Why Even Olympians Can’t Motivate Some of Us
As the winter Olympics are taking place in South Korea, many of us haven’t bothered to figure out what channel they’re playing on. Even with all the pomp and grandeur of showcasing the best athletes on a world stage, throngs of us remain comfortable in our oversized jeans. We may love to see the beauty of a teenaged ice skater, but we don’t make a connection with the effort it takes to do something so beautiful with our bodies. Sexists like me would consider the Biathlon to be more androcentric, what with the skiing with a gun strapped on one’s back and then shooting targets. But that more inspires a trip to the shooting range as opposed to the local gym. All Olympians deserve to at least inspire couch potatoes to spread our wings, but they will have to be content with their medals. Here are some reasons why, according to psychologists astute enough to address this curiosity of human nature.
It is exciting to watch the best athletes in the various sports display their mastery. There is something thrilling and poetic about Winter Olympians in particular. Whether it’s a person with the courage to careen at nearly 90 miles an hour on a luge, which is basically a bare sled offering no protection, or whether it’s freestyle skiing, where skiers spin in the air like human helicopters, a person’s breath can get caught. To gawk at such courage and skill does not translate into a willingness to apply effort toward physical accomplishments of any kind in any season.
To do amazing things with one’s body, one must have the confidence to get into odd positions. Even in a yoga class, many have fallen repeatedly, in embarrassment, never to return to the class again. It takes practice and a willingness to look foolish while you train muscles or whatever. Watch couples ice skating one time, and you can easily imagine all the bruises that may have been suffered as they learned their fancy moves and perfect timing. That takes chutzpah (fearlessness)!
It takes real determination to hone the finest of skills to the point of mastery. Someone with less-than-Olympic prowess may find the repetitiveness of the process to be as boring as eating raw vegetables in place of potato chips. Living for the potential promise of a single moment drives great athletes but exceeds the vision of the masses.
So as we watch the Winter Olympics, which each of us really should do, we are at least giving those who have worked so hard an audience. We can revel in the wonderful sense of patriotism that can be felt when our nation’s best stand on a platform to have a medal placed around their necks. And, best of all, when our home country wins the gold, our national anthem plays. That feeling of shared pride may actually be part of the payoff for the ones of us with all the oomph, chutzpah, and moxie.