Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Bachelorette, Tonya Harding, and the Underdog

The Olympics are a wonderful way to discover the world.  And, I cannot emphasize enough how much I love the Olympics.  I am one of those people who will stay up all night and watch curling like it’s my job.  I admit that I cry when I watch the back stories of athletes whose names I never even knew before the Olympics began.  And, I admit to having a slight crush on Bob Costas.

So, you can imagine my relief to have The Bachelorette finale over just in time for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London to begin this Friday night.  Only kidding.  No offense to Bachelorette Emily Maynard or host Chris Harrison, but honestly the Olympics are more Reality TV than The Bachelorette will ever be.

I’m sure many of you reading this blog remember the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan fiasco just before the 1994 Winter Olympics.  Harding’s husband, Jeff Gillooly, and his friends took a metal pipe to Kerrigan’s knees just weeks before the beginning of the Lillehammer, Norway Games.  In the end, Kerrigan scored the Silver medal and Harding was banned from figure skating for life.  Now, that’s reality.

Oscar Pistorius
The stakes are high; the pressure is even higher.  In less than one week, the world will be watching as Michael Phelps aims to break his own aquatic records in seven, yes SEVEN, races and as South African Oscar “Blade Runner” Pistorius, takes to the track as the first-ever Olympic amputee.  And if those stories don’t scream reality to you, then tune in for the Opening Ceremonies that will include, and I’m not kidding here, a full cavalry of live farm animals. 
The Olympics are a time for celebrating the hard work, dedication, and sacrifice that these athletes have made to their respective sports and countries.  But, as Kent Keith so eloquently put it in his Paradoxical Commandments:

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

The Olympics are a perfect time to cheer for a few underdogs.  Learn their stories and let them inspire you.  Then use that as motivation to inspire someone else.  In just two weeks’ time, Grant County will be launching an initiative that I’ve talked about before, The Passport:  1000 Things Every Grant County Student Should Do Before They Graduate.  

On Friday, August 3rd, The Passport will be made available to all 12,000 students in Grant County, Indiana at First Friday’s Passport Olympic Village.  The Passport is a way for all of our children to begin to discover their worlds.  But, they can’t do it alone.  These underdogs need some trusted adults in their lives to cheer for them, inspire them, and join in the fun of completing this Passport with them.  This is where you come in. 
There’s only one way to expand the opportunities that our youth will have and that’s to broaden their life experiences.  After all, how can one dream of a college degree if they’ve never even stepped on a college campus.  It’s nearly impossible to dream of that which you do not know. 

But, somewhere along the way, someone cheered for and inspired Oscar Pistorius.  Now, every man, woman, and child will be able to witness a new hero, “the fastest man with no legs”, as he beats all odds even before his Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs leave the starting block.
Let the Olympic story encourage you to encourage one of our hard-working Grant County underdogs.  Show someone else that you are dedicated to making their future better than your past.  Sacrifice a little of your valuable time as an investment in some pint-sized human capital. 

And, if that’s not enough of a reason to tune in to the 2012 Summer Olympics this Friday, there’s always what ABC’s Wide World of Sports coined in 1978:  "…the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition”… and, of course, Bob Costas.
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