Thursday, February 18, 2010
Marveling at Lindsey Vonn
“The Olympics are the ultimate numbing cream.” Thomas Vonn, husband of Lindsey Vonn
This quote jumped off my I-Phone this morning as I read it on a New York Times app.
I don’t know Lindsey Vonn; I hadn’t really followed her story until the last two days; besides her I couldn’t identify any alpine skiers. But I do know the experience of the rush of adrenaline that an important athletic contest evokes.
It’s hard not to marvel at the depth of her accomplishment.
At its core athletics bring out powerful mythic stories. Lindsey Vonn’s story parallels one athletic myth. Athlete prepares all her life for big event, she and others are uncertain whether she can perform based on her injuries, she is able to overcome her own pain and participate because the Olympics are the ultimate numbing cream, playing it safe during the event will only bring defeat, the only course of action is to embrace maximum risk, until the very last minute everyone is on the edge of their seats not knowing how the athlete will perform, and when the athlete crosses the finish line the result is ……………… victory!!!!
What a rush.
Last night I briefly watched Lindsey Vonn hug her husband after her victory. She could not stop sobbing. The emotions she displayed for the world at that moment are the emotions that this myth brings out of all of us.
I’ve been an athlete all my life. I competed on a much, much smaller stage than Lindsey Vonn. But when I ran on the field for any contest it didn’t matter to me how many people were watching or what the record was of the opposing team. What mattered was how our team and I performed. Our sole task was victory.
These athletic stories and myths are played out every day all over the world, and it's these stories that bring us back to watch the competition. Sports are way over-marketed and over-hyped and over-emphasized and bring huge pots of money to a too-small group of people. The way we Americans watch sports illustrates our own excess. Despite these terrible flaws we keep watching.
Every now and then a story slices through these excesses and illustrates profundity.
Congratulations to Lindsey Vonn. However she performs during the rest of the Olympics I celebrate her athletic achievement and marvel in the myth she illustrated.