It’s almost here. Every two years, I get to be normal. Once every two years for about two weeks, I become a sports fan. It’s almost time for the Olympic Games.
When my husband — a fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, NASCAR, BVB football (German soccer team), RPI college hockey, Surrey cricket and various track and field events — and I were dating, I tried. I really did. I went to events. I asked questions. I even stuck with it a few years into our marriage, thinking that at some point I would grow into a real sports fan. As one of our church members has said about his college experience, “It didn’t really take.”
But with all my sports fan shortcomings, even I get to experience the excitement of watching a race or a match or a meet when the Summer Olympics kick off in late July. I love the Olympics.
It’s hard to put my finger on just one reason that The Games attract a nonsports fan. I love that people from all over the world come together to celebrate their common love and devotion for sport. As a fairly undisciplined person, I am blown away by the sheer amount of work and dedication represented at this international competition.
It may be that I love a good story. There is always some kid who comes from a little town no one has heard of and stuns everyone with his/her skill and performance. Then, there’s the veteran with a long and respected history in the sport who is taking one more shot at the gold before retiring. It’s the one sporting event where women are celebrated equally with men. From gymnastics to track, from soccer to swimming, men’s and women’s teams and events get similar coverage and audiences.
The great moments are not relegated to the playing fields and arenas either. Who didn’t cheer when Muhammed Ali lit the Olympic flame in Atlanta in 1996? Who wasn’t proud to be an American when Lopez Lamong, a young man who came to the United States as one of Sudan’s “lost boys,” carried our country’s flag in Australia in 2008? Who didn’t feel encouraged seeing North Korea and South Korea walk together with one flag in the 2000 Sydney Olympics?
The Olympics may be just what our country needs right now. Made-in-China uniform snafu aside, we are all proud of our Olympians. In the midst of economic woes and nasty partisan politics, a common cause is a welcome gift. In a world full of distractions and tools for multitasking, the Olympics call on us to take a break and join the global community. It demands that we ditch the distractions and pay attention. Any moment in the Olympics could be one of “the” moments that is revisited and replayed for years to come. No one wants to miss those moments.
My time is coming. I can gather at the water cooler in any office in town and confidently participate in the conversation. I can willingly watch sports on television with my husband. I hope everyone will take a little time to join the world in London and come away a little more hopeful about this planet we get to occupy for a time.
The Rev. Anne Russ is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of North Little Rock’s downtown Argenta neighborhood. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.