Yesterday morning my wife and I were watching the Olympics, specifically the women’s cycling road race and some qualifiying events in gymnastics. (What can I say? it was a lazy Sunday morning and we don’t have cable.)
My son was mostly playing by himself while we watched, but when the gymnastics came on he started to emulate the athletes on screen. He was bending down and stomping his feet and throwing his hands up generally being a very cute, very funny little guy.
And yet during his gold medal cuteness routine, all I could think was: please god don’t somehow end up being good at gymnastics.
I am not putting the Olympics down in anyway. Had you run into me 10 years ago and asked me if I’d be watching them, that might have been a different story; I’d probably have laughed in your face. But this time around I have some interest, and not merely due to any one particular athlete’s attention-getting quest (i.e. Michael Phelps in 2008). This year I’ve been watching a bunch for some reason (cough NO CABLE cough) and I’ve mostly been enjoying it. Except, of course, for the abomination that was the Opening Ceremony. My 5th grade play – wherein I sang “You Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hounddog” as Aimee Orzel danced next to me – had better production value and 100% less JK Rowling.
Hey Olympics: NO MORE PAGEANTS. Just give me the spectacle without the storytelling. See: China
When it comes to the actual sporting events and competitions, many of them are pretty compelling, so long as I can avoid being spoiled whenever I look at Twitter or Facebook or the news or anything except NBC’s coverage for the next two weeks. So my concern that my son might develop an interest in competing in an Olympic sport has nothing to do with the fact that he might one day have to wear a beret during a parade, or take hormones to make sure he doesn’t have his menstrual cycle so early that his career as a female Pommel Horse expert is scuttled, or even the fact that he might have a horrific accident on the uneven bars like Mitch Gaylord.
No, I don’t want him to develop an interest in competing in the Olympics because I don’t want the commitment. ME. I don’t want to have to waste my time attending all his meets and taking him to training sessions and I don’t want to spend a fortune on equipment and special coaching and etc. Because although Olympians may not be professionals, they sure as hell require professional commitment, and not just from the athletes themselves. And should my son go all out and become a famous Olympian, I certainly never want Ryan Seacrest and his Great Wall of Hairdo to interview me or my wife on national TV.
Michael Phelps spent something like 4000 consecutive days in the pool in the lead-up to his eight gold medals in Beijing in 2008. Obviously, the dude likes to swim. And leaving aside the physical and psychological commitment such an endeavor requires, and the question of who was really driving this goal when he was a teenager and probably wanted to quit 500 times but for someone’s constant nudging (ahem HIS MOM WHO DEMANDS HE COMPETE IN 2016 JUST SO SHE CAN GET DRUNK AT CARNIVALE ahem), someone had to actually literally drive him to the pool all those days. Who do you think that was?
Despite what the commercials would have us believe (and that’s a topic for another day – say, Wednesday?), I bet Dads handle a fair amount of that driving, especially since they’re already on their way to work and Mom has to get those dishes done! And getting up early to drive my kid around is just not something I’m interested in doing, especially when the far-from-guaranteed payoff is a piece of metal that will be stashed in a sock drawer somewhere.
I’m already and will always be proud of my son, I’m not going to be more proud just because he wins something. And since most Olympians ain’t going to make much bank unless they are one of the few that goes mainstream enough to get endorsements, what’s in it for me? Unless he lands on a Wheaties box, I won’t even get any of that gas money back.
At least if the kid’s playing baseball or basketball or, god forbid, football, he’s really just taking the bus to school and getting coached and trained there. No extra work from Dad and a potential scholarship somewhere down the line.
Yeah, I’ll pass on the Olympics. I’ll still support him in whatever he does, no matter what, just so long as he leaves me out of it.
Because the last thing I need is to end up like these people.