Category Archives: Olympic Games

Father vs. Dad (part 3)

Those of us who understand that we must model proper authority to our children can still be a part of the fathering problem if we don’t intentionally model success. I wrote the following during the 2012 Summer Olympics:

By Way of Comparison

“Do you think someday I will be as fast as him?”

This is what my six-year-old son asked as we watched Usain Bolt win gold in the 200 meter race last night. Way to put me on the spot, kid.

That’s a tough question to answer when your son is grinning at you with that imaginative glow in his eyes. I didn’t want to belittle him or his six-year-old imagination that can still envision himself standing on top of an Olympic podium… I remember having that same dream when I saw Carl Lewis in 1988. On the other hand, I don’t want to fill his head with garbage. Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how much he trains or works or runs, Jack just doesn’t have the genes to be the fastest sprinter in the world. I guess that’s my fault. Well, half my fault half his mom’s fault.

“You can do anything you put your mind to” may be the most-often quoted lie. Maybe second to “No, that doesn’t make you look fat.”

I answered him by saying something like “That would really be something if you could run as fast as Usain Bolt because no one else in the history of the world has ever run as fast as he can” and we went back to watching the Olympics. See how I didn’t answer the question and avoided crushing his dreams? I’m pretty good at deflecting. At least I thought I was good at deflecting…he was obviously still thinking about it because a few minutes later he asked another question that was easier to answer but a lot more to think about.

“Dad, someday could you teach me to run as fast as you?”

In the span of 2 minutes he had gone from an unrealistic dream of being the fastest man ever to the all-to-obtainable goal of being as fast as a thirty-year-old, slightly overweight guy who likes to go for a three mile run a few times a week. Who we compare ourselves to makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

“Jack, I will run with you as much as you want, and I hope you’ll be faster than me someday.”

So back to the current topic…

  • Every dad knows it—our kids learn from us.
  • Every dad gets it—our kids want to be like us in many ways.
  • If we’re honest, every dad all also understands that sometimes our kids say “I’ll never be like that.”

I wonder how much it would change the way I interact with my kids if I realized that I am my kid’s measuring stick for life. How they compare to me will be their gauge of both success and failure. If I kept that thought forefront in my mind, I wonder if I would have a better chance of being their idea of success.

By Way of Comparison

“Do you think someday I will be as fast as him?”

This is what my six-year-old son asked as we watched Usain Bolt win gold in the 200 meter race last night. Way to put me on the spot, kid.

That’s a tough question to answer when your son is grinning at you with that imaginative glow in his eyes. I didn’t want to belittle him or his six-year-old imagination that can still envision himself standing on top of an Olympic podium… I remember having that same dream when I saw Carl Lewis in 1988. On the other hand, I don’t want to fill his head with garbage. Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how much he trains or works or runs, Jack just doesn’t have the genes to be the fastest sprinter in the world. I guess that’s my fault. Well, half my fault half his mom’s fault.

“You can do anything you put your mind to” may be the most-often quoted lie. Maybe second to “No, that doesn’t make you look fat.”

I answered him by saying something like “That would really be something if you could run as fast as Usain Bolt because no one else in the history of the world has ever run as fast as he can” and we went back to watching the Olympics. See how I didn’t answer the question and avoided crushing his dreams? I’m pretty good at deflecting. At least I thought I was good at deflecting…he was obviously still thinking about it because a few minutes later he asked another question that was easier to answer but a lot more to think about.

“Dad, someday could you teach me to run as fast as you?”

In the span of 2 minutes he had gone from an unrealistic dream of being the fastest man ever to the all-to-obtainable goal of being as fast as a thirty-year-old, slightly overweight guy who likes to go for a three mile run a few times a week. Who we compare ourselves to makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

“Jack, I will run with you as much as you want, and I hope you’ll be faster than me someday.”

 

Here’s a spiritual challenge:

  • When I compare myself to the best I become discouraged. I don’t know all of their faults and, therefore, cannot possibly scale the unrealistic pedestal I have placed them on.
  • When I compare myself to the worst I become prideful. I can always find someone whose sins are more numerous or more disgusting than my own.
  • When I compare myself to God I realize just how pitiful we all are. We all miss the mark by so much that comparisons to any other human are insignificant.
  • When I compare the way God values me to how much I deserve to be valued I find my purpose and worth. True value is not found in self-esteem, but God’s esteem.

Gymnastics is Art, not Sport

Art’s worth is determined by how it is interpreted by others rather than an objective set of rules. There are some musicians, dancers, actors, and comedians that are better than others, but quantifying their performances, especially at a high level of technical expertise, is mostly subjective. Gymnastics is more performance art than sport.

Yep, you read that right. Now let me tell you what you did not read. I did not say that gymnasts are not athletes. I did not say that gymnastics is not entertaining. I did not say that it doesn’t belong in the Olympics. I did not say that I don’t respect the commitment and work that it takes to be great in the discipline. I simply believe that the competition, by its very nature, does not fit within my very broad view of what constitutes sport.

I believe that in order to embody the spirit of a sport, a competition should have a clear, well-defined objective and that there should be a clearly defined difference between a winner and a loser.

  • In all forms of races the goal is to cross the finish line before your opponents. The athlete who does this is the winner.
  • In sports with goals (basketball, soccer, water polo, hockey, handball, football, etc.) the object is to move the ball to a specific point. The team or individual that does this the most will win the game.
  • In volley games (volleyball, tennis, table tennis, racquetball, etc.) the last player to land the ball in his opponent’s territory wins the point.
  • Target sports (archery, shooting, curling, and even horseshoes) regulate that the player closest to the target will win.
  • The weightlifter who gets the most weight to the correct position will win.
  • Even a ridiculously complicated sport like baseball has simple, well-defined objectives of advancing through three bases to arrive at home plate (although it has always baffled me that it is one of the only sports where the defense controls the ball).

What is gymnastics clear objective? Get a group of judges to score your performance higher than anyone else’s? I’m not just picking on gymnastics. Diving, equestrian events, synchronized swimming, figure skating, and often boxing are other Olympic sports that are just as ridiculous in their declarations of winners and losers. An audience’s reaction to the performance (judges’ numerical scoring) determines the winner.

The obvious argument against my reasoning is that all sports are subject to misapplication of rulings by humans. Referees, umpires, officials, timekeepers, and scorekeepers make mistakes, but in objective sporting events they are not making decisions that are the sole difference between losing and winning. If a referee makes a bad call the team can overcome it and still win by making shots, running faster, or scoring goals. In subjective sports the judge simply tells you who won after the performance. Apart from appealing to a governing body there is no way to overcome a mistaken official even through superior performance. I won’t even discuss the possibility of brazenly biased or incompetent judges.

In 2008 the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) changed the familiar ten-point scale to a more fair, if completely incomprehensible, scoring system. Each element is given a starting point value based on difficulty and there are specific guidelines for deductions…but the outcome is still based entirely on how a small group of people interpret an individual’s performance. That sounds like a recital, pageant, or concert to me.

Disagree? That’s why there’s a “Leave a Comment” button below.

Olympics Day Zero: The Opening Ceremony

There are very few reasons that we ever allow our kids to stay up past their normal 9:00 bed time. Okay, that’s not entirely true…or even true at all. This week we have already missed that mark three times. On Sunday we hung out at church until 9:30. On Tuesday we stayed at Busch Gardens until the park closed at 10:00 and didn’t get home until midnight. Last night was a two-hour edition of Wipe Out that started at 8:00. I’m pretty sure the Geneva Convention has something in it about depriving children of the pleasure of seeing people getting flipped upside down and falling 15 feet into icy water.

Tonight will be the fourth occasion because the Olympic Summer Games opening ceremony will be airing at 7:30 EDT. I have no clue how long my kids will be able to endure the sanctimonious, snail-paced circling of the track by world-class athletes they have never heard of, but it’s a safe bet to say it will be past 9:00 when they finally realize that the opening ceremony is mostly a snooze-fest.

In the interest of entertainment value for the 4 billion people who will be watching tonight, and realizing that I am fresh off a two-hour Wipe Out episode, here are a few things that I am hoping to see at the opening ceremony tonight:

  • An athlete trip. It would be even better if the Olympians from one nation decided to play a real-life game of Mario Kart and drop banana peels for the following nation to slip on.
  • A torch-related mishap. It could be as simple as a fumbled handoff or the flame going out halfway around the track but I’m really hoping for 2nd degree burns.
  • A rogue animal. Someone thought it would be a good idea to include live animals in the show tonight (70 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens, and 9 geese). I’m sure there will be a clean-up crew close by but I’m really hoping some sheep get loose. Could you imagine the Three Stooges-style scene of Olympic sprinters chasing barnyard animals through the stadium?
  • Forgotten lyrics. Tonight there will be dozens of speeches and songs. I want to see someone “Watermelon, watermelon” their way through a chorus. If it’s Paul McCartney will we chalk it up to old age or drug use?
  • A flip phone. You will see countless iPhones tonight in the muscular grip of Olympians capturing their memories. I want to see one of them, perhaps an archer from Sri Lanka or a rhythmic gymnast from the Ukraine, pull out an LG VX6300 and start snapping 1.3 megapixel photos.

The sad part is that London is six hours ahead of the right coast of the United States so we will be watching the opening ceremony on a three and a half hour tape delay. Even if any of the above actually occur, it is unlikely we will ever see it…until someone in England posts it on YouTube. We’re counting on you, gov’ner.

What are you hoping to see at the opening ceremony?