I didn’t watch any of this year’s winter Olympics. I take that back, I watched the final few minutes of Jessie Diggins winning a Silver medal in the 30 km cross country event on a YouTube recap. I am in awe of the physical effort cross country takes. She crossed the finish line and collapsed in a heap, saliva and vomit dripping out of her mouth as she gasped for air. She had to be lifted up by two people and carried to a medical tent. I can’t fathom pushing the limits of endurance like that. I get winded just walking up the stairs. But I digress… I didn’t watch any of the summer Olympics either. Actually, I’m not sure the last time I really watched any of the summer or winter games.
I don’t know why. It became too polished and commercial. Non-stop slickly produced pieces of fluff about a figure skater whose one-armed grandfather sold the family farm to hire coaches and personally drove her 300 miles each day to practice. NBC became so focused on producing human interest stories, they forgot to cover the actual events.
And now, it’s a professional sport. It’s no longer a starving college kid, sacrificing everything to make the Olympic team. It’s sponsored athletes who, at times, appear to be more focused on future endorsement deals than representing their country. It’s professional athletes who calculate if they can take time out of their pro season to snag a medal before returning to their team. It’s athletes who live, train, and exploit everything this country offers, then go off and represent another country.
The Olympic games used to be a moment in time where you could be enthusiastically patriotic. To feel proud and root for your country. Patriotism is largely gone. Both in sport and in everyday life. To declare, display, or in any way indicate that you feel patriotic will get you branded as a nationalist. I drive a pickup truck. If I were to place a large American flag sticker on my back window, I guarantee a large percentage of people would have a knee-jerk reaction when seeing it. In their head they’d think, at best, redneck. More likely, gun-loving white nationalist (well, supremacist but we don’t say that part out loud. It’s rude).
How did we get to this point? How did we arrive at a place where proclaiming national pride is a bad thing? You know it’s true, don’t lie. If you see an American flag on someone’s t-shirt, hat, or vehicle, your first thought probably won’t be “I bet they’re a democrat”. How did that happen? We cheer the proud Ukrainians as they bravely fight the nasty ‘ol Russkies and support their defiance as a nation. Everyone on the social medias is busy posting their “I stand with Ukraine” virtue signaling. But say “America first” and instantly you’re branded an isolationist who hates diversity. How did get to this place?
The 1980 miracle on ice was one of the greatest sporting/Olympic moments ever. The United States underdog men’s hockey team, defeating the four-time gold medal Russian team in a thrilling finish. Man, as a teenager I was so proud to be an American that day. I was so proud of my country. Today, I need to be careful what I say otherwise the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion police will put me on a watch list.
A country that has no national pride ceases to be a country. That’s rapidly what we’re becoming. No longer a country, but instead a collection of independent global citizens. Unless we find a way to reignite that spark of national pride, we’ll soon be Europe. The North American equivalent of the EU. No northern or southern borders. Maybe it’s inevitable. The natural progression of societies.
The thought of it makes me a little sad. I miss the old Olympic spirit.