Well, it’s been a quiet week in Spring, Texas, my home, out on the edge of the Megalopolis. We don’t often receive personal direction from The Almighty, but we think it might have happened this week.
We were in the last weeks before the start of school, and instead of speeding up into that “finish your summer” kick, everything delightfully slowed down. Between the torrential thunderstorms and the debilitating heat, The Almighty made it clear in no uncertain terms that we would be staying inside. Together.
Whilst staying inside, we did have the Olympics to keep us occupied. And that can be both fun and addictive--don’t get me wrong. We've really enjoyed seeing athletes accomplishing their dreams and getting the payoff for lots of hard work. But after awhile, there’s only so much jibber jabber one can take, especially in the “judged” events where there is no clock or finish line to declare the winner. Especially when a totalitarian, host government is willing to exploit underage children in the name of national “pride” by lying about their age. Make no mistake. You only get a passport saying you're 16 in China if the government is involved.
Cheating in the name of pride?
Even in the objective competitions, there are any number of “things that make you go, ‘hmmmmm.’” For example, how many tens of thousands of members does USAT have to have, and how many hundreds of thousands of competitors have to turn out for triathlons before the Olympic triathlon gets some TV time in this country? We televise skeet shooting, synchronized diving, equestrian and rhythmic gymnastics, but not triathlon?
Yeah, I know, the Americans (including our Kiwi competitor Matt Reed) didn’t medal, but is that the standard for what we televise? Do we really need NBC to make us more jingoistic than we already are? I was stoked to see Emma Snowsill run away from the women in the field, even though I’m not an Aussie. And the final rundown between a German, a Canadian, a Kiwi and a Spaniard was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen, even though it would be long minutes before the Americans reached the line.
And, while I wish it weren’t true, I exercised my “inner jingo” last night while watching the women’s 200 meter final. Plainly speaking, Veronica Campbell-Brown, when standing still, had the same appearance and body type as Marion Jones, a known doper, or even female body builders who use both testosterone and steroids to create muscle mass that cannot exist on even the most athletic female. In fact, she exceeded Marion Jones in the musculature of her shoulders, neck and thighs, and in the disappearance of anything resembling breasts. Place her next to the thin frames of American sprinters like Allyson Felix, who was taunted with the nickname “chickenlegs” as a child, and the difference is even more striking. Add to this the performance of Usain Bolt, especially in the 100 meters, running away from the fastest men in the world, intentionally slowing, and still shattering the world record.
Call me a nationalist pig, but it could not be clearer to me that jerk chicken and rice is not the only fare served on the Jamaican training table. And not to pick on the Jamaicans, they are certainly not the only ones in the Olympic village with pharmaceutical enhancement. Moreover, we Americans have certainly had more than our share of cheats and dopers. Given that history, have we not learned from Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire and Marion Jones (and, dare I say it, fellow-Texan Roger Clemens)? If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
And just like the chase for Roger Maris’ home run record, the commentators make no mention of what we ought to be seeing with our own eyes. We will all be “shocked” when we “discover” within the next four to eight years that the Jamaican sprinters had a really fantastic pharmacist, probably with the collusion of their sport's national governing body and (likely as not) their national government. All in the name of winning for national “pride.”
This is pride? Seriously?
So, last night, when we’d had enough of the jibber jabber and athlete profiles and sponsored PR on behalf of the totalitarian host state, we turned off the television. We did what book nerds do. Mom, Dad and daughter all curled up on Mom and Dad’s bed with our favorite books and the dogs took their place on the floor for a nap. I flipped through a magazine while my mind wandered to the six mile run I planned for the next morning. Six decidedly non-Olympian miles in a park containing other people with unremarkable bodies, all of us sweating and trying to become what we were intended to be.
That is pride.