All gold not created equal

“Like many of you, I found myself watching the Olympics late at night this past month, mostly during times when sleep escaped me. I’ve had the joy of watching such spectacles as rowing, table tennis and canoeing. Captivating, really. That’s not to say that it has been all bad.”

Like many of you, I found myself watching the Olympics late at night this past month, mostly during times when sleep escaped me. I’ve had the joy of watching such spectacles as rowing, table tennis and canoeing. Captivating, really.

That’s not to say that it has been all bad. Watching the Redeem Team run the court in basketball has been genuinely entertaining, as well as witnessing Michael Phelps become one of the most decorated Olympians in the history of the games.

My problem comes largely with the events that are chosen to be a part of the Olympic games. To be considered an Olympic athlete is to mean that you’re among the best of the best. To actually be a gold medalist should put you among a pantheon of humans that is rarer than rare. Jesse Owens. Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Mark Spitz. Mary-Lou Retton. Michael Phelps. These individuals and others like them have earned every bit of respect and dedication that they deserve. They’re the top grade athletes of all time. The trouble is, these competitors’ legacies are being harmed by the games themselves.

What I mean is this: whoever takes the gold medal in table tennis (that’s right…pingpong), will forever be mentioned in the same breath as Michael Phelps. After all, they were both the best in their sport for that years Olympics. Does that seem wrong to anyone else?

I have to think that I’m not alone on this one. I think the selection of sports are generally limited. We are a nation, after all, that would choose to watch televised golf rather than soccer. Although soccer is by far the most popular sport throughout the world, the average American could probably name more professional poker players than they could soccer players. I’m certainly not lobbying for poker to be included in the next games, but baseball and softball are being removed.

Let me present this in a different light: If I were to completely devote 20 years of my life to rigorous training, I’m fairly certain I could be an Olympic quality rower. So could many of you, which is the problem. No matter how much training I expose myself to, I am never going to run a 100 meter dash in 9 seconds. Nor would most of us be able to post the times under water that Phelps has. However, we can still keep our Olympic ambitions alive by visiting the Rec Center. Just plop a quarter into the machine and buy a pingpong ball.

The bottom line is this: if the Olympics are ever to gain more popularity (at least as viewed by this country), the pedestrian events need to be cut. Each tour that they remain only serves to dilute the accomplishments of a truly gifted athlete, such as Bonnie Blair. When a gold medal curling team can stand on the same platform as her, there is clearly a problem.

Although, I do hear that speed-reading and free-style walking are being considered for the 2032 games in Buenes Aires…