In my enjoyment of the Olympics this past week and a half, I have realized that the Games really give us an interesting view of humanity. There are moments of human nature at its best, and moments of human nature at its worst. In the competitive atmosphere of the Games, we are able to get a glimpse of so many different personalities and so many different reactions to both victory and defeat.
My children and I have rallied behind certain athletes and shared their excitement and their joy, or their disappointment and their struggle, depending on the outcome of their particular competitions. Other athletes we have found harder to support and cheer on. We have not rooted against anyone but, there have definitely been some we were not exactly hoping would win.
Here are our examples of humanity at its best— those few champions who have immediately given credit and glory to God, praising Him in interviews or falling to their knees in prayer or looking to the heavens in thanksgiving. We love to see the athletes who pray the Sign of the Cross before competing. We have seen winners in moments of immense joy and gratitude for all they have been able to accomplish and experience. My children and I find ourselves smiling especially at the silver and bronze medalists who are genuinely happy with their not-quite-first-place finishes and we find we are genuinely happy for them too. We have heard stories of amazing people overcoming adversity and stories of athletes who just wouldn’t give up. We have heard about the support and sacrifice of loving and dedicated parents, coaches, even whole countries. We have seen displays of authentic respect for the “losing competitors” from the “winners” and authentic joy for the winners from those they have defeated. All this is beautiful. It fills our hearts with hope and gives us examples of goodness in the world.
Here are our examples of humanity at its worst- athletes who refuse to hug or acknowledge the support of coaches or fans after not performing well. Over-the-top displays of celebration and arrogance upon winning, which implies a lack of respect for those who are suffering the pain of defeat. Winning athletes who focus entirely on how happy they are in interviews, acting as though it is all about them and ignoring the credit due to others who have helped them get to where they are. And our absolute least favorite- silver and bronze medalists who refuse to show any happiness but instead pout or scowl in utter disappointment. (There is one other thing on our list of least favorites-- women’s beach volleyball, where the competitors jump around in the sand barely dressed, but that we REFUSE to watch at my house.)
Not surprisingly, the competitors we have cheered on most enthusiastically have been those who show true humility in the midst of fierce competition. The people who have worked hard but who acknowledge that they have not achieved their success alone, are the ones we find ourselves rooting on. The athletes who, in the competition itself or in interviews or post-race celebrations, behave in arrogant, self-serving ways just cannot seem to win our affections.
The 2012 Olympic Games have certainly given my children and me a lot to think and talk about. We have been given lessons in the beauty and importance of humility and the ugliness of pride and ingratitude. We originally tuned in just for the fun and excitement of the once-every-four-years-competitions. The lessons in integrity we’ve received were quite unexpected but they have certainly been very valuable.
Only a few days left of the games now…….no doubt these last few days will find my family glued to the T.V. for every exciting and educational moment.