By Dr. Russ,
What color(s) comes to mind when you think of the Olympics? The three most obvious colors are GOLD, SILVER and BRONZE. If you’re from the USA, you might answer RED, WHITE, and BLUE; or from Germany BLACK, RED and GOLD; or from any nation, the national colors of your country.
My answer is none of the above. I argue that the proper color of Olympic Optimism is RED!
Why do I nominate RED as the official color of the Olympic Optimism? Because Olympic Optimism comes directly from BLOOD, SWEAT and TEARS. I know NBC and all the news media focus on the color GOLD. As I have blogged before, less than 3% of those competing will win a Gold Medal, and less than 9% a medal of any color.
Every athlete in the Olympics past and present has their personal story of “blood, sweat, and tears;” a story of overcoming setbacks of pain and injury, come from behind “underdog” victories, and holding back tears while managing the disappointment of defeat.
Just a few days ago, Jordyn Wieber, a U.S.A. favorite for an individual medal in the Women’s All Around Gymnastics competition, was locked out of competing in the final of the event because two of her teammates unexpectedly outscored her; only two athletes from a country can compete in the final, a rule the famed coach Bela Karolyi loudly denounced.
Seimone Augustus a superstar on the Gold medal favored, USA Olympic Women’s Basketball team has recovered from anterior cruciate ligament surgery and the removal of 3 fibroid tumors followed by a hysterectomy in the last several years. One tumor was the size of a bowling ball.
In the 4th century, Gregory of Nyssa wrote about virtue and perfection. He taught that virtue could only be sought for its own sake. Seeking to be virtuous for God’s approval or the approval of others or for obtaining glory or riches on earth only undermines and negates virtue. According to Saint Gregory, perfection cannot be achieved by any human, but living a life in the pursuit of ever improving perfection just for the sake of constant improvement and getting better and better in skill or character is the way of virtue modeled by Moses. "With no stopping place in the spiritual quest for perfection, our journey has no limit. But even though perfection is unattainable and impossible, Gregory encourages us that "by attaining even a part we gain a great deal." (The Journey with Jesus: Book Notes, Reviews by Dan Clendenin).
Sure these athletes would all love to win a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal. But, it is only a realistic goal for, at best, 25% of the competitors who know only 10% will actually win one. Most would have rated Jordyn Weiber’s chances of winning an individual gold at 95%, not just 75%. A clear favorite to win an individual gold in the women’s all around, she faced the obstacles of an Olympic rule and chances for her own potential missteps in any given performance moment. Circumstances not under her control.
As I write this blog, I learn that the USA Women’s Olympic Team has won a team Gold Medal to which Jordyn made a major contribution. I ask: Is the color of an Individual Gold Medal any different than the color of Team Gold?
I argue that there is only way that the athletes who make it to this level of competition have survived, overcome and continued the pursuit of excellence, athletic virtue, if you will. They play on because they enjoy and love the sport for its own sake.
They endure and strive to perform better and better not to win a medal or best another, but because they have internalized the virtue of the value of doing their individual best, in any given moment, for its own sake; for the intrinsic reward of self-improvement and having tried again and again to get better and better because that is the ultimate good and value of sport competition.
In this way, pursuing a sport for the sake of the love of the sport and constant self-improvement becomes life and character transforming. The News Media with there emphasis on outcome and winning confuse and distract us from the value of the Olympic Games and their true colors – BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS. Oh, and by the way, the true taste of the Games is SALTY not SWEET!