Why Haven’t I Ever Competed in the Olympics?

July 31st, 2012

Stop laughing.

I’ll wait.

All done giggling?

I know it’s a ridiculous question, but I’m willing to bet that you’ve watched the Olympics on TV and also wondered whether–with the right influences and opportunities–you could have been a world-class athlete.  Come on, admit it.

When I was little, I watched the Olympic athletes competing and thought, “Is it possible . . .?  I mean, if I worked hard every day for years and years and years . . . could I become so strong and powerful, I could be one of them?” Not that I had any intention of doing anything of the sort–that would have required putting down the book I was reading (yes, even while watching TV) and getting up off my butt.  Which wasn’t ever going to happen. Which meant I wasn’t going to end up at the Olympics because I was just too lazy.

So not me.

When I was older and wiser, I decided that even if I had put in years and years of full-time training in some sport or another, I still could never have been a serious competitor.  I don’t have the genetic material for it.  I’m no Kerri Walsh.

I am, in fact, the opposite of a Kerri Walsh.

In a way, that thought was a relief: even if I had worked my butt off, I could never have competed! It wasn’t my fault that I never medaled at the Olympics! I’m a genetic mess!

Then, as an adult, I read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, in which he argues that access and time are the two main requirements for exceptional achievement–that the success of most outstanding athletes, musicians, and computer geniuses can be traced to their access to training and equipment and the number of hours they put into practicing.

In other words, I may have been right when I was little: starting young and dedicating myself to a sport might actually have led to my being exceptional in it.

Which not only brought me back to having to blame myself for not being an Olympian, but now I could also blame myself for the fact my kids weren’t, either. If I had just folded their chubby little baby fingers around a ski pole or strapped them to a pommel horse before they could even toddle . . .

No.  I refuse to believe it.  I mean, look at us: not an Olympic-ready bone or muscle in our little LaZebnik bodies. These bodies were made for stretching out comfortably on a bed with a book propped up on our chests and a TV remote within easy reach. If watching Doctor Who marathons were an Olympic sport, then maybe we’d have something.
It’s not my fault.
Now excuse me while I pour myself a drink and go watch other people push their bodies past the limits of human endurance, breaking world records and inspiring our youth. I’ll be right here on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn.
Oh, and if Malcolm Gladwell drops by?  TELL HIM I’M NOT HERE.

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