First Person: Olympic fever
For die-hard sports fans, summer can be a bummer. It’s off-season for most sports and some crazed fans may find themselves digging out highlight tapes from past seasons to get their fix. But every four years, sports fans find sweet relief in the Summer Olympics. Whether you cheer for UNC, NC State, or that other school down the road, the Olympics bring rivals together in a quest for gold.
I ran track in high school and I had the pleasure (or pain) of competing against one of the world’s fastest women. Lolo Jones attended a neighboring high school and I often found myself matched up against her in the 100 meter hurdle race. The good news was that six other girls shared my fate. The outcome was never in question and the only way the race would have really been a race would have been if the hurdles were removed in every lane except Lolo’s…and even then, it would have been close.
I grew up in West Des Moines, Iowa, not exactly the typical breeding ground for Olympic athletes, but Jones was not the only Olympian to come out of the area, and not even the most successful. Shawn Johnson, the gold-medal gymnast who participated in the 2008 Summer Games, was born and raised just a few miles away from where I grew up. Gabby Douglas, the Olympic sweetheart who snagged two gold medals and many people’s heart, moved to West Des Moines a few years ago to train. And my own high school produced a 2011 graduate who competed for the U.S. women’s archery team in London.
Of course, Carolina has its own hometown heroes capturing gold. Tobin Heath and Heather O’Reilly traveled to London to help defend the US women’s soccer gold medal. Between the two Tar Heels, they have collected five gold medals.
So for some personal reasons, I had Olympic fever. This was not without its drawbacks. My sleep suffered during the first few weeks in August. Generally, I’d make it to bed at a reasonable time, but the TV, kept on as background noise, would draw me in and I’d find myself straining to keep my eyes open to see the last events of the night. My favorite sports always seemed to play until midnight and I’d find my mind and body at odds on whether or not to stay awake.
London seemed to be a fine venue for the Olympics, but the time difference was less than ideal. My first spoiler came in disappointing fashion when I opened up a news website and learned that Gabby Douglas fell off the beam, spoiling her chance at another gold. That night, my excitement for my favorite Olympic sport waned. I learned that to watch the Olympics how I wanted to watch it (which meant not knowing the results), meant shunning other forms of media for the day. This time zone problem should be rectified in 2016, when Rio de Janeiro hosts the Olympics.
I overheard an Olympic lover commenting on how she wished the Olympics would come more often. She loved the unity the event brought and felt its effects could be greater if seen more frequently. I thought about it for a moment, but then remembered my love for candy corn. Every Halloween, I’m reminded how tasty the tri-colored treat is and I think, “I should really stock up on this delicious treat so I can enjoy these all year around.” Of course, I know in my heart that they would lose their luster…and my waistline may suffer. It’s much better to gorge in October and spend the next 11 months in eager anticipation.
The last football game played in Kenan Stadium was over seven months ago. If that seems like a lifetime ago and football season can’t seem to come quick enough for you, just remember that the greater the lull, the greater the joy.