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2:30 p.m. - 2012-08-01
A Gold Medalist in Being A Doofus.

God, I am such a wuss. I went upstairs early last night to catch some of the Olympics before I went to sleep. I'd tuned in just at the right time to watch the end of the women's team gymnastic finals. Sure, go Team USA! Their gold was fabulous. I am very proud of their win. But it was the Russian team that got to me. The way those poor girls fell apart during the balance beam and floor routines, oy, it killed me. I kept thinking about their years of training, living away from home since they were tiny little things- 5 or 6 years old. All the stuff they'd given up in the pursuit of a dream. Spelling bees. Birthday parties. Girl scouts. Moaning over homework and their first crushes on the boys in their class. Running around at night catching lightning bugs. Popsicles. All semblance of a regular girlhood sacrificed for the shot at Olympic gold. I thought about the toll on their young bodies. The sprains, the broken bones, how they'd trained so ferociously most of them had never had enough body fat to get their first period. And all of that giving up, all of their work, gone in an instant because of a wobble and a bad landing. Damn, it was too brutal.

Yeah, I tried to console myself. Those girls never missed what they'd never had. Plus they still got the silver. I thought about how most of them would age out now and take up sort of normal lives. How a few would stay involved with gymnastics and go on to be trainers and coaches themselves, but that most would simply go home. They'll go to high school and make friends and eat french fries and finally get their menses and meet some boys. They are still young enough to make up for the ground lost during their training years. I hoped those silver medals would someday have pride of place on their walls or in their china cabinets. And when their children and grandchildren asked about them they'd be able to smile and say, yes when they'd been young they'd done this amazing and wonderful thing. I want this for all the gymnasts. Because theirs above all others seems to be a one-shot deal. The gymnastic finals were intercut with clips from the swimmers and the basketball players and water polo teams. And many of those athletes had gotten their chops in Athens and Beijing. The career arc of most of the participants in the Summer Games is so much longer than those tiny tremendous tumbling, vaulting, balance beaming female gymnasts.

I know. I'm a romantic. A softie. Too momsy and too much a hippie to ever be or parent a world-class athlete. I empathize too much with the losers. What can I say? As much as I admire and praise the winners, I have a deep connection with the also-rans. Aside from Mark Spitz (who I had a massive crush on because I liked his mustache) my favorite Olympians are from the Winter Games. Those goofballs and ridiculous longshot guys- Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards, sole member of the British ski jumping squad, and the Rasta dudes from the Jamaican bobsled team.

Honestly, would you really expect me to feel otherwise? LA the perpetual odd one? Forever out of step, always on a quest for the middle-ground. I think about the Japanese attitude toward baseball. Winning is good, a tie score is better, but the true heroes of the game aren't the power hitters but the ones who make the sacrifice bunt. The team is the important thing, not the guy who sprints out ahead of everyone else to grab his own personal best stats. Free agency is almost unheard of in Japan. The individual accomplishment is meaningless outside the context of the team.

Without ever having been there and I know I am physically the most offensive and horrifying of gaijin, somehow I seem to apply the Japanese philosophy of baseball to everything in my life.

I sacrifice bunt my personal wellbeing to the overall health of my family. And that of my family to the community's. And the community to the county, the state, the nation, the world.

This interconnectedness is essential to me. To put my needs and desires as an individual before the need of the whole is abhorrent. Not because I'm some kind of saint, for real, but because I can't seem to disconnect myself from the general welfare of all. It infuses my politics, my morality, my parenting, my daily behavior. Perhaps I am a Vulcan or a Borg. The good of the one is never above the good of the many.

Look, I understand that if the world were populated with smushy gushy types like me that we'd still be living in caves. I absolutely understand the necessity of the hard-chargers, the singular exceptional ones. Without those willing to do dirty to society and the environment and stand up to the harsh reality demanded by improvement and self-gratification there'd be very little forward progress. I know the fluffy ones like me are only necessary as the counterbalance to those who'd sacrifice anything and everything to 'win'.

It's a dance. A game of finesse and balance. We wouldn't get far without those driven to be #1. Yet without the Jamaican bobsled team who would the winners have to beat? Somebody has to lose for there to be a winner.

Justification for not trying hard enough? Maybe. But to me there are worse sins than that of not stomping everyone around me into the dirt. There's the sin of not looking outward. Of not making provisions for those born without the killer instinct. For not seeing those who haven't had the same advantages and giving them a helping hand. Education, opportunity, nourishing food, good health, political and personal freedom. Perhaps it's a loser's view but I could never be proud of 'winning' a footrace against one-legged opponents. Unless the playing-field is even how can anyone truly say they've won?

Sometimes I wish I could try on that 'winner' mentality. The one who's able to ignore the deficits of my opponents and go for the gold regardless. To be the one to whom the win is the only thing. To scoff and say it's hard cheese all around to those who didn't have my advantages, I won. Nar, nar, nar.

I know I'd be more successful financially if I could be that way. I know I'd never hesitate to press my advantages of being brainy and white and well-fed and good looking. I'd happily dick over my competition, nevermind if they'd had less to begin with, the only important thing was that I'd gotten mine.

I think Republicans must enjoy the Olympics so much more than I do.


Smushy, Liberal and always behind, ~LA

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