What happened to the fun?
I get it, we're living in highly politicized times, and athletes with a platform have never felt more empowered and/or obligated to stand for whatever it may be that they feel empowered and/or obligated to stand for.
But while important to an extent, meaningful to a point, and undoubtedly powerful in a way, it's changing the viewing experience — and that just isn't any fun.
The U.S. women's soccer team lost their Olympic semifinal game against Canada Monday morning, Sunday night, or whenever they were playing in Japan (sorry, I get lost amidst this time-change thing), and with it their shot at Olympic gold.
It will be the second straight Olympics in which the favored American team will fail to reach the podium's top spot, and if they were to lose to Australia on Thursday in the bronze-medal match, it would mark an equal number of times in which they'd left without a medal. But while the result is disappointing, the analysis after the fact has been less about their performance on the field, and more so about their voices off of it.
The same could be said for American shot putter Raven Saunders, fencer Race Imboden, U.S. thrower Gwen Berry, and any number of other athletes who either have or likely will protest in some way, shape or form.
And you know what? Good for them — I guess. But while you can argue for the agenda, maybe for the meaning behind it, and for the place from which it comes, what you can't argue is its benefit to the games themselves — because they're not winning.
If you like soccer, you want to watch the soccer. Maybe you're a fan of Alex Morgan and what she can do on the field? Carli Lloyd's longevity? Or even Megan Rapinoe's flair for the dramatic?
If you're a fan of track and field, you likely relish the opportunity for the sport you love, and the athletes you love to watch do it, take center stage for the two weeks the world cares enough to put it there.
Or maybe you're just a niche sport guy or girl who appreciates the work and dedication put forth, despite the full understanding of what little will come their way in return.
In any case, you like the games and the athletes who compete, and the sideshow is taking away from that.
No, I don't need to hear you or anyone else sing the praises of the "gutsy" or "mindful" athlete who understands the heightened power of their platform. I get it.
I also know there are more important things in the world than sports, and that the world is an imperfect place that can and should do better in a number of areas, including race relations, gender equity and LBGTQ rights. I get that as well, and I don't disagree. But what I understand, I don't have to like, and I don't like my simple pleasures being perpetually complicated by the things I seek to escape.
No one wants to work 24/7. I'm pretty sure most take vacations not just for entertainment purposes, but also as a means of fleeing from life's harsh realities. I fall into both the former and latter categories, and you can also throw me into the one that's becoming increasingly frustrated by the unending cycle of news revolving not around the games, but the petty back-and-forth between the politically opposed that inevitably comes in the wake of a prominent team or athlete's success or failure coupled with however they choose to communicate their bigger message after-the-fact.
This isn't a "shut up and dribble" argument. I appreciate an agenda and understand that everyone — regardless of their chosen profession — can offer something beyond their obvious expertise. But I also think the Olympics at their root are meant to celebrate sport and the human spirit, not toil in its failures.
Does the world have problems? Of course. Always has, always will. But while acknowledging its failures is both necessary and important, celebrating its successes is as well, and that's what the Olympics should be about — and that's a lot more fun.
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