Sunday, June 3, 2012

Love of Country?

     The Olympics have always taken my breath away. I remember watching US swimmer Michael Phelps win a record eight gold medals in one year. I remember watching Jamaica's Usain Bolt utterly destroy the competition, winning the race in style while beating his chest, though it cost him an even lower world-record time. I remember watching dreams come true, and I fear all of that may be coming to an end.  I am worried that the Olympics, arguably the one pure form of competition left and where athletes compete for love of country, not for money, will become akin to what people are trying to make college athletics-a moneygrab for it's competitors and nothing more. I fear that those who do compete for the love of the game are few and far between, and most likely do not come from the United States of America.

     When Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat came out and said that he wants to be paid for his time on the Olympic Basketball team, I immediately asked myself, "Why?". Wade already has his millions, and I assume he loves his country, so why would he want to demand payment for something millions of people would do for free? He's greedy. It's a natural instinct to want to be fairly compensated, I get that, and I understand where Wade is coming from in regards to his desire to receive payments, or at least a percentage of the profits from every jersey bearing his name, but why? Because the Olympics are becoming the world's biggest advertisement for an athlete's talents and endorsement opportunities. Get on the podium, get your millions in watch deals. It's simple really. I'm fine with that. Companies need a face to be competitive, whether it be a gorgeous supermodel  or a talented athlete, and the Olympics give an athlete a stage to audition on. But in their heart, the Olympians know that the hopes of a nation rest on their shoulders. They compete for the love of the game, not for money. At least they're supposed to. Wade's comment sounded eerily similar to the argument made by proponents of paying college athletes. People go to college to prepare themselves for the rest of their lives, and play sports because they can, not to play sports then drop in on a few classes. Collegiate athletes will tell you that they play to win a championship, not for payment. The same goes for some professionals, who stay with one team their entire careers for the love of the game, even though they could move to more marketable teams. Therefore, if one college can offer more money to a player than another university could, the player would almost always go to the school offering more money. The same concept applies to the Olympics. If John Doe is theoretically able to compete for three different countries, then he will most likely compete for the nation offering the most money to compete, not necessarily for medals as is custom now, putting smaller, less developed nations at a disadvantage, sucking the soul out of the games in a ruthless monetization of citizenship.

     The real issue, at least for me, is where is the love of the country? The Olympics are the embodiment of nationalism, or heroism, of athletic immortality. There is no drive to compete if one knows they will get paid regardless. The only incentive someone should need for competing in the Olympics is knowing they are going to battle for their country in a (mostly) bloodless war for dominance. Do you think the Miracle on Ice would have happened if there was no drive to compete? The ragtag team beat the Soviet Union for a reason--that they were representing the free world-- and they knew it. They accomplished the impossible, but they had to continue competing. Would there have been a drive in the gold medal match against Finland if they received their compensation beforehand? I'm not sure, but it's a valid question. The true beauty of the Olympics lies in an athlete's desire to perform for his country without getting paid for simply showing up.  Why even have a competition between nations if it is simply another way for athletes to make money, not to represent their love of their country? The moment Olympians start getting paid will be the moment it will lose it's soul.

Images Retrieved From:

1 comment:

  1. Great post!

    I know someone who is working at the olympics.

    I agree that the olympics should be about competition, but I think it's unfair that a person with an olympic career should not get paid like other careers.

    They sacrifice a lot for the chance to enter the olympics, so getting paid for that sacrifice seems logical.

    -The Anon Blogger