Thursday, August 14, 2008

National Michael Phelps Day

Since the start of the 2008 Olympics we've seen Phelps smiling, Phelps yelling, Phelps cheering, Phelps concentrated, Phelps sleeping, Phelps spitting, Phelps swimming, Phelps winning, Phelps awarded, Phelps whatever.

Congratulations Michael Phelps! It's a tremendous feat so far, and perhaps to become more so.

So here is a proposal: lets make a National Phelps Day - we all go swimming for a day and honor the hero. Along the way we may also give thought to what the networks seems to have forgotten:

1 We have dozens of other athletes competing, if not as successfully, at least with as much effort and determination. From that, we may remember that it's harder to continue to compete day in and day out when you are not at the top but while you struggle to get there, and don't make it, and try again.
2 There are hundreds of sports that once in four years we could admire and learn something about. Not football, not baseball, not basketball, not golf and even not tennis, but all those sports that promise no professional high paying careers to heir stars, those sports that participants pick just for the sake of competing, those that have no incentives to use drugs to win because winning unfairly would be no win at all.

Those are the sports that some of our children who did not make it into the high school popular sport team may have picked to learn about sportsmanship, about good manners in winning and losing, about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The sports that are still just sports.

There are more than the gold-medal-count obsessed networks are letting us see. Buying a monopoly on broadcasting obviously is a ticket to do what you please, yet I wonder if along with the power there isn't a moral responsibility. In this case a responsibility to: sportsmanship, to the values of fair play, struggle, persistence, graciousness in winning, graciousness in defeat.

Every four years, for so brief a moment, one someone somewhere has the opportunity to decide for us all what we'll see and understand and remember of hundreds of sports and competitors, either with a broad mind or a narrow provincial view. We'll just have to wait another four years for another chance.

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