Tuesday, August 19, 2008
How I Learned to Love the Olympics
Yeah, yeah. I'm one of those "I don't understand the point of all this fuss" people when it comes to the Olympics. First of all, I'm not an athlete and I pretty much hate exercise. If I were a naturally thin rake I'd probably never go to the gym and I'd eat whatever I want. Of course I have more energy when I do go to the gym, but while I'm on that treadmill all I can think about is how great it's going to be when I step off it, so I can go home and eat a taco.
The bubbling nationalism and fascism of pitting athletes against each other based on their country sort of terrifies me. Yes, does raise a patriotic crocodile tear to my eye when America's national anthem is played if one of "ours" wins the Gold, but at the same time I wonder: did they really win that medal for the U.S.A.? I can't help but see athleticism as perhaps the most individualistic, selfish endeavor: and to make it your whole life, your absolute being and reason for breathing strikes me as the pinnacle of narcissism.
Yes, I understand that it's about pushing limits and it's also about entertainment. And I do find some sports entertaining: namely basketball, tennis, and gymnastics. Swimming has suddenly become something to watch because of Michael Phelps, but other than that, I could really care less.
That is, until NBC revealed the incredible feature that is THE MOM CAM.
Some genius finally picked up on the fact that watching someone win is a lot more entertaining if one can see his or her Mom's reaction. So when Michael Phelps broke like, ten million world records and won his eighth gold medal on Saturday night, not only did we get to see his body rippling in some sort of hyper-adrenaline craze, we also got to see his mother collapse out of pride and shock at her son's acheivement.
Jezebel's got this covered to the max. Check out their video of Phelps and his mama here. Really, check it out. It makes me cry. ME, the ultimate skeptic.
The one that really got me, though, was Shalane Flanagan's win for the silver medal in women's 10,000 meter race, making her the second American woman to medal in that event. Her mom, Cheryl, is a women's marathon record holder, and her reaction to her daughter's win just brings tears to my eyes. I really feel as though this one video makes the entire Olympic games worth it. So watch it. NOW.
My Mom has always supported me in everything I was ever interested in, from guitar lessons to acting to singing to writing to moving to New York, and just generally fostering who I am and encouraging me to "go for the gold." She told me a story once about my performance of "I Dreamed a Dream" at the age of (what was it Mom?) six? at my elementary school's talent show, and how she was so nervous for me that her hands as she held the video camera shook so much that the picture is all wobbly and jumpy. Now, that is love.
I think I didn't quite understand the drive and the amount of work it takes to become an Olympic athlete until I saw these Moms practically pass out from joy when their kids pass the finish line. Presumably, this moment is something they have been working and waiting for for quite some time, i.e. pretty much since their children were born and able to swim / run / jump / catapult / etc.
So thanks, Mom. I may not be able to swim like my hands are made of dolphins, but you've always been there cheering me on in the stands, no matter what. And that is hell of a lot more important than some stupid gold medal.