Every four years, the world’s top athletes come together to compete at the Summer Olympics. They have the opportunity to serve as ambassadors for their country, which is an honor that should be handled with the utmost dignity and respect.
The Olympic Games is a misnomer—this is no game. This is a fierce competition, where athletes push themselves beyond their own limitations: broken ankles, sickness, personal tragedy all must be overcome to pursue the gold medal and the respect of their country and the world.
We watch these competitions full of hope, wanting our nation’s athletes to perform well for themselves and for us. We cringe when the women gymnasts step out of bounds on their floor routines or fall flat on their back during their vault landings. We cheer when our swimmers break world records, even though they’re disappointed because they know they could have been faster.
These people are giving their all because they know what an honor it is to have the opportunity to compete at the world’s top sporting event. Which leads me to this week’s burning question:
Am I the only one embarrassed by the American men’s gymnastics team after their performance on Sunday evening?
No, I’m not talking about their terrible round on the pommel horse or the weak 12.75 and 13.75 two of the members brought in that night. I’m talking about their humiliating display of immaturity every time they realized they were in the presence of the media.
Granted, they had the right to be excited. After all, they’re at the Olympics representing their country in the sport that they love in front of a crowd full of cheering onlookers.
But maybe if they had spent their time between competitors focusing on their routines, or concentrating on what needed to be done to excel in the event and had spent a little less time writing notes on their palms and waving at the cameras to send messages home, or giving uninvited (and awkward) interviews to the cameramen, or making faces up close into the camera as it swept by, maybe then they could have earned better than a “surprising” bronze medal.
It’s true, the team was a long shot to place considering the Hamm brothers both had to leave the team due to injuries. Winning a bronze medal is truly great news.
But is placing third as satisfying when there’s the possibility that if they’d focused more on their responsibilities instead of hamming it up to the news cameras, they could have placed higher? Did they really try their best?
The team competed with two alternate teammates who didn’t make the cut the first time because they weren’t quite good enough. The Americans came in fourth on vault, fifth on parallel bars, seventh on floor and last on pommel horse, just barely pulling off a bronze medal. The last thing the American team should be shouting into the camera (repeatedly, I might add) is, “That’s how we roll!”
That’s how we roll?? You rely on teammates who weren’t really qualified to be there in the first place, you mess around on the sidelines and don’t focus on the task at hand, you drop a rank at each event only to finally screw up royally in the final round of this series, and you luckily manage to get a bronze medal (after making it publicly clear that you couldn’t do the math to determine whether you’d placed in the top three after all, a moment that wasn’t lost on the sports caster).
To top it off, you jump around hollering at the media like a bunch of college freshmen who spotted the MTV Spring Break cameraman? That’s how you roll? That’s how you represent your country? Your moms must be proud.
Well, congratulations, boys. You’ve earned America another medal. And you’ve certainly cost America a lot of respect.
Enjoy those bronze medals. Now that the team has done so well in 2008, four of the members plan to return to the 2012 Olympics in London.
Hopefully, the training plan will include a lesson in humility.
For more articles by Benjamin Edwards, please visit Studyofsports.com