“And I long to go there,
I can feel the truth.
I can hear the promise
Of the angels of the moon.
This is a far country, a far country,
Not my home.”
-Andrew Peterson, “The Far Country”
I came to a realization this morning, one that staggered my soul and punctured the deep vibrancy of my young heart. Be forewarned- this is not easy news to hear.
The Olympics are over.
Now I won’t pretend to be obsessed with the Olympics, but they were certainly more than just something to have on the TV while I talk to my roommates or fiancée. For one thing, now that I am a full time NBA fanatic, I relished the chance to catch some more high-quality basketball from the Dream Team Lite*. Though I would hardly call every game high-class drama, the gold-medal game certainly lived up to its hype. It was a nail-biter until the last minute, and, though the commentators certainly gave the award to Lebron (19 pts, 7 rbds), its best player was none other than Kevin Durant (30 pts, 9 rbds). That will never make up for a lost championship, but it certainly can give any Thunder fan hope for the future.
Not only did I quench some latent basketball cravings, but I exposed myself to some sports I would never watch otherwise, and ostensibly expanded my horizons, which should tide me over for another four years on volleyball, swimming, track and field, and gymnastics, not to mention rowing, steeple chasing, sprint walking, and diving**.
I ooh-ed and ah-ed with the world at Michael Phelps’ apparent invincibility. Sure, he didn’t win all gold this Olympics, and Lochte beat him once, but how many golds does Lochte have? 5? Exactly. I fell in love with Gabby Douglas along with everyone else, and I was crestfallen when the men lost and elated when the women won. I was enthralled by volleyball, both beach and inside, and I watched our men fall apart (both beach and inside) and our girls dominate, even if we only pulled out the gold (and the silver!) in beach volleyball. In indoor volleyball, even poor Destinee Hooker couldn’t spike us to the gold against Brazil.
Something interesting happens to Americans during the Olympics. First of all, there are only four countries in the world that cared about the medal count this Olympics: China, Russia, Great Britain, and us. China probably cared the most about it, if only because they care about everything more. I would say Russia cared, if only from the desire to reclaim some vestige of lost glory, except I think the average Russian doesn’t give a hoot about that. They probably cared about it the least. The Brits- well, obviously. It was in London. They’d be crazy not to want a better showing than usual, and I’m happy to say they got it. But why do Americans care? Does winning the medal count mean our American athletes wanted it more or worked harder or are genetically superior to Chinese athletes? Does it mean our American spirit is stronger or that democracy is better than communism? Does it mean America is better? No, it means none of those things. Maybe the medal count says we put more of our resources into athletic activities than any other country. And that’s about it.
I cheered U-S-A just as much as the next patriot, but the constant obsession of the media over the medal count doesn’t make any sense. What interests me far more are the individual stories, and not necessarily the inspirational ones. Gabby Douglas has a great story, but aren’t Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin more interesting? Don’t you want to redeem themselves? Let Gabby see some disappointment and I’ll cheer for her even harder. Michael Phelps’s 8 golds in 2008 was amazing, but the story became immediately more interesting when everyone thought Ryan Lochte was going to beat him but fell short. Poor Lochte didn’t stand a chance against Phelps, who turned out to be so much more than just a fluke. How does a guy like Lochte handle being second best when everyone expected him to hit it big time this year?
I love America, but I wonder if our focus isn’t a little skewed during the Olympics. The freedom we have in America is beautiful and God-given, but America isn’t my home. There is a country far greater in store for me. My focus should be on people, not on a faux glory that will fade within the next few days only to be challenged again in Rio*** in four more years. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to cheer for America in 2016; I will, just not in the same way. Instead of cheering for our country, I’ll cheer for our people. That’s more important.
*Especially since three of them play for the Thunder (KD, Russ, The Beard), two of them are the best players of their respective generations (Kobe, Lebronze), two are an offense’s worst nightmare (Iggy, Chandler), one of them has the cutest kid and happens to be both a stand-up guy and the best point guard in the league (CP3), one of them decided not to play with the Mavs (D-Will), one of them has no redeemable characteristics in the NBA yet plays his heart out in international play (Melo), one of them has a unibrow (Anthony Davis), and one of them is white (Kevin Love).
**Which wins the award for worst sport to watch on TV, since the only thing I’m capable of judging is the size of the splash. Gymnastics is hard for me to judge as well, but gymnastics also had this.
***Btw, I cannot WAIT to see the opening ceremony in Rio. British culture is far too familiar to me to wow me the way Beijing’s ceremony did in 2008. The next one will be in South America? In one of the coolest cities ever? In a language that’s not Spanish, in a culture I know next to nothing about? It’s going to be awesome. Just you wait.