Many good opinions about the Olympics – thanks for all the feedback! Clearly I overlooked speed walking, which can really only be preserved for comedic value.
Here's my question for you: If the Olympics were canceled – say, because 10 years from now China is winning every medal and the rest of world collectively says, "What's the point?" and stops attending – how many of these sports would vanish entirely? I mean, sure, volleyball, basketball, swimming – these sports aren't going anywhere. But the little ones – speed walking, canoe racing, pole vault, hammer throwing, shot putting ("shot putting?" "shotting put?") – would anyone still try to learn them?
Whenever an Olympic gold medalist is interviewed and asked why they wanted to learn their sport, what do they invariably say? "When I was a kid I watched the Olympics and decided I wanted to do that, too."
Which leads to the obvious conclusion – no Olympic TV exposure, no kids saying "I want to do that, too." I'd wager, without the TV exposure and the gold medal moments and the dramatic music and the instant-replay slo-mo, half of these sports would fade away. Kids do not naturally desire to learn to throw a discus. Frisbee, yes. Discus, no. So I would argue that, without the Olympics, at least 1/3 of the Olympic sports would fade into oblivion within a generation.
Accept this logic, and the next obvious question is this: Would the world be better or worse? If no one ever devoted their youth to the dogged pursuit of a gold medal in discus throwing or speed walking or water polo – or even gymastics or figure skating for that matter – would we be worse off? What if all those starry-eyed wannabe Michael Phelps and Mary Lou Rettons devoted the best years of their youth to, say, feeding the poor? Building houses for the homeless? Could you really argue that we were worse off because we didn't have something special to watch on TV for 14 days every fourth August?
Just throwing that out there.
While I'm at it, did I tell you about my idea that we should tax all professional athletes at a 75% bracket and require them to devote their off-seasons to public service?
More news on JellyTelly shortly…
Mary who? hee hee.
*laugh* I like the provocativeness – but you’re forgetting that sport is, at one level, art – just like JellyTelly. It’s another way to reflect, appreciate God’s amazingness and celebrate/enjoy something completely different from your work.
Or to take the Chariots of Fire approach – sport can even be worship, for the athlete who is doing it for God…!
Nonetheless, perhaps we should let the sports that don’t feature outside of the Olympics in any meaningful way die to make space for the ones that are more actively pursued!
My middle son’s mission field, one day, will be elite athletes. He already is one in the making. His sport is soccer. There are many Christians out there that God has blessed with various athletic gifts. If a Christian boy or girl never pursued a dream with the goal of being in the Olympics, playing pro, or even NCAA Division 1, who would be there in the trenches with such athletes?
Did you see the respect that certain pro players had for the top Olympians? Now what if some of these same pros, and other Olympians, got to see Jesus competing? We can all name Christians playing pro somewhere, or see them on some sporting event giving to Jesus Christ.
Seeing true Christians in action can be seen on any given Sunday, but its the ones that the world looks up to that have special impact. It’s an entertainment field that Christians cannot walk off of. Its an opportunity, for example, for Christ to be seen in bars that everyday Christians wouldn’t walk into. Would the world be worse off without putting shot every four years? Perhaps not. But God gifted these athletes as He’s gifted others.
I really don’t know a kid looking to win golds for the US of A, more to be looked up to as an idol for other kids. I honestly believe the Olympics isn’t about unity of nations anymore, its about pride. Its pretty obvious that every country wants to show up the other. China did a pretty good job of doing just that at these Olympics and in America it was always, “China has more golds! We need more to!” It wasn’t about how great China was doing, or how great we were doing for that matter, it was only about how they were beating us in golds, because we’re supposed to be better! At least China hasn’t fully consumed the winter olympics. I pray the day will never come when a team of Chinese players destroys the Canadians, Russians, and Americans in hockey. Thats when the whole Olympics thing should be in question.
This is interesting, thanks.
I actually competed with Mary Lou Retton as an elite-level gymnast back in the 80’s. Twenty years later, I saw her promoting some Christian event and I was really excited to hear that. When I talked to her about it, she said that she now knows why God let her win the gold medal…so she would have a platform to talk to others about Christ. Pretty cool way to use your gold medal!
I’ve thought about that before. I mean, they work hard all their lives, seven days a week to compete for absolutely nothing. I know there are a lot of people we could say this about (actors, for example), but I picture them at the end of their lives and God asks them, “And what did you do with the time I gave you?” Sadly, all they can do is hold up a medal (or explain why they never actually got one.)
Sounds harsh, I know, but I do mean it from a sincere point of view. It has to make you think about 1st Corinthians 9 when Paul says that athletes compete for a perishable crown, but we are running for a crown of life. Great illustration, and it really rings through during the Olympics.
But, alas, these are just thoughts, because I am also just floored with Michael Phelp’s abilities, and I cheered him on right along with everyone else.
And who knows, maybe all this money he’ll end up getting will do some good in this world.
The Olympics are a way to get TV ratings. If they were canceled, TV would just find another way to attract people. Some kind of a reality show where people did weird stuff.
Maybe if there was a reality show about people doing something that is actually useful… How about “speed house building” for Habitat for Humanity?
I worked with teenagers for years, and would see these kids who had dedicated their lives to hockey (remember this is Canada), football, soccer and gymnastics… only to drop out in high school because the competitiveness was too stressful, or their coach was too abusive, or it was interfering with them having healthy relationships.
Sport is about competition, yes. But competition doesn’t always have to be “high-pressure” and “big stage.” A tuesday night shinny hockey game (again, I’m in Canada) amongst neighbors can be *competitive* without the additional hassle, money, and egos associated with professional sports.
I don’t know if I need my 3 kids to be the “best in the world” at something. I want them to use their gifts in a way that brings them and others joy.
Great comments, everyone. I don’t have anything to add to the above.
Wow! I am totally in the minority here. I LOVED the Olympics, overall. Our family watched as much as we could…late into the night for the two weeks it was on. I still feel that sense of pride when the USA wins….you hear our national anthem and see the athelets receive the medals. I love that stuff! After years of dedication to a specific discipline, it’s pretty awesome watching someone excel.
I don’t particularly think everything we do has to come with some sort of educational benefit, spritual meaning or productivity assessment attached to it. Why can’t we just enjoy watching something on TV? The Olympics are a tradition that should continue.
As for China kicking the butts of virtually everyone who competed, it makes me think of the USSR back in the day. Remember what a major powerhouse they were? It was basically the USA and USSR competing for Gold in all the major sports. It was a good rivalry. It brought out a lot of patriotism, at least for two weeks every two years (counting the Winter Games in here).
Just because we are a christian doesn’t mean that we can’t have high ambitions, including the olympics. Whatever we do, we do to the glory of God. I heard several of the athletes mention their faith in God. There are many youth who do have a passion for Christ. It just isn’t as puclicized as the athletes. I think there are youth out there who give a lot of time and effort to further the cause of Christ as well. They just don’t get a gold medal for it. Although, they should! Thanks for the thoughts again, Phil.
Certainly, no, they wouldn’t be worse off. 😉 But consider this:
In one of your last blog entries, you were talking about how an increase in the number of successful Christian business owners could better support more of the World Vision-type ministries. Well, what about the Christian athletes who go on to have a wonderful impact on our world? I don’t know how many of them live selfish lives, but the ones who serve others shine brightly and can bring glory to God.
On a mission trip to Brazil, my husband was fortunate to befriend Billy Hobbs, a former NFL player, a few months before a tragic accident took Billy’s life. He had an opportunity to speak to the entire professional soccer team in Sao Paulo simply because of his status as a star athlete. Before his death, he and his wife founded the Alamo City Mercy Foundation, which tends to the needs of those in their city, as well as around the world. His widow, Kristi, has continued the ministry, and their foundation is in the process of building an orphanage in Kenya.
That’s just one example. I’m sure there are many others. The notoriety they receive from their sport can be a springboard to rally support for a good cause.
youtube.comOh, and don’t forget about this guy:
What an impact he’s having 😉
Oh, you Americans! Just because China beat you doesn’t mean that you have to consider pulling out of the darn thing. Everywhere else in the world, we take it as an opportunity to step up to the plate!
*can’t believe we came SIXTH this year*
What would the world be like without this stuff? I don’t know. The people who dedicate themselves to these competitions ARE incredibly gifted in perseverance and often times self-control/humility- all disciplines that can benefit the world around them.
I’m not an athlete, I’m a mommy/musician/children’s minister- but, I know this much: in order to feed and clothe the poor, pray for the sick, and minister peace I have to walk in the gifts that God gave me. That’s the birthing place for the fruits of the Spirit- being in the right place at the right time, doing what I was made to do. Sometimes the very things that seem frivolous, useless, or marginal in this lifetime are actually the instigators for hope, change, revival, etc. When I direct a musical or play a gig or even sing silly songs with kids at church for hours on end, it could seem meaningless.
But I consider excelling in my gifting an opportunity to raise a banner of HOPE for those around me- those who are oppressed either financially, relationally, or physically. And that’s the lens through which I view the Olympic sports- sure, I think it could be done for a lot less money- A LOT LESS. And many do not compete for God’s glory, simply because they are not in relationship with Him. But, bringing your best to the Lord’s feet looks different for every child of God- look at the woman who brought her most expensive perfume and poured it out on Jesus’s feet- that could look like a waste, too, right? And what about all of those ornate decor ideas that were implemented in the Old Test. kings’ homes and in the Temple? I bet there were starving people all around at that time as well, and yet God cared to command His people regarding interior design?!?!
I don’t think we always understand His value system. But I know that those of us who are His sheep can hear His voice, and He’ll lead us where we should be, on whatever size of adventure suits Him.
And maybe my little Gabriel who wants to compete in men’s gymnastics at the Olympics will bring us on an adventure to several countries we’d never have touched otherwise. WHO KNOWS?!?! Nothing is impossible with God. He’s a stud!
Hey phil I just saw Bob and larry talking to shawn johnston! Cool!
^Where did you see that daniel?
Well as long as these kids aren’t pursuing drugs, alcohol, violence and such, I am all for it. I would rather see these young people working hard at something they believe in and is a dream or a heart’s desire for them. People should pursue there hearts desire as long as its something that would benefit them, becoming stronger people for there hard work and dedication, they will undoubtedly be that way in there personal life too, so in turn can benefit the people around them, or benefit other people like pursuing ministries in showing the love of Christ. Whatever your hearts desire is you could always show the love of Christ and be a witness to the people around you or that see you. I mean you wouldn’t consider voice acting a really strong field in witnessing but it can be if you do voices for Christian characters or witness to the people your working with. Whatever you put your hands to do, do it as if you are doing it unto the Lord. 🙂