I just had a good cry watching the USA women’s gymnastic team win the gold medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Those young women were so stellar and flawless this evening. I feel as though I was there with them experiencing the moment.
When I was young, my two youngest sisters were gymnasts. At eight, I began running scores at events. At that time there were no computers. Young boys like me took the pieces of paper into a room where someone with an adding machine tallied the scores. When I think of that, it almost makes me laugh. I can smell the sweat and the chalk as I recall the moments. There was no AC either. Just lots of big fans. My sister Cindy turned out to be quite the gymnast, but then turned her talents toward dance and theater when she went to college. But all of it left me with a real love for women’s gymnastics.
I, too, was a fledgling gymnast. I have to admit I really didn’t like the strength events. I just wanted to tumble and fly on the vault. Eventually, I ended up competing as a diver in high school. I bet none of you knew that about me. I try to keep a few surprises in my pocket.
Most of us are happy just to watch people compete. We feel the sensation of winning with them. I wonder what that is about. I often would watch the men in my family around the television growing up watching sports and marvel at the camaraderie and joy it gave them to bond over football and even golf, which even today I think is the most boring sport on earth to watch or play.
I always said I wanted something like the camaraderie my father had in life that kind of swept me away from everything and lifted me into a place where I was completely engulfed in the sport. For the last three years, I’ve gone to college gymnastic events and it has really been a great experience for me to let go and get to be excited about something that really swells in my soul. I’ve missed that throughout my childhood. I’m finally glad I’ve found this sport to fulfill that need.
At fifty, I even started watching football with my mother, who is an avid sports fan. She screams and jumps up and down like my dad and his buddies used to. It’s kind of fun to take part in her little drama with her. I really could give a flip who wins, but she does, so it matters a bit. Somewhere, I know my daddy is saying, “I’m proud of you, son. You now know the difference between a home run and a touch down. Good stuff!” Air shake, Pops.
Finally, on this day after victory for the US in woman’s gymnastics and for Michael Phelps to surpass the most medals ever won by an Olympian, I say thank you to everyone who is competing. I know that there are so many people in the world who are trying their best and not succeeding, maybe not evening making it to any finals. To all of those people, thank you too. We need all of you to make this worldwide venture exciting and unified. I believe that’s what makes the Olympics so magical. For two weeks billions of people are all in one place at one time, mostly thinking the same thoughts.
When I think back at the times when I was running scores in 1972 and Cathy Rigby was an Olympic star, even then there was an indescribable, completely palatable place that almost everyone I knew wanted to be. We strive daily for things and mostly don’t get them. Sometimes we do.
But it’s nice to see people we are cheering for win. Somewhere in our hearts we get to win with them. And for that, we get to share the dreams of many.