By Ray Cardello for August 9, 2021 Season 3 / Post 6
I remember the Olympics of my youth being something you looked forward to every four years. Summer or Winter Games, they were special. The Games were a Patriotic event that the country took unified pride in and was much-see TV. It didn’t matter the sport. We all pulled for the athlete in Red, White, and Blue. I remember Bob Hayes, the world’s fastest human, speeding on the track before being a Dallas Cowboy. He was the only athlete ever to win a Gold Medal and Super Bowl ring. We cheered for Bruce Jenner as he captured the Decathlon Gold and graced the Wheaties box before becoming Kaitlyn. We admired Mark Spitz gracefully moving through the pool, winning seven Gold Medals, and setting seven world records. We were captivated by the grace of Peggy Fleming winning Gold in ’68 when they still skated outdoors. Everyone still remembers where they were when the Americans defeated the Russians in Ice Hockey in Lake Placid. We can still believe in miracles.
The Olympics, like life, have changed dramatically in the last forty years. They seemed purer in the past, with all of the athletes being amateurs and competing for the pride of their homeland. Some, like me, yearn for the Olympics of the past. In 1986, professional athletes were allowed to compete in the Olympics, and who can forget the Dream Team of NBA players, and one collegiate player, dominating their way to the Gold? Impressive, yes but Olympic, not so much. The Games were changed forever and became another platform for professional athletes to gain attention and fatten their endorsement earnings. The games have also been diluted with events like BMX Freestyle and Racing, Skateboarding, and Surfing. If done to broaden interest and increase ratings, the effort failed miserably. The ratings for Olympic viewers have been on a steady decline for both the Summer and Winter Games. The Summer Games are still held every four years, but the Winter Games have broken with tradition and are now held every two years, which may be too often.
I confess to only watching two events during this Olympics. They were the Men’s and Women’s Golf. Yes, they were professionals, and the events seemed like extensions of the PGA and LPGA but having two Americans bring home the Gold was somehow rewarding. Guess that may seem a bit hypocritical on my part. I am guilty as charged. Xander Schauffele is a worthy champion, and Nelly Korda is having a year that most can only dream of. The controversies about the US Women’s Soccer Team disrespecting our flag and anthem, transgender “female” weightlifters, and the confusion over the on-again, off-again effort of Simone Biles have kept me from watching. I am still undecided on where I stand with Biles, but I have a problem with her quitting on her teammates and made a hero for doing so by the media.
I know I am a traditionalist and that I need to accept change. I do not feel the changes made in the Olympics have been for the good of the Games. The rating decline leads me to believe I am not alone. That is sad. I wish there were something that the whole country could unite behind and support. I want to think that there was something that, if only temporarily, could bridge our divide. I guess I will need to keep looking as the Olympics is not that something.