited Colorado Springs.

Five-time individual gold medalist, 1980s speed skater Eric Heiden was the poster boy of my bedroom door collage of fantastic people, which was soon followed by my intense interest in women's figure skating. (And wouldn't we all have been better off without having witnessed the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding fiasco).

Perhaps my favorite Olympic athlete, though, was Dave Wottle, who ran in the 800-meter individual race of those '72 games, crossing the finish line with his trademark white golfer's cap, taking gold for the USA! Who would have guessed?

So to see Daughter #1 and her cousins (aunts, uncles and grandparents, for that matter) be so taken with the Beijing games is not a surprise. Not that any of the kids has said she wants to be a Shawn Johnson or a Lolo Jones, but they all understand that universal experience created by the event:

  • A passed torch, bringing nations together. (One world; one dream--great slogan!)
  • A fantastic display of teamwork that is so lost amidst the outrageous salaries, promotional placements and attitudes (yes, you, Brett Farve) of today's professional athletes
  • The re-emergence of the family (on network television!). No, families of Olympians are not perfect, but it is such a welcome change to see real families who love, support and encourage one another. (Unlike the horrid Fall season line-up of NBC "family" shows. It's disgraceful to see these promos while waiting for the next event.)
  • And, doing your very best at what you have practiced and practiced and practiced.
And it is that last point that I hope to instill in my girls. Olympic athletes are not unlike our own next-door neighbors. (Olympic figure skater Kimmie Meissner went to school in the same town as D#1's cousins.) They train in nearby gyms, swim clubs and high school playing fields. They aren't coached by high and mighty pros. Did you see the tickled expression on Michael Phelps' and Natalie Coughlin's swim club coach? The coaches are just as excited as the crowds to see their protegees do their amazing bests.

The possibility for Olympic-like achievement is within my daughters' realm if they practice what they do best--whatever that is for the time being--with the encouragement, love and support of family and other members of the "team."

Consider the torch officially passed.

Special thanks to D#1 and her cousins, LMW, SJW and MEW for their terrific artwork, and the days we spent enjoying the Olympics together.


Chatty Kelly said...

This is what we all hope for, that our children will use their gifts, and achieve.

And as I just read in "Season of Change," not just their performance oriented gifts, but all their gifts, such as compassion, generosity or mercy.

May we all nurture our children in all of their gifts.

Screaming Meme said...

I love it!.... I'm having a "faux" class that is starting come join in the fun! Screaming Meme

The Patterson 5 said...

We love the "team" aspect of the games... you've heard our cheer "The Patterson team!" The Olympic games are so insprirational. It makes us all feel like we can run a little faster or jump a little higher! I have especially enjoyed the women who are close to our ages out there and they are winning medals! The Olympics is a celebration that brings us all together to celebrate the human race! We have a loving Father who must be looking down smiling, as we do when our kids perform an athletic feat! I love the artwork! This is an Olympics they will be sure to remember!

My ADHD Me said...

You're right about "family" tv. Also, The Olympics is the only "Reality TV" that I will watch.

It was fun to watch something with both of my boys that we all enjoyed.

The first time I can remember getting excited about the Olympics was probably when I watched Mary Lou Retton score a perfect 10 with only one good ankle.

Bonita said...

Love the artwork!