A last Olympic post…
Some of the legendary performances at this year’s Olympic Games:
Mo Farah, GBR – Gold Medalist – 5000 Meters and 10,000 Meters
Oscar Pistorius, RSA – Did not medal but who cares
Gaby Douglas, USA – Gold Medalist – Team Gymnastics and All Around.
Ashton Eaton, USA – Gold Medalist – Decathalon
Trey Hardee, USA – Silver Medalist – Decathalon
Meb Keflezighi, USA – 4th place finish – Men’s Marathon
Jordan Burroughs, USA – Gold Medalist – Wrestling
One does not become a ‘legend’ by proclaiming oneself a legend. One becomes a legend over time because of continued performance and because of the mythology that grows around your persona. A performance may be legendary. A persona may be less so.
In other words calling yourself a legend does not make it a fact. Legend = Time x The Square Root Of Sustained Performance + Reputation + The Esteem Of Your Peers… or something like that.
There is a profound statement in The Wizard of Oz. The Wizard to the Tin Man: “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”
I admire Barry Bonds, his skill, his eye, his unrivaled performance at the plate. He possessed the right stuff all along, but the question continues to plague him – did he have enough of the right stuff? I believe he deserves his spot in the Hall of Fame regardless, yet there will always be a cloud over his statistics, just as there is a cloud over the statistics and records of a number of the greatest athletes.
I felt sick when it came to light that Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire had cheated in their home run race.
I loved Marion Jones. I still love her. Her athletic feats were legendary. She was an inspiration for women everywhere. I never thought Marion Jones, a track and field icon, could possibly be guilty of cheating. She’d never once failed a drug test. And yet she went to prison- a punishment which I found harsh but obviously someone wanted to make an example of her- for lying to a grand jury about the use of undetectable performance-enhancing drugs. She did lie. She did use performance enhancing drugs. She gamed the system and she nearly got away with it.
You can’t put all the blame on the athletes. How can a gifted athlete, no matter how hard he or she trains, compete against other athletes who avail themselves of pixie dust? Besides, the public demands world record setting performances. If we set the bar high enough, world records will never be broken without resorting to magic beans.
If you take skill, strength, innate gifts and the right raw material, and you add a little pixie dust, who knows how far you can go…
My husband and I discussed this as we watched the thrilling second to the last day of the Olympics.
Here’s what I have to say – long after any athlete’s legendary career has ended, the pee remains.
***Post Script – Sunday morning, my husband pointed to an article by Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle expressing exactly the same sentiment. Apparently Mr. Ostler and I were climbing the same magic beanstalk.