August 4th, 2012

alfred hand-on-face

The Tweet Smell of Success~

Dear Olympic Athletes:

It's wonderful that so many of you have those fancy smart phones and are nimble enough with your fingers and your thoughts to be able to comment immediately about what's on your minds, even while your pulse rates are still racing with your Olympian efforts. Your followers have their phones ready to receive those thoughts and are poised to check them out, to interrupt their lunches and meetings and kids' birthday parties to see what it is you have to say.

Probably most of them are hoping you won't say something stupid.

I'd like to point out that the phone is called "smart" because it's able to do some really cool things. But it's not really smart. It can't do your thinking for you. And most importantly, it's not wise. And for the most part, neither are most of you. Since the majority of you are too young to have gained anything that even remotely resembles wisdom, you might want to consider some tactics to avoid continual controversy, embarrassment and even scandal.

Tell your friends or family FIRST about what you're feeling. No, not your two million friends on Facebook--your actual friends. Try out your comments on other human beings before you broadcast them to the Multitudes. Allow your successes or failures to flow through your own being before you float them out to cyber space.

Go ahead and defend your teammates, if you feel they've been slighted or ignored! Show them your support to their faces somewhere that's becoming all-too-rare in today's world: A Private Place. Someday you may have the chance to confront a detractor in person and give him or her a piece of your mind. If so, go for it. But don't try to do it with a pair of stumbling thumbs.

Yes, even when you aren't texting or tweeting, you will still say and do stupid things, things you wish you could take back. Your hubris or envy or even spite might come out in an interview, considering those microphones are stuffed in your faces before the sweat on your brow has time to finish dripping in your eyes. The media will have personified you and re-named you before you finish showering.

There doesn't seem to be anything we can do about that.

But you can always smile and shake your head. Say you're sorry. Congratulate the ones who defeated you. Console the ones whose dreams you dashed. Be the bigger person, be a better person. For a couple weeks at least, try to live up to the Olympian ideal, the one that's existed a lot longer than your world record will.

We're glad for you that you won. We're sorry for you that you lost. We share your triumph and your pain. That's why we care enough to watch. Believe it or not, we can actually imagine what you're feeling in those intense moments. And most of us prefer imagining it to reading it on the internet.

Use your phone to call the people at home who didn't have the time or the bucks to travel to London. That phone is smart because it's got all those numbers programmed in, and it can reach across the miles--around the curve of the Earth--and take your tearful voice with it! It can probably also surf and find contact information for your grade school history teacher, the one who first forced you to sit in a stuffy room while he or she tried to fill your imagination with scenes of the Ancient Olympics, while you were fidgeting in your straight-backed chair, itching to get outside and run around in the open air.

You were born to jump and run and swim and throw and shoot, spike and spar. You were born to compete. And we all hope that if nothing else, you've done the latter well.

Call Grandma with that smart phone.

Then put it away until after the Games are over.

Thank you.