The Olympics are Talking: Are You Listening?

I truly enjoy watching the Olympics. Having played and watched sports my whole life, it only makes sense, I suppose.

I’m the kind of guy who can flip through the television stations on a Saturday afternoon and land on a football game between two no-name colleges, or a ping pong match or a skateboard race– it doesn’t much matter — and before I know it, I’m way more involved than I should be.

Even at an early age, however, I knew there was something more to the Olympics than just mere competition; the games always seemed to communicate something far bigger.

As a kid growing up during the Cold War, it was particularly striking to witness the unifying quality inherent to athletic competition. It was as though the images on our television sets effectively, if only temporarily, reminded us of the undeniable truth that people are people. The Olympics somehow managed to show us in true living color (black and white in my house) that the athletes representing the USA had more in common with their Soviet counterparts than we ever stopped to imagine.

It wasn’t all sweetness and light, however. There was yet another aspect to the Olympic games of my youth that spoke to us on an equally deep level, but in this case it hinted at a truth that a great many people nowadays would prefer to ignore.

The Cold War Olympics stirred something inside of Americans that went way beyond national pride alone and a natural desire to emerge victorious; rather, it drew many of us into the realm of the spiritual as the competition between the USA and the Communist nations became a metaphor for the battle of good versus evil, right versus wrong, and truth versus lies.

That this analogy was implied in the events more so than deliberately crafted made it no less poignant and no less tangible, in fact, its very sublimity rendered the message all the more forceful.

Given its powerful ability to communicate on such a deep level, it’s no surprise that the Olympic games have in fact at times been deliberately leveraged as a tool for social, cultural and political commentary, if not outright propaganda. The Berlin games of 1936 come to mind, as does 2008 in Beijing, and several others in between.

This time around, however, other than those diehard global warming enthusiasts who insist that my pick-up truck is to blame for the rain in Vancouver, the Winter Olympics of 2010 have been relatively low key on this front. But that doesn’t mean these Olympics aren’t talking…

Watching the men’s figure skating competition the other night, I couldn’t help but marvel at the blatant “in-your-face” nature of the regrettably common yet profoundly dangerous message that has become a hallmark of this once proud sport.

What on earth is it, the naïve are still wondering?

The message, as the Kinks put it in their 1970 hit song, Lola, is “boys will be girls and girls will be boys, it a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world,” and guess what? If you buy into all the hype, it’s positively delightful!

I have to tell you; I for one am not even close to being delighted with what I saw.

There seems to be an unspoken competition-within-the-competition among many of the male figure skaters these days. It’s as though each one is trying his level best — be it through make-up, hair-dos, mannerisms or costumes — to out gender-bend the next guy.

Now I won’t lie; I’ve never been a big fan of men’s figure skating. I’ve always kind of figured that any guy that can skate like that should have a hockey stick in his hand and a few less teeth than the rest of us. Even so, back in the day it seemed like breakthroughs in the sport were measured in terms of acrobatics, now they seem to be measured in terms of histrionics as these grown men prance about like little drama queens determined to take flamboyance to here-to-for unseen heights.

It truly is an amazing thing to witness. Now, I may be showing my age here (as though reminiscing about the Cold War hasn’t already sealed it) but the other night’s competition was so surreal it was like watching one of those Saturday Night Live parodies from when I was a teenager.

How far is this spectacle going to go, I wonder? Seriously, is there anyone who watched the telecast the other night that would be even remotely surprised if four years from now one of these guys comes skating out in an evening gown and a tiara?

Even the announcers were not entirely comfortable it seemed, but they dutifully did their jobs as they forced feigned laughter and tried their best to put a positive spin on the clearly bizarre; as if they were laboring to convince themselves as much as anyone else; “isn’t this wonderful!”

If you detect a dash of humor in some of my observations you’re not mistaken. As I watched this folly-of-the-fabulous unfold I was admittedly semi-amused by the sheer ridiculousness of it all, but even though it’s difficult to take a man in chiffon seriously – make no mistake about it – something very serious is going on here and you better be paying attention.

Let’s face it, the current popular culture is hell bent and determined to promote the view that the Creator-given characteristics that define us as male and female are little more than shackles that limit us; imposed as they were by a society that is inherently unfair.

Ours is a world in which little boys are all-too-often trained in the ways of liberal feminism; a place where big boys not only cry but are praised for their sensitivity. As a result, many of our schools have replaced recess and the natural competition that should be expected among little men-in-training in favor of “everyone wins” activities that require no sweat.

As for that natural male aggressiveness; no longer is it guided toward its good and useful application, it’s just treated with Ritalin and deprogrammed away.

And what do we have to show for it now? A metro-sexual class of soft-bellied fellas who are inept at taking charge and making decisions, yet are strangely proficient at plucking their own eyebrows in traffic as they head to their 4 o’clock pedi.

My daughters are now young ladies and — please God — neither one of them seems very likely to become one of those overwhelmed moms who lie awake at night staring at the ceiling after coming to the horrible realization that they married their best girlfriend. Even so, I worry for all of those little boys out there whose parents have bought into the lie and just don’t get it.

If I had had a young son sitting next to me watching the Olympics you can bet he wouldn’t be left to witness the charade of men’s figure skating without some much needed observations from his dear ol’ Neanderthal Dad.

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