The Quest for Legacy Continues

An Olympic Impact on My Decision to Blog

It is time to face the inevitable.  Summer is officially over.  I know a few of the technical types out there are probably protesting my claim, arguing that Labor Day has always been the official end to summer.  And I get it, because you are also the people who just want to squeeze in every bit of what the season has to offer, a club I’m definitely also a member of (hence the somewhat random blog post). But unfortunately, that doesn’t change the fact that this year summer has just ended and the proof is in the closing ceremony of the Olympics.  Despite how disinterested or distracted from the competitive triumphs a majority of the American population seems to be in regard to the games in Rio, my competitive, athletic-enthusiast of a father taught me appreciation for all that the games represent.  It is with this appreciation that I claim: It is impossible to have summer after the Olympics have ended, and in order to explain why, we will need to go back to 1996.

1996 was the first year I actually remember watching the Olympics.  I think for all of us the first memorable Olympics is housed in a special place of our hearts.  But this year was an especially important Olympics for all Americans, because they were actually being held here, in Atlanta.  I could even tell that this was a big deal as a kid, but only because of the way all the adults’ voices seemed to change in order to emphasis that particular detail.  They were setting us up to remember a significance that we were not yet mature enough to understand.  It wouldn’t be until much later that I fully comprehended the actual geographical significance (my husband may joke that I still don’t fully grasp it…I’m not great with geography).  However, this really isn’t why the 1996 Olympics became historically epic, it was the US women’s gymnastics team.  Every little girl was glued to her television screen busting at the seams with dreams of being one of those gymnasts.  Unfortunately for the Internet, I was one of them.  

Practicing to be the world's best gymnast in '96.

Practicing to be the world’s best gymnast in ’96.

See, watching all of the inspiring athleticism, changed the rules when it came to playing with your friends.  For instance, a friend of mine who lived up the road was an actual gymnast, and by that I mean her parents’ signed her up, paid for and drove her to classes some fraction of every week, even setting up a practice balance beam in their basement, all because they believed in her athletic abilities.  So naturally, when we were sent off each morning in the summer with the generic instruction from our parents to, “Go play,” my friend and I would find each other to pick up where we left off in our own version of the Olympics of ‘96 that took place in her basement.  Typically, it went something like this:

First: We plugged in the boom-box and turned up some Jock Jams (and yes kids, I mean turned up not turnt, it was a more civilized time)

Second: Decide who was doing what routine first.  We had a mat set-up for the floor routine, and on some occasions ribbons were involved.  We had a trampoline that when used with the balance beam became a vault, but only if there wasn’t already an event going on at the beam.  Once we’d taken our places at the first event, it was time for the next phase.  

Third: Be the Olympic gymnast.  In our imaginary gym, sometimes we’d just reenact regurgitations of what we’d seen in reality.  Other times, we’d flip the script and throw in some twists and turns of our own devising just so that we would have to problem solve our way out of them (this was called playing kids, it existed before the Internet).  Individually we’d often provide the commentary for our own event, but not loud enough to be heard by our teammate or the blaring boombox.  That part, dreaming up the commentary, was always what I loved most about doing gymnastics.   

Last: All the brothers would come barreling down the basement stairs, mine both taunting that our mom needed me to come home right away, and just like that, I’m snapped back into reality.

Now, 20 years later (shocking I know, but I’m a math teacher so you can trust me), I can’t help but notice all of the similarities between my summer of ‘96 and ‘16.  Maybe it’s the competitive nature of the Olympics, or perhaps we should carefully consider the possibility of some kind of brainwashing, but either way something about the games just inspires us, humanity, to be better.  On an individual level, the games in ‘96 inspired me to be the world’s best gymnast.  Even though I always had a sense that my parents didn’t actually believe me when I swore to them that I would be the next Dominique Moceanu, they would still feed me the stereotypical good parent you can do anything you want to line.  But as it turns out, they were right, and not from a statistical or logical perspective, but because they knew what I hadn’t yet figured out for myself.  My heart was never in the gymnastics part of being an Olympian.  I never asked to go to a class, or worked on form, strength, and flexibility.  What I dreamed of, and was inspired by, was the idea of being the world’s best.  But honestly, it could have been the world’s best anything (yes, even cup of coffee).  The flaw in my plan was not going after the part of playing gymnastics that I loved.  

So as the summer winds down and it comes time again for dreams to give way to a more practical reality (the reason why summer ends with the closing ceremonies, btw), I start to question whether this whole blog thing is just me being another idiot on the Internet who likes to hear her own voice.  And even though that very well may be the case, I can’t help but feel closer to my dream now than I did during the Olympics of ‘96. At least this time I’m chasing the right part of my dream, where the passion was.  But if I’m really ever going to stand a chance at reaching Olympic status, all the athletes would agree, that now begins the hard part, the season of working to make it happen.

And that’s what the Olympics are all about Charlie Brown,

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