I know. Writing a column about loving the Olympics is like writing "10 reasons I love chocolate." It seems superfluous. Unless you’re like the Grinch who stole athletics, you probably share that love of competition and sportsmanship. Like us, you’re probably parked in front of the television every night to watch the day’s highlights.
Of course, this is not typical for our family. Fifty weeks out of the year, our TV sits like a cold stone in the corner of the basement. We’re just not big television viewers. We missed Oprah’s farewell show and Jay Leno’s farewell show, we’ve never followed "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars," and I couldn’t tell you what primetime shows are airing this season.
But the Olympics we are big into the Olympics. For two weeks out of the year, the television blazes, the snacks roll down those basement stairs, and we cheer on the greatest athletes in the world.
There are about 500 reasons to love the Olympics. Here are the top three contenders in our family:
Bronze: The Olympics are a way to gauge time.
Were you there at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake? I was, and I’ll never forget watching Apollo Ohno steal the show in short track. I was pregnant with my first son, and I heaved my belly up the mountain to watch Nordic skiing, an unforgettable experience. I’ll also never forget how my son Jackson adored Bode Miller in the 2006 Games, how he’d race around our Miami complex wearing goggles, two brooms tucked under his arms, mimicking the downhill skiing. I measure time by Kerri Strug, Usain Bolt and Picabo Street. We throw back to the opening ceremonies in China and Australia, flipping through our memories like an Olympic scrapbook. We sit around the dinner table, wondering where we’ll be in two years, four years. Those years go by fast.
Silver: We get a lot done.
We are more productive while watching the Olympics than on an average day. Why? Motivation. We are all motivated to get our tasks done so we can sit ourselves in front of the TV to watch bobsledding. My kids have never been so eager to practice the piano and finish their homework. We also use commercial breaks to knock out quick tasks: Gold medal race to finish the dinner dishes! Sweep that floor like you’re an Olympic curler. Fold those clothes in less than two minutes! Truly, my house has never looked so clean. Mozart has never come together so quickly. I am reminded that a little healthy competition coupled with reward is the best way to move the family along.
Gold: The Olympics inspire.
One of the highlights of the opening ceremonies is the Parade of Nations. My kids now know about Malta and Kyrgyzstan. They understand a bit more about topography and climate and why Bermuda only has one athlete competing in the Winter Games. And while we triumph when the United States wins another medal, we cheer even louder to see the Jamaican bobsled team, which culled together donated equipment just to make an Olympic dream come true.
Our best dinner discussions happen during the Olympics. We have competition on the brain, and since we live in a heavily competitive world, the Olympics become the pressure cooker of explanation. How does it feel to work at something only to lose? Is that failure? What is it like to compete in less-than-ideal conditions, with a less-than-healthy body?
And of course, the inevitable: What Olympic sport do you want to compete in when you grow up? I find that, post-Olympics, my kids are more eager to run or bounce a ball. They want to swim faster and glide on ice like those hockey players. They’ve seen triumph, and even if it never takes them to a podium finish, they want to mirror that determination and hard work.
More than anything, the Olympics are about the beauty and endurance of the human body, set together on a global stage in our often-fractured political world. My children don’t understand those nuances, not yet anyway. But for those of us who have grown up, past the age when we can hope to qualify in any sport (except maybe curling), we can still learn from the Olympics, we can still be inspired and we can still find a way to chase our own version of gold.