February 19, 2013

Wrestling With the Issues

I don't know why the International Olympic Committee voted wrestling out of the Olympic Games.

But I also don't really care.

Now before someone tries to pin me to a mat in a tangled mass of limbs and singlets, step back.

Yes, the Olympics are the largest world stage for whatever your sport may be. Yes, all athletes hope they will someday wear a gold medal and wipe away tears to the notes of their country's anthem. Yes, it brings most of the developed countries in the world together under the umbrella of sport, and anything that brings nations together in a non-political or non-war-like domain is definitely a great thing.

However, America needs to realize that it is not the only country on the planet, and this decision about a sport has much more to do with a lot more people than just Americans - just like all of the IOC's decisions.

"The princes, princesses, and pooh-bahs of Europe who still run the IOC have an unwritten credo: Take billions from U.S. corporate sponsors while regularly kicking the American sporting nation in the teeth," writes Christine Brennan. This article on USA Today paints essentially an anti-American agenda in the IOC, which does not serve to bring people together, but to foster anger and animosity toward Europeans.

You're right; nobody wrestles in Europe. (FALSE!) This is sport I know nothing about and do not find enjoyable, but I'm at least aware of the fact that Europe is also unhappy with the decision. There is a petition circling around France, and probably more countries, to reinstate the sport already. I received it! Being that a Frenchman, Pierre de Coubertin, created the IOC in the first place, maybe the French feel even more "snubbed" by this decision. Ever wonder why all Olympic announcements are in English AND French?

The elephant in the room of this discussion is not some secret IOC agenda to limit American medals; it is instead the mad amount of value our first world cultures give sport...instead of other things.

London's opening ceremonies alone cost $42 million. (Beijing's cost $100 million. Ouch.) The thousands of volunteers who made the incredible experience possible continued to state how "amazing it was to be a part of something so special." We got to see every British story come to life, and we reveled in the moments of Mary Poppins, Harry Potter, and James Bond.

None of it is real.

Sport is also just created; it is an arranged idea of competition by societies with too much leisure time who don't want to be bored. This is coming from an athlete and coach, someone who has wrapped their entire life into the invented world of sport. I can only justify my path by using athletics as a medium to have learned and now communicate greater and more important skills: teamwork, commitment, honesty, leadership, toughness, to name a few. These are the intangibles our world used to learn everyday in labor, farming, exploring, and survival. Third world countries are still facing these struggles as a part of their normal lives.

Our nations are in economic crises. Our families don't have jobs. Our children are orphaned and starving. Our marriages break promises. Our young adults live from alcohol to one night stands. Our babies are murdered daily because of irresponsibility. Our people - every living man and woman on the planet - are in pain. Sport has yet to save us from ourselves.

And how dare they pull wrestling from the Olympics?!

If you're upset about the wrestling deletion, go do something positive about it. Sign a petition, write to the IOC, become a sponsor of the sport. It's great to support something you love. But do not turn this into a blame game, giving the ignorant more reasons to hate.

But if you want to do something really special? (Acting in a stadium spectacle does not count.) Go help people. Don't settle for just entertaining them; give what you have, whether it be time, money, love, whatever - there is always someone who needs it more than you do.

I don't have very many non-competitive friends; most of my life relationships have been within the context of athletics in some form or another. But when I do talk to non-athlete family members, I remember that sports aren't that important to a whole lot of people.

Not everyone wrestles. Not everyone plays a sport. Not everyone loves the Olympics. Not everyone wants to watch the world spend millions of dollars on competitive exercise.

So please, be positive or just let it go.

USA Today: IOC Loves U.S. money, just not us
Olympic.org: The Olympic Movement
Sports Illustrated: A flair for the theatric, not athletic, at Olympics opening ceremony
Bleacher Report: Opening Ceremony 2012: Kickoff of London Olympics lives up to high price tag
USA Today: Opening ceremony ticket prices sky-high on resale market