Thursday, February 18, 2010
I love the Olympic Games. The athletes are living out a dream that few people ever get a chance to experience. The stories of their lives are fascinating. The sacrifices they make are immense. Their efforts are almost unbelievable. They don't do it for the money. Yes, some receive endorsements, but most do not. I guarantee you that the thrill of the competition is the motivation. Many professional sports, in my opinion, have been ruined by the money involved. I prefer watching amateur sports because generally the participants do it for the love of the sport, not the money. Okay, I know they now have professionals in the Olympics, but what is coveted is that gold medal. You can have your Super Bowl rings and other baubles from other sports. In my opinion there is nothing like an Olympic medal. Nothing! As I am writing this, I am watching Lindsay Vonn literally crying with joy after her gold medal in the downhill. She overcame injuries and unbelievable sacrifices to pursue her goal. They showed 3 women having spectacular crashes in the Women's downhill. Big time wipe outs. Nobody seriously hurt, luckily. But speeding downhill at 70 mph could be considered a bit crazy. Hate to even mention the Georgian bobsledder, what a god-awful shame. Why the hell do they do it? My guess, and I think I have a little experience here, is that it's absolutely thrilling! Dangerous? Sure! Scary? Absolutely! Insane? Maybe (to some people) But what a friggin RUSH! Somehow, I think we can all relate to this. Nobody can deny that motorcycling/scootering is at times a bit dangerous. Perhaps that danger is part of the thrill we all experience. Dan Bateman (Irondad) has referred to me a couple of times as the "Daredevil Accountant". I am not at all sure I deserve the designation, but it is the result of some comments, discussions and fun we have had with each other, essentially about this very subject. I am really a pretty boring person in many respects, but I do have a history of doing some things in my life that many might consider out of the ordinary, even dangerous. When I was in junior high I got the bug to become a pole vaulter. I took a couple of pieces of wood, put some nails in them at 4" intervals, poked them into the ground, a bamboo pole served as a crossbar, dug a little hole and my vaulting pole was an old tether ball pole. I spent hours and hours out there in the back yard practicing, experimenting and imagining that someday, maybe I, too, could be an Olympian. When I got into high school I used a fiberglass pole, learned to bend it and had immediate success with it. I earned a silver medal at the state meet during my sophomore year. The dream of someday possibly becoming an Olympian grew and I started to get real serious about it and trained very hard for a couple of years. Long story short, I never made it, never even close, but the dream was very real to me. I have no regrets about never making it big. It was the dream and the spirit of competition that motivated me. When I was a senior in high school, a couple of pole vaulters from Sweden were setting new world records. They attended a track meet at the University of Kansas and I and some other high school age vaulters were allowed to sit on the floor of the stadium and watch these guys vault. They were like gods to us. I remember vividly looking up at the crossbar set at 17' 10", literally in awe of their ability. Now, you must realize, that pole vaulters are sometimes considered the crazies on the track team. They must have a screw loose somewhere. A teammate of mine actually broke his back by missing the pit one day. Recently, in a small town near Wichita, a high school vaulter sustained a serious head injury. Many wear helmets now, which is an excellent idea. I myself had some injuries as well from these endeavors. Why did I do it? Because it was such a blast! Almost like flying. See where I am coming from? Riding on 2 wheels is a blast, too. Almost like flying! Is it that much different to blast down a highway at high speed? Or really lean into a curve. I became good friends with a lot of the guys I vaulted against. We gave each other tips and ideas, helped each other out. Except for that one guy from Lawrence High, he was a real asshole. There was a sort of common bond between us. That bond is similar to the ones I feel with other Riders. Maybe that is part of the reason we wave at each other. Or blog with each other. Or give each other a bunch of shit sometimes. Riding is a Pure Sport. We don't get paid for it. We do it because we love it! Not unlike Olympians in some respects. PS. The only bad thing about the Olympics? Those damn Russian judges!