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Some pursue dreams of Olympic glory, while others just daydream

This Olympics, I thought I might at last have a chance to medal — in Marathon Channel Surfing on the networks of NBC. But I bombed even at that.

Lydia Jacoby of the United States reacting at seeing the results after winning the final of the women’s 100-meter breaststroke at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Lydia Jacoby of the United States reacting at seeing the results after winning the final of the women’s 100-meter breaststroke at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Martin Meissner / AP

With the action in Tokyo wrapping up this weekend, it’s looking like a pretty sure bet that this will be yet another Olympic Games in which I have failed to bring home a medal.

Sorry about that.

Going into these games, I thought I was a shoo-in to win the gold in Marathon Channel Surfing on the networks of NBC. But it turns out age has taken its toll on even my talent for watching television at all hours.

I knew I was in trouble when we took a family vacation, and my son’s girlfriend got up at 3 a.m. to watch the U.S. women’s soccer match. There was no way I could compete with that kind of stamina and dedication.

Still, if the organizers of the Paris 2024 games would just add Tears Shed Over The Athletic Achievements Of Strangers as a demonstration sport, I could be a contender.

I think I’ve gotten teary almost once a day, though the highlight had to be the video of those kids in Seward, Alaska, cheering for teenage classmate Lydia Jacoby as she won gold in swimming. Seeing their display of pure joy and excitement for their friend touched my inner fan.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve always been a little nutty about the Olympics.

This was proven out at the 1976 summer games in Montreal, when I checked into a mental hospital — OK, it had been temporarily converted into a tourist hostel — just for the chance to attend in person.

I was 21 at the time, and, until then, I had dedicated my life to finding a sport in which I could actually compete as a real Olympian.

I’m using “dedicated” here as a relative term to encompass an unnatural willingness to prove myself mediocre in all manner of athletic endeavors, not any actual dedication to practicing one.

I think that was the same year I took college classes in both fencing and badminton in hopes of still finding my breakthrough sport, having given up by then on all the mainstream endeavors after slowly coming to the realization that I would always be too slow, too weak and too uncoordinated, with a tendency to choke under pressure.

Even now, though, I’ll always wonder whether team handball might have been my calling if only I’d had the chance to try it.

Mental health of athletes has been a major topic at this year’s Olympics thanks to Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from the gymnastics competition, and I wonder if perhaps some attention should be devoted to the syndrome of individuals suffering dashed dreams of Olympic glory who never had any business having such dreams.

As I write this, there’s a replay of the women’s water polo and wrestling on one channel and a live broadcast of the men’s 50k walk race on another.

I am switching back and forth, because, of course, I wouldn’t want to miss out on any major development in the walking race — the most ridiculous track and field event in the Olympics. A sack race would make more sense. Or even a mixed man-woman three-legged race.

I know. I shouldn’t give NBC any ideas.

Mixed-gender competitions have become a big thing at these Olympics, in case you haven’t been watching. I still haven’t made up my mind what to think about them.

It’s definitely a bad idea in track, where it creates one more opportunity for the Americans to screw up a relay race while opening up a whole new avenue of excuses: gender-blaming.

What is it about Americans and relay races, especially the men? The deepest bench of fast athletes in the world (with the possible recent exception of Jamaica), but they can’t handle the task of handing off a baton.

I regard the Olympic relay failures over the past 20 years as symbolic of our country as a whole: We can’t pull together and cooperate to accomplish the most simple tasks. No wonder we can’t solve the big problems.

Of course, I once ran the anchor leg of a 4x100 relay when I was 15. Thanks to me, we finished last.

Some people are born to compete, and some are born to wish they could.

I recently bought a kayak. And I’m practicing.