Accidental Dissent: Athens to Sochi

Posted by By at 7 March, at 09 : 00 AM Print

As we watch Team USA rack up Olympic currency, we might consider why humans are fascinated by physical benchmarks, feats of the flesh. There are reasons why today’s brilliant minds—poets, the scientific community, great thinkers of any sort—don’t enjoy a similar venue as brilliant bodies. But what are those reasons?

On second thought, it’s probably best not to look for them, because in the end, the reasons don’t matter. There have been all sorts of studies on the human fascination (some might say obsession) with sports. And each set of results make sense, if you don’t really think about them.

However spirited or irrational sports fans may be, the reality is that athletes at any level—not just the professional glitterati—bring people together. In doing so, they offer more than temporary inspiration, more than superficial entertainment value, more than raising the bar, as it were, of past athletic accomplishments, and certainly more than a slightly deeper discussion piece than the 30 hours of snow we just had.

Fans of Shani Davis, Bryan Barnett, Lascelles Brown, Neville Wright, Winston Watts, or the five black women riding on Team USA’s bobsled, might agree.

Olympians could simply pride themselves on the physical ability to do what so few can. They could see themselves strictly as entertainers.

I had the opportunity to play with and against Olympians during a three-year sporting career, and even the most simple-minded among them were anything but prejudiced. The constant travel and up-close-and-personal exposure to human differences can force otherwise closed-minded people to become better social thinkers.

And that’s perhaps the greatest, perhaps most uncelebrated, allure. Athletes have been longtime lead-by-example spokespeople against bigotry, centerpieces in the bridging of social capital. Our global applause for sports, particularly the Olympics, has transcended some of the greatest social barriers and eroded baseless stereotypes, a claim which few institutions can make.

Needless to say, the performances of black athletes have helped earn the African American community a much stronger seat at political roundtables. And with the recent coming out of NFL prospect Michael Sam, black athletes have a chance to do a similar favor for the LGBT community.

Putin’s homophobic displays notwithstanding, we can partly thank Athens, Sochi, and every Olympic Games in between for that chance. Time will tell which open-minded football front office will grant that favor.

 

Photo by  KOREA.NET

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- who has written 4 posts for Rock The Capital
Ryan's interests in U.S. foreign and domestic polices began during a four-year stint abroad, during which he visited over thirty countries and lived in seven, most formatively Israel and Indonesia. A graduate of Juniata College (B.A., English), since returning to the States Ryan earned a Master’s in Education from Millersville University with an emphasis in English as a Second Language. He has worked in various educational disciplines as a counselor, teacher, and mentor. - Email Ryan Genova

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