While watching the Men’s Olympic Marathon yesterday, I couldn’t help but reflect on why it is that some people instinctually dislike athletes and the concept of sport in general. As Vanderlei de Lima, the Brazilian marathoner who was attacked during yesterday’s race, recovered from the horrific incident, you could easily tell he was on the brink of tears. Anyone who has run a marathon can tell you that he was not upset over the attack per se, but over the fact that he was abruptly brought back to the harsh reality of his pain, discomfort and fear. His fear was of the hurt that was assuredly going to overcome him in the final three miles of his marathon, and fear of the two other marathoners who were quickly closing in on his passionately aspired Gold Medal. You see, before he was ambushed, Vanderlei de Lima was in what many marathoners tritely refer to as “the zone.” To the common viewer, the question of who would have won the Gold Medal is unknowable, but I assure you that Vanderlei de Lima is certain the honor would have been his.
This brings me back to the topic at hand. Why would someone have so little regard for something that calls others to dedicate their entire lives to its cause? I personally find the actions made by this marathon protester akin to destroying a timeless work of art such as Michelangelo’s David or Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. All are definitive achievements, preceded by countless hours of toil and dedication. To see this happen is not only sickening, but offensive as well.
Since 1896, the Olympic Games have been a unification of many different cultures and beliefs in a common cause, that cause is sport. Witnessing the way many Americans rooted for this year’s Iraqi Soccer Team proves that sport can do what juggernauts of foreign policy only dream of doing, uniting countries in peace and unanimity. To dismiss sport as something futile, insignificant or wasteful is to ignore the fact that it has accomplished something that religion, democracy and government have all failed to do, develop respect and admiration among individuals with opposing views.
People need to develop more esteem for Olympic athletes. While many commercial athletes make millions of dollars, live copious lifestyles and get into trouble, Olympic athletes often work multiple jobs, use all free time for training and dedicate their entire life to their quest. This builds character, instills discipline and demands modesty from the Olympic athlete, something of which we could all use a good dose. This is why it is important to care about sport, and respect sport for what it is, a way for an individual to truly discover how strong he or she can be. You can learn a lot about yourself when you have been tackled by a protester 23 miles into a marathon. Are you the type of person that will stay down, and later complain that it was not fair? Or are you the type of person who has nerves of steel, the type of person who can get back up and finish the race to earn an Olympic Medal. Most of us will never know, but we should trust and respect the individuals who have taken the risk to find out.
USAALLTHEWAY thanks you for your interest during these last two weeks; it has been a wonderful ride. We will see you in 2008. Long live sport!