Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympian (Almost)

Overhearing conversations in my hotel, glancing at the headlines on papers and listening to the television commentary gives me the sense that all anyone cares about during the Olympics are record breakers like Michael Phelps. As for myself, I'm not winner focused. I blame that on my ancient obsession with Oscars. I'm more fascinated by the nomination process than who wins. It's also why when I started my online punditry many years ago (many many many many years ago. sheesh I'm Gandalf) I passed out virtual gold, silver and bronze medals rather than a single trophy. That's commonplace around the blogosphere now but I trail blazed that Olympic take on movie awards.

This is all a long way of saying that I get really bored with what I view as bad sportsmen statements that you hear all during the games "he/she won't be happy with a silver medal!" as if being second best in the entire world is something to be ashamed of. Maybe I just don't have enough of a competitive spirit but I watch these games and I get bored with the winners (Michael Phelps ...again? There are so many great swimmers) just like I get bored with multiple repeat Emmy winners or regular Oscar nominees who don't deserve shortlisting every single time. Instead, I feel so much for the Olympic "losers". They are amazing amazing athletes. Imagine being among the very best in the world at any one thing? It's just... gah! What a thrill it should be. And yet we focus only on the gold.

So here's to all the fourth place finishers in Olympic events and here's to anyone who ever lost an Oscar! And please raise your glass to all the people who were ever great at anything. And even all the people who were ever almost great. Working at being nearly great is better than most people manage, don't you think? So here's to all the Olympians from everywhere and the alternates, too.

And, finally, here's to Geena Davis !

She's the only famous actress I know of who was also nearly an Olympian. It's my favorite bit of Olympic sports trivia. "Thelma" tried out for the US archery team way back in 1999 but didn't make the finals. She did win the Oscar. She also got to have famous pretend sex with Brad Pitt. But then her movie career dried up long before anyone expected it would. The moral of this story is that you really can't win them all. But win or lose, be game.


Anonymous said...

Haha. That may be your case in your extremely competitive country, but in my dear little Mexico we love all of our competitors. Considering our best Olympics ever was 3 Golds, 3 Silvers and 3 Bronzes and that was back in 1968 (when the Olympics were actually hosted in Mexico City), we actually get excited with a single medal! So far, we've only had 1 Bronze Medal and a 4th place, and they both got like an hour screen-time on primetime. I'm actually happy that Mexico doesn't win so many medals that the only way we get excited about someone in the Olympics is by him/her winning 8 Golds. We actually get to feel excited about 14 yr old archer Mariana Avitia lanidng 8th. :D. Mexico is not a competitive country, to an extent in which a very famous quote is "Second place/Bronze medal/Etc with gold flavor" Hehe. Back to the Oscars, we used that phrase with Laberinto del Fauno. (losing to the substandard Lives of Others...had to say it)

Anonymous said...

The Olympics are probably the only sports event I love (maybe because of the 4 year time span). All those athletes are so talented and determined and they do such amazing things for so little recognition and money in most cases, just to challenge themselves, they have all my admiration.

I confess I had no idea about the Geena Davis trying it at the Olympics thing. One never stops learning (thank god).


Catherine said...

Geena Davis, what the hell?! That is insane! Brilliant.

I'm not a huge sports person by any means, but I do love the Olympics. Especially the track stuff. When sports involve excessive equipment or props, I tend to lose interest, but there's something so pure about the running. I'm seriously in love with every Jamaican runner: Usain Bolt and his chicken nuggets, Shelly Ann Fraser's jubilation.


bernardo --i'm so glad to hear that this distortion of sportsmanship is not universal. All of these countries should be totally celebrating even being there... and to bemoan 4th place in the world? ARGH.

iggy --isn't that wild about Geena?

catherine --i never used to understand the appeal of the track stuff but the simplicity is getting to me this year.

although i'm still always about the gymnastics. I wish it was on every night and I wish that american television would show me all the competitors and not just the ones (i.e. americans and major probable medalists) they think i might be interested in.

adam k. said...

Agreed on gymnastics, Nathaniel. I always want more, too. And I know you love NASTIA LIUKIN. She's basically Michelle Pfeiffer on a balance beam. Icy blonde to the max. You know you love her.

I was SO happy when she won the all-around, she's my new favorite person.

Anonymous said...

There's something oddly arousing in the mental image of Geena Davis firing a bow and arrow... well.

What ever happened to Geen Davis?
She used to be in movies but ses not in movies anymore.
I mean, shes attractive and all but when she smile she shows too much gum.
Not a good tooth-to-gum ratio.
Eh? eh? Ah, I'll tell you in the morning.

CanadianKen said...

Don't forget Sonja Henie, figure skating gold medalist in three consecutive Winter Olympics ('28,'32,'36). And if we're talking near-Olympians there's the great Esther Williams, a U.S. swimming champ scheduled to take part in the 1940 Olympics in Finland (till they were cancelled by WW2). Thus the unplanned career change that resulted in years of box-office glory at MGM/

Anonymous said...

No such problems here in Spain! We cheer and greet ALL our medalists like heroes (be they gold, silver or bronze), and congratulate ALL our athletes and giving it their best and on just having been able to make it to the Olympics! Don't people realise there is a pre-selection? If you actually make it to the Olympics you're already in an elite!!!

And you can't begruge the Phelps coverage (of which we've gotten as much here as for Spanish athletes (as much as stars Nadal and Gasol!), ditto the Jamaican Bolt) because what he's done is simply AMAZING!!!

bernardo, we also say "sabe a oro" for some of our medals! ;o) (like the silver our sailors got which should have been gold had the rules been applied properly when the Danish bent the rules and sailed out in another boat that wasn't theirs... they should have been disqualified...)


I agree that the Phelps thing is amazing except for this which people don't talk about much: there are some events in which it's completely impossible to win scads of medals. So all the people who do races have a natural advantage over athletes who do events that don't give out dozens upon dozens of medals.

Anonymous said...

there's something about the accidental tourist that always gets me weepy. it's in my top 10 faves of all time. thank goodness she won - she deserved it.