It broke my heart watching a 17-year-old girl's dreams shattered in London today. I couldn't help thinking back to being in my 20s and losing a job I really wanted, and how terrible I felt for a time. I was as close to 'depressed' as I've ever been, because I thought this particular job would really make me happy.
Years later, I'm amused by my reaction. And the result of losing that job was the action that took me back to the place I currently work, the place I first worked right out of high school for a couple seasons, then later returned to after college. The rest is history, at least for me.
Because of that loss, I gained. But even when it was happening and I was hurting, I knew it was just a moment in time. My own failure. Witnessed by nobody but those who knew me best.
I have a feeling Jordyn Wieber will never look back on today's loss as anything but a devastating end to her life plans. I dread the thought that she'll go on to a 'real life' of bitterness or something even worse, as she's now been denied the opportunity to become America's darling, the latest athletic munchkin to become a beloved pitchman (or pitch-chick) for feminine hygiene products and the Breakfast of Champions.
And, of course, there's that desire to win. To be the best. To hold that individual gold medal in those determined, calloused fingers.
And let's, for a minute, allow ourselves to bitch about the system that denies the top 24 gymnasts to compete, head-to-head. For some reason only the top two of any national team are allowed to advance. I don't get that, but then I don't get any of it. Unless somebody falls off the beam or steps out of bounds, I can't tell if they did well without the accompanying histrionics of the experts. That doesn't make it any less interesting, of course. It's high drama and tension, even if you don't know the names or the backstories. Part of the time, I can barely watch, identifying with the poor parents who are digging fingernails into their scalps up in the stands.
Here's a scenario: How about the failed World Champion actually wins our hearts by sucking up her disappointment and showing her mettle in the team competition, out-scoring everybody in sight. How about she comes home after the Games and is lauded up there with the Best of the Best, recognized for her ability to overcome loss and make something great of her life. Maybe she becomes an example of that unsung hero of the Olympic Games, the proud competitor who redefines the concept of failure by glorifying the joy of participation for its own sake. Like IOC President Jacques Rogge said at the Opening Ceremonies:And to the athletes, I offer this thought: Your talent, your dedication and commitment brought you here. Now you have a chance to become true Olympians. That honor is determined not by whether you win, but by how you compete. Character counts far more than medals.
If only character
were as highly valued.