The Olympics of life and the amazing people next door

The average nurse, doctor, or paramedic working during the pandemic gets a perfect 10 from me every time.

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Simone Biles

Simone Biles

Tony Gutierrez/AP

Yes, there are marvelous athletes at the Olympic games, but how would they fare walking from the LaSalle Street Metra Station to the Merchandise Mart on a January day in Chicago?

I’m talking rush hour. Ice on the streets. Ice falling from skyscrapers. Bikers traveling 30 mph on sidewalks. Cabdrivers turning on red.

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Could Olympians jump over a panhandler on a street corner while avoiding contact with a businesswoman dragging a piece of carry-on luggage behind her like a semitrailer?

And could they hold their ground in front of a mob waiting for the “walk” light at a street corner to change without being shoved in front of a CTA bus splashing through three inches of slush?

There are no gold medals for such achievements, although before COVID you could see people performing such feats on most city streets five days a week, 52 weeks a year.

Throw in the tourists from out-of-town ogling at some piece of Chicago architecture and it would be like a track star forced to weave around statues during a meet.

I do not minimize the talents of Simone Biles. She is a marvel. Superhuman. An artist. Tough as they come.

But is there any event at the Olympic Games that could compare to a 10-year-old walking to and from school every day in Chicago as bullets whiz by his head?

And then there is the Mad Max event of driving the expressway system.

It used to be life and death trying to avoid the motorists cutting in and out of bumper-to- bumper traffic at 80 mph. But the difficulty level wasn’t considered great enough, especially for suburbanites who had it way too easy.

So random gunfire was added to the event.

At any moment on I-57, I-55, or Lake Shore Drive, someone could pull up next to your car and unleash a spray of bullets. Stay in your lane buddy. Maintain the proper distance between you and the car in front of you. Don’t hit any of the road repair workers or the police officers recovering shell casings up ahead. That’s an event fit for athletic gods.

Do you really want to talk to me how difficult it is living in the Olympic Village this year?

We have seen ordinary folks in lockdown for weeks in hospitals while they were denied contact with family and friends. Some were placed on ventilators not knowing if they would ever be released.

Did they get any awards if they came out alive? Sure. They got to breathe. To hug their grandchildren. To see the sun one more time.

It takes terrific mental courage to be an Olympian. Discipline. Commitment.

Well, I got to tell you that the average nurse, doctor, or paramedic working during the pandemic gets a perfect 10 from me every time. And after a hard day saving lives, they must go home and hear relatives complain that they were asked to wear masks at the grocery store or urged to get a vaccination shot by the governor. That takes mental toughness.

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As I watch the Olympic skateboarders soar through the air, spin, somersault and somehow return safely to their boards at speeds of close to 100 mph, I will also be thinking of the 70- and 80-year-olds I saw at Walmart last year.

There was one package of toilet paper left on an empty shelf when from opposite directions an elderly man on a walker and a woman pushing a shopping cart came whooshing down the aisle and leaping through the air simultaneously to squeeze the Charmin.

I swear the old fellow left the tennis balls on his walker spinning and returned before they could stop.

It is with that background that I will sit on my couch and watch these 2021 Olympic athletes. My standards are higher than ever before.

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