Friday, August 15, 2008

Ten Minutes on the Corrosion of the Competitive Spirit

When I was younger, I was quite a sports fan.  Dad didn’t really know what to make of me.  Out of all his five daughters, I was the one who developed a love for the games.  In high school, I belonged to the “GAA”—Girls Athletic Association.  Basically we were a bunch of girls who availed ourselves of all the intramural sports the school had to offer—badminton, volleyball, archery, bowling.  I was never hugely athletic, but I loved the competition.  Saturday afternoons found me glued to every off-the-wall hairball competition the  “Wide World of Sports” had to offer. 

And the Olympics!  Every four years, we got to just roll in sports.  Almost every conceivable game.  Ski jumping, the luge, fencing, weight lifting, boxing (one sport for which I never could muster much enthusiasm…that, and golf.)  Mark Spitz and Olga Korbutt; Peggy Fleming and Ann Henning.  Had I been born braver, prettier, and richer, I might have been one of the first female sportscasters on ESPN. 

That’s all in the past, now.  I can hardly stand to watch sports anymore.  Just as I can hardly tolerate any “reality” tv—and that includes what passes for news these days.  It’s all hyper emotion and over the top competitiveness.  I remember when an Olympic medal—ANY Olympic medal— meant something.  Now, it’s all about the gold.  Silver and Bronze are not medals.  They’re consolation prizes.  Evidently, those lesser metals are forged into eternal reminders of having choked under pressure.

I remember when the amateur status of the Olympic games was jealously defended.  Today, I read an article in the paper about how Speedo and Nike are knocking each other out trying to get the most camera time for their respective logos on the backs (fronts, crotches) of the US swim team.  So and so athlete has a contract with Nike, so he has to wear his sweatshirt with the Swoosh at all award ceremonies, but his swimsuit is made by Speedo, and that’s causing some major angst in the ranks.  Good lord! Is there a corner of our lives where rampant consumerism has not invaded?

And don’t get me started about professional athletes.  Here are a bunch of guys who are paid more money than god to play kids’ games in front of a lot of people.  And all they can do is whine about how mistreated, misunderstood, underpaid and overtaxed they are.  It makes me sick.  I can’t stand to watch it any more.

So every Fall, when I used to be getting pumped up for the onset of football season, now, I just punch a different button on the remote.  And every two years (yeah, the media had to step in and screw up the Olympic schedule so more money could be made by networks and sponsors) I very pointedly tune out the Olympiad and her cold weather sister spectacle.  Sport has been spoiled: over-exposed by the twenty-four hour news cameras and buried under tons of mindless consumerism.   I have neither the time nor the desire to buy (literally) into it.   


  1. The original Olympic games were sacred to Zeus and Hera, the winners got laurel wreathes and everybody (well almost everybody) put off fighting for awhile.

    The modern games are sacred to our God, the one with the dollar sign symbol, the winners get sponsership contracts and we're all still fighting.

    The ghosts of the ancient Greeks must be very puzzled.



  2. I meant the national God, not necessarily "my" God. :-)


  3. There does not seem to be a corner of the world that hasn't been touch by too much EVERYTHING.  It's wearying to watch, it's exhausting to figure out.

    I used to love the Olympics.  I used to love the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins and not necessarily in that order.  

    Recently I've come to just groan each time there is a new 'development.'  

    I'd be happy with, oh, I dunno, one percent of one of the four year contracts?  Yeah, that would do.