From The Olympics Rabbit Hole

Ouch. The Ukraine fencer completes an explosive attack on the U.S. competitor and ties it all up. Oooh. U.S. wins a point. Ow. Ukraine hits back hard! They’re really going at it. EEE!! Ukraine wins the bronze!

Sorry. Lost my head there. In fact, I was about to start a column on a completely different subject, but … but fencing happened. And, yes, I know zip about fencing. However, I suddenly am enthralled, and I’m afraid that can only mean one thing – HELP! I’ve tripped, stumbled and tumbled down the Olympics rabbit hole and I can’t get out!

Truth is, I don’t really want to climb out. Not yet. I find the Olympics the perfect mental salve for a mind rubbed raw with election politics, gun tragedy and world strife.

Of course, you cannot escape strife, even at the Olympics. As I write this, I am reading (multitasking!) about eight badminton players thrown out of the competition for trying to lose their preliminary matches. Go figure. The confusing rules mean losing would give them more advantageous matchups in subsequent games. But still – the spirit of the Olympics was clearly violated, so out they went. In other sports, two players got sent home for making racist remarks.

It all seems so clear cut: You do bad and you’re out. Fail to live up to our ideals, so long. Behave in a morally reprehensible manner, buh-bye.

Ah, if only the rest of our lives, politics, conflicts were so simple, right? Unfortunately, life outside of sports is messier than that. We do not live in a world governed by the rules of the games. Our conflicts are rarely black and white, win or lose. We don’t have referees or committees to keep us in line.

And yes I know, the Olympics are far from perfect. There are so many flaws – cheating, doping, bias, injustice, judging incompetence, technical errors and poor sportsmanlike behavior. We’re human, after all.

The difference is that, for a couple of weeks every four years, we humans try so hard to live up to what we know is the best in us. We chase the dream. We want perfection, but we demand fair and square. We earnestly try to set aside our differences and shove politics on the back burner. And while we are unabashedly and too often embarrassingly U.S.-centric, we still find it within ourselves to root for the other guy. This generosity is not second nature to a nation used to winning … well … a lot. But eating a bit of humble pie is healthy for our collective soul.

The point is, real life can beat us down, and it’s so easy to lose sight of the sun. But then the Olympics come around again to remind us that we humans are always striving to be better. We have the ability and the desire to transcend mediocrity. We can be strong and fast. We can be generous, fair and brave. We want to be open-minded and inclusive and play nicely with others from all over the world.

We can be heroes.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go. Dressage is on. What do I know about dressage? Ummm …