Spirited Reasoners of a certain age may recall watching a program by the name of “ABC’s Wide World of Sports.” Among its many memorable contributions to sports culture was the phrase “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” I, for one, will always associate that phrase with the show’s opening scenes, two of which contrasted a victorious Olympic ski-jumper soaring high over the awe-struck crowd followed by another jumper losing his balance, then tumbling down the ramp onto the steep snowy slope below.
What made the show so compelling was the unusual nature of the sports it displayed. These included such sports as hurling, demolition derby, and Mexican cliff diving—sports that normal spectators could never enjoy via any other medium.
More importantly, it gave average folks like me a chance to see the types of activities that were enjoyed in places outside the United States. What a wonderful feeling I got from losing myself in someone else’s unique form of competition held halfway around the globe!
And that’s exactly what makes the Olympic games so important this year. With almost everyone worrying about COVID-19 and the impending war between Russia and the Ukraine, we could all benefit from a collection of games designed for that purpose; viz., easing our collective anxiety while tempering the world’s proclivity toward mutual distrust and war.
I, for one, and ready to watch the newest crop of skijumpers sail to ever greater heights and distances. I’m ready to watch nations duke it out on the ice by means of hockey sticks rather than missiles and tanks. I’m even willing to watch this year’s figure skating finals if by doing so I will be contributing my small part toward the soothing of international tempers.
I wonder how athletes from Russia will interact with athletes from the Ukraine. I wonder how athletes from Taiwan will be treated by the host country of China. I wonder if there will be televised moments when the friendships among competing athletes can shame us all into treating our supposed enemies with greater respect and forbearance.
Spirited Reasoners know, from lessons learned during the Munich Olympics in 1972, that much can go wrong. Let’s pray that this year’s games will, instead, move the world in a more positive direction.
Let the games begin!