Saturday, February 25, 2006

An Olympic Perspective

I've been watching the Winter Olympics and when they actually show the sports, I've had a good time (well, I've never been really fond of hockey - I'm guessing it is an acquired taste). I've also been listening to various TV and radio people talk about how the Olympics aren't fun now that America doesn't have an "enemy" to beat (particularly at hockey). Gharrr!

I have come to understand the idea of countries sending their best athletes to the games to represent their country. The honor these champions bring to their countries makes sense.

I do, however, prefer a larger view of the Olympics. Having little athletic talent of my own, I appreciate it when I see it in others. Seeing the best in the world is an opportunity no one should miss. I don't care if America has only one competitor in a sport and he or she is coming in 52nd in a field of 53. I think each competition is something to see for its own merit, not just as a showcase for our own champion.

So is it just a "guy" thing, this "if only Iraq had a hockey team we could beat"? No lie, a local radio guy said yesterday, that if Afghanistan and Iraq together fielded their best players to make an ice hockey team, our girls could beat them. This ticked me off on so many levels I finally switched stations (hear that, advertisers?). Not only was it the wrong kind of competitive, but it was quite chauvinistic. I bet our girls could beat a lot of boys teams, which has nothing to do with Iraq or hockey or even the Olympics.

Enough. I am going to try to let that go (although I'm guessing I'll get pissed off again in two years when the Summer Olympics rolls around).

Instead I think I should be remembering the time I spent watching the Olympics when I was a kid. My dad died nearly a year ago, and my thoughts turn to memories of him a lot lately. I remember watching ski racing with him. We didn't watch traditional American spectator sports much - we didn't spend any time watching football or baseball or basketball on TV.

My dad loved being active. He ran nearly every day until his health got in the way. He liked sports when he was a kid, but he had been advanced in school (twice, I think) and he was considerably younger (and smaller) than his classmates. So he didn't participate in team sports.

He played tennis, and he could ice skate (when we could find ice - no rinks), and he made sure we learned to snow ski. And we all swam. And more.
He tried to teach me to sail (it didn't really take).

When I was in high school, I was on the volleyball team for a year or two. After that season was over, my dad and I played on a pick-up team sponsored by the local hospital a couple of times. The only trouble was that my dad kept jamming his fingers and the swelling got in the way of his being a doctor.

And then there were the sports we tried to do as a family. My mom didn't ski, but she did facilitate our trips, going along with us until we were big enough to dress ourselves (and I think we had to be big enough to carry our own skis - at least for short distances).

My mom played a lot of sports when she was young. She loved to run as a kid, running until she couldn't hardly catch her breath. She learned how to bowl and how to play basketball. I think she was an adult before she learned how to swim or play tennis.

I never had the "killer instinct" needed to excel at sports, if the goal was winning and being the best. I was more interested in just participating than winning. Yet I somehow have never picked up the habit of making excercise a regular part of my life. I now struggle with figuring how to make time in my life to excercise my body.

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