I’ve drank beers with Olympic athletes. I’ve danced to Bruno Mars with Olympians. I’ve even been on the worst date of my life with an Olympian. (Nope, not telling.)
And, sure, all of these Olympians were run-the football-bleachers-before-dawn driven. But they were also all unbelievably human.
I’m excited for the Olympics because I’m excited about the people at the Olympics. Sure, there are superstar celebrity Olympians like Serena, Carmelo and Usain. But for the most part, Olympic athletes don’t have household names nor multi-million dollar Rolex contracts. We recognize them as the folks-who-could-live next door.
What I love about most Olympians is that they haven’t quite yet been “glossified.” They seem more human before they have made the cover of ESPN magazine. They have turtleneck-wearing moms and pimples and bad hair cuts. They don’t have a Rolodex of girlfriends…yet. Take, Richelle Stephens, who looks like the-babysitter-next-door. Or Beezie Madden, the 52 year old equestrian powerhouse. (How could you not cheer for someone named Beezie?) Or Vincent Hancock, who looks a lot like my bank teller. I can’t wait to cheer on Richelle, Beezie, and Vincent because it will feel like I’m cheering on friends.
And sure, while some athletic careers can span decades, unfortunately, their Olympic careers probably only last a couple of minutes. (Or in the case of short distance runners, a couple of hopefully very short seconds.) So, as a spectator, I feel the tension. Unlike NFL football or MLB baseball games, which appear on any television screen in any sports bar any day of the year, I don’t really have the opportunity to watch archery every day. This every-four-year peek at a sport is what keeps it interesting. In fact, most of the sports at the Olympics I never watch until the Olympics. (I’ve never watched a curling match that wasn’t Olympic. I’ve never watched men’s volleyball that wasn’t Olympic. Heck, I’ve never even watched a track meet that wasn’t Olympic.)
This year, there are 555 members on the USA Olympic Team. They range from 46 states, and 54 of them are parents. They range in age from 16 to 52. (That means that in some ways, I’m twenty-one years too old to compete, but 15 years too young. Don’t do the math. I’m Forever 21, if you look at my label.) Two of them are named Carli Lloyd. Some of them are very small, others are very tall. They’re a diverse group of talent, and I’ll be cheering on all of them.
Rio will have its challenges. (I’ll be honest, this is one Olympic games that I will be happy to watch from my own couch.) And I wish some sort of toilet-related karma on the dopers. But, I’m looking forward to watching our athletes have their moment.
God bless the pre-dawn stair runners. Go, get ’em!