Friday, February 19, 2010

Even I Can Fall...

Winter Olympians are suicidal, masochistic, insanely talented athletes who have no fear of heights, speed or falling. The part of the brain that turns off logical reservation for most people, fires powerfully for these athletes, and I am awe-inspired because they are not petrified by those fear-filled events. Instead of being scared, they are motivated and joyful. It is a fascinating contrast to my own understanding of the world, and I can't help but to watch it endlessly.

I don't quite relate to today's best athletes because I am cautious and I thoughtfully consider how much something may hurt if I don't execute it perfectly. I don't think I've always been this way. I used to be more fearless and less logical, but the youthful tendencies of my playing days have given way to the conservative body-protecting mechanisms that have taken over as I've gotten older. I am probably even more impressed by the athletic talents of these young Olympians than I was when I was younger, but what blows my mind the most is the level of fearlessness that is regularly displayed.

As an unfortunate bi-product to my wonder, I have found that my expectations are becoming about as outrageous as the ridiculous skills displayed. Just like there is hardly a limit to how fast, how high or how crazy these Olympians can go, I, the spectator, am disappointed when they don't go higher, faster or crazier than the last guy. It is possible that I am simply reacting to the sound bytes in my home because my husband literally gets up and leaves the room if a figure skater has fallen during the program...taking him out of contention. We are not figure skating experts and we only watch it during the Olympics, but my husband was cheering (similarly to how he goads the television during football games) for all the male figure skaters to, "Throw down a quad."

He knows nothing more about the sport than I do, but, as we listen to the color commentators, we learn that a quad is incredibly difficult and dangerous, and we both really hope that they are going to at least try it. My husband gets mad that the young athlete who attempted, and failed, to throw down his quad, was not rewarded in any way. I, on the other hand, think it is a brilliant scoring system by the Olympic committee. Only rewarding landed jumps discourages the athletes who may be more "fearless" but who may not have the skill necessary to complete such a skill thus putting themselves in real danger. Encouraging athletes to do well the elements that they can do safely, is a fair expectation of the scorekeepers, but likely in contrast to the armchair skaters who live vicariously through the adrenalin rush of the crazy athletes. We want more.

While watching the free skate last night, when a skater would barely bobble a triple-lutz or touch a hand after a difficult combination, I was disappointed and my husband verbalized his frustration by saying, "He's not that good...I can do that. Even I can fall."

I laughed at the remark, because of course he couldn't do even half of what these guys are doing on the world stage, but I understand his disappointment. We watch these athletes because we hope they are more than human. We hope they are worthy of the television coverage and the dramatic background music. We hope that they'll do something that has never been done before, and we can at least, for a moment, share the glory of achieving the seemingly unachievable.

I count on the crazy athletes, those among us who will do anything in the name of sport. I will cheer and wonder and find inspiration in their willingness to do what they do...just as long as it is crazier than the last guy, and never performed by a kid in my house!

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