Thursday, October 30, 2014

In a Turmoil Over the Special Olympics

I admit I’m all in a turmoil when it comes to the Special Olympics. On the one hand, there’s something anachronistically patronizing about it all. When I think of Olympic athletes, I think of Michael Phelps and LeBron James and whichever Kenyan won the last marathon. And let’s face it, if the Special Olympians took on those Olympians, the Special Olympians would get whupped.

On the other hand, so fucking what? The Special Olympics is people getting together and having fun. What’s wrong with that? Isn't having fun what sports is supposed to be all about? What kind of elitist prick am I?

On the other hand, everybody wins in the Special Olympics. If you don’t get a medal you get a ribbon or a certificate suitable for framing. And everybody gets a hug. But that’s not how life works. Everything in life isn’t one big happy tie. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Better get used to it. I’m sure Special Olympians can handle that reality. No need to shield them from it.

On the other hand, so fucking what? Isn’t that a nice break from the hypercompetitive dick-sizing that causes soccer fan riots? I don’t think there has ever been a Special Olympics fan riot. And people don’t turn over cars and set them on fire in gleeful celebration when their Special Olympics team wins either. And what wrong with ties? I call myself a socialist, don’t I? Isn’t that what socialism is all about—making sure the game ends in a tie? Or maybe that’s not what socialism is all about. I don’t know. I’m all in a turmoil.

On the other hand, if you can’t swim as fast as Michael Phelps or throw a javelin as far as Trinidad’s own Keshorn Walcott, isn’t it best to proudly own that deficiency? Because hell, there’s a whole lots of things you can do that they can’t. And you don't see them crying about it. So why try to be something you’re not? Why not be who you are? Back when I was in primary school for cripples, I was in the rhythm band. I played sticks. I banged two black wooden cylinders together. Other kids played stuff like shakers and triangles and bells on a bracelet. All the crippled kids were in the rhythm band whether we had any rhythm or not. There were spastic kids and kids with no arms. There were two kids who could only move their heads so they sat next to each other, each with a cymbal strapped to the side of their head. A teacher stood behind them and when the cymbal part came around the teacher banged their heads together. Okay, I made that last part up, but the point is neither I nor most of the cripples in the rhythm band had a lick of rhythm. I can’t even play a fucking triangle. But who cares? I’ve moved on. So why try hammering a square peg into a round hole?

On the other hand, who the hell died and left me in charge of deciding who has rhythm and who doesn’t? If you put a bell bracelet on a spastic kid and turn him loose you might hear things that give rhythm a whole new dimension. So maybe that’s what Special Olympics is trying to do. Maybe it's trying to redefine my stodgy old notion of what an athlete is. Maybe I'm the one that's stuck in the past!

On the other hand, oh hell I give up. I’m in such a turmoil.

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