Olympic Illusions

Despite the inspiring stories of multiple medal winners Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky representing the United States, the 2016 Rio Olympics has lost much of its luster as the pinnacle of sport due to the widespread doping scandals erupting in amateur and professional sports over the past several years.

There was a time when the Olympics were held in such high regard that they served as proxies for the adversaries of the Cold War. The famous “Miracle on Ice” in which the ragtag American team defeated the mighty Soviet Union team which had dominated ice hockey in one of the greatest upsets in sports history rejuvenated a demoralized America suffering from the malaise of the inept Carter administration and served as the impetus for the country to believe that America’s best days lay before her and not behind her. It was an event of such overwhelming raw emotion that it was voted the greatest sports moment of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated.

In the intervening years, we’ve witnessed a number of sports scandals which has undermined our faith in the pure athleticism of sport and caused our view to shift cynically towards thoughts of cheating and the monumental influence of money over the competitors and the army of agents and lackeys surrounding them. The disastrous 1994 strike season alienated much of the Major League Baseball fan base which drifted away only to be lured back by the 1998 home run record chase between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa. This exciting season was later marred by charges of steroid use uncovered as MLB attempted to rid itself of the negative image of performance enhancing drug use among its players through an exhaustive investigation which netted some of the sport’s premier players.

Cyclist Lance Armstrong overcame cancer to win seven consecutive Tour de France titles before being stripped of his victories for widespread use of using performance enhancing drugs over the course of his career. Tiger Woods jeopardized an unparalleled career in golf by cheating on his wife with numerous women and will be remembered as much for his personal failings as his professional achievements.

Americans have watched their institutions become corrupted and engulfed in scandal to the point where cynicism and apathy have replaced awe and inspiration when contemplating their existence. The Catholic Church allowed priests to molest children placed in their care by parents trusting in the good of the Church to protect them and lost the trust of millions of Christians while providing evidence nonbelievers could offer for their disbelief. The once unimpeachable scientific community has been rocked by scandals involving support of the global warming fraud and incidents of manipulating data to secure lucrative government research grants to the point where scientific claims are now regarded with a jaundiced eye. Our military has pivoted from warrior pride in being the very best to gay pride with rampant social experimentation which is destroying morale and the warrior ethos.

There has always been corruption in politics, but it has exploded in recent years as one scandal after another erupts in a media which itself has become corruptly biased in its coverage to promote the progressive agenda to which its members overwhelmingly adhere. 2016 has become a watershed year in politics as Americans seek to rid themselves of a thoroughly corrupt establishment it rightly sees as working against them to protect the interests of the wealthy elite. The Constitution s routinely ignored and lambasted by members of all three branches of government as our rights are trampled, we’re spied upon, and our property seized by abusive and tyrannical government agents as if we were living in the former Soviet Union.

Political correctness has been thrust upon Americans in an attempt to silence criticism of the progressive agenda by those who have neither the intellectual ability nor the coherent arguments to legitimately argue in its defense. Frustrated and angry, Americans have retreated within projecting cynicism and indifference as protective shields against those eagerly awaiting a chance to assault their beliefs. In the age of equalized outcomes and participation trophies, the pure athletic grace demonstrated by participants in the Olympics where the pursuit of Olympic glory and medals trumped any progressive illusions of equality became one of the last bastions whereby we could escape the institutional decay rampant in our society. Money had destroyed our illusions of professional sports with their constant strikes and doping scandals all in the pursuit of greater riches, but the image of dedicated Olympians training for years in obscurity focused on the goal of achieving Olympic glory has been one we’re loathe to abandon.

Recently, it was revealed that members of the International Olympic Committee enjoyed six-figure allowances and unlimited travel perks which saw them constantly crisscrossing the globe in first class accommodations while the lowly athletes themselves eked out an existence subsidized by food stamps and welfare benefits. Members of the IOC were quick to point out that they are not paid a salary and volunteer their time and energy to promote the Olympics, but their arguments ring hollow when it is pointed out that they enjoy a yearly allowance of some $300,000 to $400,000, accommodations at a first-class luxury Swiss hotel totaling another almost $400,000, and unlimited first class travel allowances that keep them constantly on the go. With all of that, why would one have need of a salary?

Watching one of the multiple medal winning American athletes win another gold medal, I overheard the innocently delivered remark that this was such an amazing accomplishment, and that they hoped the athlete wasn’t caught in some future doping investigation. It was then that I was struck with the thought that the institution of sport has lost its perception of idealism only to be replaced with the cynicism reserved for every other institution which has disappointed us. Scandal has marred the Olympics to the point where it has become just another entertainment venue held in low regard and made special only by its infrequent occurrence. Gone is its ability to inspire Americans to believe in their country again, or stir their patriotic pride as American athletes living in freedom defeat the products churned out by tyrannical dictatorships.

The story leading up to the Rio Olympics hasn’t been one of inspiration generated by athletes overcoming immense obstacles for a chance to compete on the world stage. Rather, it has been angst generated by allegations of unfinished and subpar Olympic facilities, fears of the dreaded Zika virus awaiting the athletes and spectators, widespread criminal activity ensnaring unsuspecting travelers, and sparse attendance due to the reluctance of travelers to endanger themselves in a country torn by criminal activity, civil strife, and impeachment of its president for corruption. NBC has sabotaged its own coverage of the Rio Olympics through its constant carping on the troubles facing this Olympics leading to the underwhelming interest displayed by the public for watching anything but the highlights.

For decades, conservatives have warned of the dire consequences of embracing the progressive agenda and its secular humanist belief that there are no moral absolutes. Conservatives have been unable to adequately articulate their concerns as they’ve faced a biased media hostile to their platform aiding liberals adept at redefining terminology to obscure their intentions all playing to a pubic seduced by promises of pleasure made possible by a life unbound from moral conventions. The often ridiculed slippery slope argument advanced by conservatives is appearing more prescient as the preponderance of evidence against the moral laxity of the progressive agenda mounts to the point where it can no longer be explained away or ignored. Our cynicism and apathy are growing in direct proportion to the decline of our civilization in a pattern repeated throughout history by the likes of the Greeks and Romans upon whose ideas our civilization is built.

As we’ve grown wealthier and our standard of living has increased to the point where we can spend our time in pursuit of leisure instead of the pursuit of basic necessities, our thoughts have turned to self-indulgence at the expense of those traits of self-deprecation and humility necessary for the promotion of a strong social fabric. For, in times of adversity, it has been this strong social fabric which has allowed Americans to rally together to overcome the obstacles of natural disasters and defeat common enemies. Without it, we become indifferent to the plight of our neighbors or the suffering of our countrymen and fear not for the safety of our nation from the threat of attack. Our thoughts turn from preparedness to pleasurable pursuit as our ability to overcome adversity wanes until we find ourselves helpless in the face of crisis. And where will we then look for assistance? At our military preoccupied with social experimentation, or our police subdued by fears of punishment and federal oversight, or the government eroding our rights while confiscating our property, or our own rugged individualism long since lost as our reliance on others increased?

Hey, it’s just a bunch of athletes competing at the Olympics for our entertainment. And that, my friends, is precisely the point! It has become nothing more than just a bunch of athletes competing at the Olympics.

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