A Skateboard, A Shopping Cart and The Olympics
The 2021 Tokyo Olympics are well into the second week and rapidly approaching the Closing Ceremonies. Many of the athletes completed their events a week or more ago and they now participate as spectators relieved of the Olympic pressures. Even marquis events such as Swimming are already concluded.
And yet, I, an otherwise avid Olympic fan, have not watched one moment of the Olympics. I did not see any of the Opening Ceremonies. I have not witnessed one minute of any sporting event. I did hear about Simone Biles withdrawal from Gymnastics as a news event, but have not seen one flip, tumble, roll or other gravity-defying leap by any gymnast. I also heard about the Belarus sprinter, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, seeking asylum as she feared for her safety — again as a news story and not part of Olympic watching.
I genuinely enjoy the Olympics be they Summer or Winter. I marvel at the lifelong dedication of these young athletes. In case I dare forget, the color commentary stories describe the extreme sacrifices made by each athlete, their families, their coaches, and their friends to overcome the extraordinary challenges in order to earn a right to be on an Olympic team. For the vast majority of these amateur athletes, the Olympics represents the zenith of their sports careers. If they perform well or even medal, we get to share in a small way in their excitement and achievement.
The Olympics also offers each of us an opportunity to become armchair experts in the nuances of sports once every four years. “Oh boy. He didn’t point his toes entering the water on that dive. It will cost him.” “Look at that little bounce step. She just didn’t stick the landing.” “He clearly remained ‘heal to toe, heal to toe’. No way was there a Walking foul.”
And, I admit that I get pulled into the drama, artificial or otherwise. Is there truly great animosity between swimmers from the United States and Australia or are they merely top international competitors? For the Olympics, it does not matter if it is genuine or manufactured storylines — it is real during the Swimming races and you need to choose a side for your rooting. Father Time finally caught up with the “ancient” 27 year old Water Polo star player. Will she finally secure Olympic Gold which eluded her in the two prior Olympics? These stories get us to tune in and pay attention each day.
The Olympic competition brings us emotional highs and lows. They play out sometimes like a Shakespearean drama. They showcase some of the best of humanity and sportsmanship. They provide teaching moments for us as well.
So, why have I not watched one race, one event, or one competition? Could it be the time difference between here and Tokyo? Certainly not as the results can usually be avoided in order to watch in prime time. Are the athletes unimpressive this year? That’s ridiculous as they spent their lives just to reach this level of competition. What about the poor treatment of amateur athletes by the International Olympic Committee? The poor image of the IOC — well-deserved — does not diminish the accomplishments or back stories of the athletes at the games.
Perhaps the pandemic casts a pall over the Olympics. Will the games be played? Should the games be played? What precautions would be in place to protect the athletes and attendees all there for our amusement? Can family members and friends even attend the events to cheer on the life accomplishments of the athletes? In this COVID-19 world, the Olympics just feel different and make me think whether larger issues should be addressed beyond sports. Perhaps I have guilt in enjoying the Olympics at such a monumental time in our history.
Regardless, I still like the Olympics. I still want to experience the emotional crests and valleys. I still desire to be the quadrennial expert on every sport. Nonetheless, I have just taken a pass on the Tokyo Olympics.
Until . . .
Two evenings ago, I received an email entitled “Future Olympic Stars”. The message, addressed to me in my capacity as a Homeowner Association Board member, began with a description of teenagers racing a skateboard, shopping cart and luggage cart in the parking lot. I thought I would hear about these hooligans wreaking havoc and endangering the welfare of all nearby persons. Instead, much to my pleasant surprise, the message read as follows:
“As people were unloading today to move, 3 young teenagers were using our drive with their skateboard, the shopping cart and the baggage cart. They were racing down the hill to get the next load for their parents. The skateboard was the fastest and then the shopping cart and baggage cart. These guys were picking up some good speed. Both feet were off the ground. Once they got to their Suburban, I asked if they had been watching the Olympics and they had. Of course their favorite event was skateboarding. I wish I could be that age again. So funny.”
That’s it! Here is the essence of the Olympics. How could I miss it right in front of me: Inspiration and Fun!
The teenagers not only related to the Skateboarding athletes, they also imitated them. Only one skateboard available? No problem. Improvise with a shopping cart and luggage cart. Parents want the car unloaded. OK, but the driveway just became an Olympic racetrack.
With the parking area transformed into a modern version of the Wacky Racers, my fellow Board member who sent the message did not transform into a character from Grumpy Old Men. Instead, he shared in the unbridled joy rooted in the Olympic Games. Indeed, he showed the true Olympic Spirit in wishing to be young again (and wishing to hop on a shopping cart himself). The teens reminded us to have fun and we should heed their message.
For me, I shall follow the example of the teenagers and dive into what remains of the Olympic competition, if only for a few days. I will look to be inspired by extreme performances and amazing backstories. And, I will be reminded of the inspiration demonstrated by our teenage friends speeding away on impromptu race vehicles.
Perhaps, just perhaps, that inspiration will extend to our next Homeowners Association Board meeting and we can race in the parking lot. However, based on the report, I will try my very best to avoid the baggage cart. Go be inspired by the Olympics!