Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Olympics: Distraction from a Sad Summer

Welcome, Olympics!

I've always looked forward to the Olympic Games--summer, winter, doesn't matter--but this year in particular I see them as a sort of savior.  As I've written before, this has been one of the most difficult summers of my life, with my son's stroke and my daughter leaving soon for a job in another city.  I have been sad, lost, at sea. 

Watching sports has always been a welcome relief for me, distracting me from anything stressful going on in my life.  When my husband was ill with leukemia I watched college football, basketball, tennis (my favorite) and even, in desperation, the Tour de France.  At the beginning of his illness the Houston Astros played the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League championship and lost; in the weeks before his death the Astros made it to the World Series.  Through that year, whenever there was an important athletic event, I could release some of my tension and pain by watching, cheering whatever sports heroes were on the field or the court.  I'm not sure why this has always been true, because I've never been athletic myself, but the excitement of the contest, the pitting of strength and strategy against another athlete or team has always enthralled me.

So this year I'm immersing myself in the Olympics.  Last night I watched the invincible Michael Phelps  fall to Ryan Lochte and emerge from the pool looking as confused as if he were arriving on a new planet.  I watched Roger Federer, my favorite tennis player, battle back when it looked as if he might fall to a much lower-ranked player.  I watched some gymnasts fall and others perform marvelous feats.  I watched the women's beach volley ball team beat back a tough challenger.  What a day!

I can't help but wonder how some of these superi-athletes feel when they've trained for years , given up their childhoods, foregone many of life's pleasures for their one shot at glory...and then to see it disappear with one misstep, one slip, one hundredth of a second, one inch outside the lines.  What's it like to see that dream die?  Was it worth it?  One of the Olympic commercials says it's not the winning, it's the taking part that matters.  I wonder if, deep inside, the athletes believe this.  Yesterday the cyclist who just missed the bronze said, "Nothing is worse than coming in fourth."

And the winners?  Well, for some in the major sports there are endorsements and lasting fame (and maybe even a reality show for your Kardashian step-daughters) but for others, once that trip to the podium is over and the high has faded, the medal is put away...what new goals are there?  What's real life like "after?"

And for me, the specatator, it's a chance to shut out real life for a while and watch the athletes on their quests.  Succeed or fail, they've made my life a little less stressful and I thank them for it.


mare ball said... [Reply to comment]

So sorry things have been so difficult. Sometimes all you CAN do is distract yourself. I'm been glued to the tube myself. It makes me proud to see the USA athletes working so hard. I pray things improve for you soon. God bless you.


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