Saturday, February 08, 2014

International Indifference

I'm an Olympics nut. Especially the winter Olympics. I love winter sports over summer in the first place and summer weighs heavily on running so it doesn't capture my attention quite the same way. I grew up a skier and a hockey player. Anyway, I love the Olympics. I'm so happy that NBC Sports Network is nearly 24/7 coverage. It's on in the background as I go about my day so I can see or absorb as much as possible.

Truthfully, I was concerned about the social media reaction leading up to the Olympics. I chose to not say anything because I thought that just may be the spark people needed and I didn't want to be a part of it. I have to say that I was initially pleasantly surprised that nobody said a word about it. Then I got to thinking and realized that indifference may be worse. I ran it through my social media business filter in my mind. We have evangelists that praise companies and as a marketer, I love them; naturally. We have the haters, which most companies are aggravated about, but I love them too. When people scream from the rafters about what they hate most, I can address it for clients and attempt to fix. It's the quiet ones you've gotta worry about. Did they like it or hate it? Enough to stay quiet, but not come back? It's a lot of guessing.

In this case, I have to wonder if people are even aware of the Olympics anymore. Have they lost that much relevance? Once they kicked off, everyone jumped on the Sochi is a shithole bandwagon, but that wasn't enough fuel to even talk about the games themselves. That both surprised and disappointed me.

To each their own, I guess. I point no fingers to the people who don't watch them, but I wish everyone would. I'm amazed by them. I'm sure they're politicized in some ways that I purposefully ignore. I'm sure they're not as wholesome as my rose-colored glasses make them appear. Maybe my shallow view of them is unfair; I don't know. But let me tell you what I see.

  • Countries that are friends or not friends or acquaintances or enemies laying down their swords in the spirit of international competition.
  • Athletes who make almost NO money working their asses off to compete. Most of them are capable of going pro (and some do), but would prefer to do it for passion, love and patriotism.
  • Athletes who, in the training process, know they often have ONE shot, and if they miss it a lifetime of training results in nearly nothing. As a businessman, that's horrible ROI. Who wants to kick a 50-yard field goal through 4-foot wide uprights against the wind?
  • Colors, lights, fun, international brotherhood/sisterhood/siblinghood, fashion, parties, etc. A planet becoming a community, if only for 2 weeks.
  • Pride beyond pride, but not people being prideful. Humble pride? A man as the single representative of his country dancing into the stadium waving the flag of his nation during the opening ceremonies was a level of excitement and pride coupled with humility unlike anything I've ever seen.
  • Against all odds accomplishment - Jamaican bobsled team anyone? They're back this year along with a handful of Caribbean nations - at the winter Olympics.
And the list goes on. Our relationship with Russia is icy, at best, but not for the nest few weeks. Team USA has over 200 athletes. They came in with their Ralph Lauren Team USA sweaters that looked like they were knitted by senile Aunt Irma for Christmas, but they were cheering and chanting and hugging and excited. Fresh faced young Americans ready to accomplish something magical for no reason other than to make their country proud. Some had events to compete in just hours after the ceremonies, but chose to be there anyway. 

As I write this I feel myself romanticizing it, but I don't care. I see enough terrible shit on TV all day every day - killings, war, abductions, drugs, down to arguing over petty things, infidelity, political altercations and more. There is enough junk to focus on. This transcends all that. When was the last time you considered a country like Azerbaijan? And here they are competing. Timor-Leste sent a couple people. Four athletes showed up without a country's endorsement. They are Independent Olympic Participants. Imagine that.

Tune in or tune out. As always, that's your choice. If I could ask one favor, it would be to think about all that it takes to make this happen and why people do it. If you see more than athletic events, give it all a shot. It's refreshing and only happens every 4 years (per season, at least). 

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