I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t really looking forward to watching the Olympics this year. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-Olympics. I think it is great for the world to come together and celebrate the absolute limits of human strength, endurance and concentration. Seeing the world’s greatest athletes do the things they do is really amazing.
But the Olympics have really been a joy to watch with my two youngsters at home. Both the children have enjoyed staying up relatively late watching the swimming and gymnastics events. Especially, the daughter, Charlotte. Charlotte herself has some limited experience with gymnastics, which she still sometimes refers to as “nastics.”
She recently participated in the city recreation department’s gymnastics program at Van Cleve School and I was able to watch her participate with her friends. They walked across the balance beam, tried to swing on the uneven bars and did bear walks, back bends and handstands.
Of course, the back bands and handstands requiring no real apparatus has caused our daughter to learn new modes of transportation. More than just walking and running, she now cartwheels all across the house, which adds another level of crazy excitement to our tranquil household.
You could imagine the excitement on Charlotte’s face when I told her that gymnastics was going to be on the television during the Olympics. She was beyond excited.
As a family, we spent time huddled around the television watching the ladies gymnastics competition and there was Charlotte taking it all in. She found a new hero in Laurie Hernandez; not due to any of Ms. Hernandez’s amazing talents, but rather because she had “really nice curly hair” according to the daughter.
In many respects, our family can be thankful that the powers at be at NBC have decided that Americans are: 1. Good at gymnastics and 2. Like to watch gymnastics. There is no doubt that like would be much more difficult if any of our children liked table tennis and we could not watch it during prime-time coverage.
I guess that is my number one gripe about the Olympics are the way they are covered on television. As a society, we aren’t given such a golden opportunity to learn about different cultures and other parts of the world than through the Olympics. We can be touched by the stories by the training and courage by athletes from every corner of the world.
Every night we are treated to coverage in which we are only given a glimpse into those sports that our country is really good at or we have been told we like to watch. In many respects, it is a bit disappointing. There is a whole bunch of the Olympic experience we are missing as viewers when it is seen from a limited lens.
Yet, I still find myself celebrating the great accomplishments of the athletes that come out on top. For many of these athletes, this is a once in a life-time (or at least a once-in-every-four-years) experience in which they have a chance to prove themselves as one of the best in the world. In many athletic pursuits, you get to be an annual champion. Imagine if we only had the Super Bowl or the World Series every four years?
Furthermore, these athletes are training for four years for their shot at a gold medal. This means a lot of getting up early, going to bed early, eating a regimented diet, disciplined exercise and pretty much putting darn near your whole life on hold as you achieve you dreams. Forget the physical toll of being a world class Olympic athlete, the mental toll is probably too much for most people.
By this time next week, the Olympics will be a memory. Most of us would be doing well to remember the name of that awesome gymnast or that one swimmer that smashed all those world records and cupping would be seen as yesterday’s fad.
And then, we will get back to our lives, talking about the election, the continued dismal season of our beloved Reds and the coming end to Summer. Perhaps we will wish the Olympics were still going on.
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.