I just read an article from Sports Illustrated that made me sad and angry at the same time. The gist of the article was the “poor showing” of the American athletes at the Olympics in the medal count. As I read, I had beautiful images before me of young men and women who all spoke of being thrilled at the opportunity to represent their country at this incredible event. Did they all hope for good outcome for themselves and their teammates? Of course! And were some expected to do better than they did? Certainly. But the faces that I saw most clearly were like those in one of the commercials about a small town in Ohio (I think) whose entire populace got up at 3:00AM to come together to watch the ladies cross-county skiing relay because one of their “own” was racing. There was a good chance that this four-person team would medal – even get the gold – but it was not to be. I watched the race, likely because of that commercial and the closeness of that community, feeling that I too was involved in their hopes. Their hometown heroine was first to race and did not perform as hoped. I believe the team came in fifth (ironically the position most denigrated in the article). What was obvious to me at the end of the race was the joy of those four in each other – no tears of regret or blame, no frowns, no grimaces – just clear pride in their country and their knowledge that each of them had done the best they could on that day in that race. And the memory of a moment in their lives when they had made America proud, medal or not.
As I noted above, the article was very outspoken about the number of our athletes who had finished fifth in their events. I wonder if the author might ever be considered the fifth best sports writer in the entire world and have some concept of how much work and energy would have to accompany that achievement. It seems we have not done a good enough job in some cases in teaching our youth that “it isn’t whether you win or lose but how you play the game.”
Sadness overcomes the anger now to think that we are more concerned with winning than with the way we comport ourselves. It is a hazard, I know, of living in the United States where there are so many ways in which we are privileged. It is my hope, however, that we never lose sight of what is best in us. I see it shine in that inner light that is so prevalent in our athletes this week as they do their best and know that it is always enough.