Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 2/12/18

The Olympics are always fascinating for me. I’m stunned by the focus and sacrifice of these athletes who deny themselves a large portion of “normal” life to be able to excel in their specialty. But not only do they have to be among the very best, they have to be at their personal best at the crucial time. These contests are often decided by hundredths of a second or by the subjective score of a judge who may not be impartial or having a good day.

The credo about “it’s how you play the game” is belied, of course, by official medal counts and national anthems played for the winner of each event. It’s competitive to the point of cheating and doping scandals. And while it’s become a great stage for the Koreans to suggest some ephemeral unification potential, it’s hard for me to reconcile that with a country that sends security personnel to ensure its athletes don’t defect (and imprisons their families if they do manage it). How many American (or any country’s) security personnel are present to ensure our athletes don’t defect?

I think we should accept this respite from world tensions for what it is: A frisson of respect and good behavior created by (usually) healthy competition. (See the quote below.) It’s a positive contribution, for which we can still thank the ancient Greeks (and why I think all Olympics should be held in Greece, internationally funded).

I don’t mean to be cynical, but I’m also a realist. As legendary basketball coach Adolph Rupp was heard to say, “If winning isn’t the point, why does anyone bother to keep score?”

Two old men. Enemies who spoke different languages and couldn’t even agree on a way to prevent the world from blowing up. Yet there they were, embracing like brothers on world television at the simple act of a man jumping over a bar. —Sports producer Roone Arledge on the most important thing he ever broadcast: Khruschev and Averil Harriman (American diplomat, negotiator of the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty) celebrating Valery Brumel’s record high jump in 1963

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