|The truly riveting Dance of the Cheese Graters|
I'm not a swimmer... or a gymnast, or a diver, or even a racewalker. I've never run a marathon or slalomed a canoe or played polo in a pool. However, I still find myself watching the events, marveling at the inhuman athleticism, and mostly just saying, "Wow" over and over and over again.
Now if parenting were an Olympic-style event, I might be able to hang with the big dogs. But truth be told, I'm pretty sure Aly Raisman's parents would bring home the gold in that one, too.
While much of the world is stunned by the performances of world class athletes on the most competitive stage in sports, many are openly criticising the athletes. Gold medals don't protect you from internet trolls and couch potato haters.
Social Media, the cultural scourge that often may be, is abuzz with some major disrespect for Olympic athletes. From swimmer Ledecky's huge forehead to gymnast Gabby Douglas's messy hair, no athlete is immune to hate spewing from virtual sidelines. Keyboard commentators have criticized Michael Phelps and his scowling game face, Simone Biles' parentage, and Ibtihaj Muhammed's religion.
It's disgusting really. Here we have some of the most physically talented humans on the planet, humans who have risen before dawn for most of their lives to train and practice and sweat while most of us sleep, humans who have sacrificed and are capable of feats that should inspire awe from the rest of us, are being insulted for the most petty bullshit imaginable.
Let's be honest, who are we to criticise an athlete's hair or forehead or bitchface, when we are so dormant that we text our teenagers to please come downstairs and hand us the remote when we can't quite reach it from our warm comfy spot on the sofa. All that effort seems just too much. We are too tired after a day at senseless, meaningless, soul-sucking jobs to do anything close to real work. We are too busy chasing paychecks to chase goals and dreams. We are too preoccupied with frivolous bullshit (Exactly why is the Swedish fish Oreo a trending topic right now?) to even think about getting our lazy pathetic asses off the furniture and doing something amazing.
Which is exactly why we criticize the trivial. Olympic athletes and their greatness make us feel threatened. They remind us of our shallow lives, our mediocrity, the drudgery of our unexciting existence. And there they are, paraded all across our television screens and newspaper stands and magazine covers, doing amazing things, pursuing amazing goals, strong and brave and focused. They are an unwelcome reminder of what an individual human being can become and accomplish with drive and ambition and commitment.
And if they can do it, why can't I? Well maybe not the gymnastics thing. I have bad knees and a major lack of flexibility. But why not something else? Why not some other dream? Some other goal? Some other thing that is equally magnificent? Some other endeavor that would make me say, "Wow"?
It's just that it takes so much effort.
Yes. It does. And that is why we complain about Gabby Douglas standing at attention during the National Anthem or Michael Phelps' weird cupping habit or Robel the Whale's extra layer of bodyfat...because it makes us feel better about ourselves. Knocking those amazing athletes down a peg from behind a keyboard makes them seem maybe a little less magnificent.
Sure Gabby Douglas can win gold medals. Sure she can literally fly circles around most people, but her hair is a hot mess.
Sure Simone Biles may be the best gymnast the world has ever seen, but did you know her biological mother was a drug addict?
If we make the great seem a little less great, we won't feel so uncomfortable in our own mediocrity.
The thing is, if we put a little more effort into ourselves, if we got up off the couch and did something worthwhile, if we didn't so easily give up on our own dreams, if we put forth the effort to make something special of ourselves... well... we wouldn't feel so threatened by the greatness of others.
Because we still can, you know? Be something great, that is.
We don't have to hate on the world's best humans to do it either. We can use their hard work and dedication as inspiration, instead of tossing our petty insults around like rubber balls.
Instead, we can step up. We can do something, make something, be something. There are amazing things that we can accomplish. But it's going to take some effort, which might sound scary, but there are things of which we should be far more afraid.
Mediocrity, for example.