Archive for August, 2012

Olympic Reflections

Was it me or were the Olympics hard to watch this year? Not figuratively; literally. Thanks to instant global news, I unintentionally caught headlines that gave away the stories before I made it home to watch.

Then, when I made it home, my DVR had recorded all the broadcasts, day and night. So I never quite knew if I was watching yesterday’s events or today’s or tomorrow’s. It led to a kind of sports malaise that always seemed to default to beach volleyball.

I did manage the basics: the queen jumped out of a plane; a gymnast cried; parents cheered (not at the gymnast who cried); Phelps lost a race; China is nearly the USSR of my childhood. But it felt piecemeal. If I had fewer kids and more time for the NBC Olympics app to load, it might have felt different.

Nevertheless, I caught the double amputee South African gazelle, figuratively speaking, of course. He reminded me that we’re all disabled in some way. Some just manage to overcome.

I noticed the first American to win individual medals in five consecutive Olympics. The skeet shooter reminded me that I don’t need Insane Bolt’s body to win gold.

I realized America’s female sprinters are more classy, gracious and articulate than 95% of professional athletes. The NFL should put them on retainer.

And I discovered playing to lose in badminton is the functional equivalent of giving the International Olympic Committee the bird. Aside: I wonder what it feels like to stink at stinking.

Then came the gold medal game for men’s basketball. With eighty international players currently in the National Basketball Association, Team USA doesn’t have quite the Sunday drive down the lane that it did in 1992. Still, it’s only news if they lose. Therein lies the pressure.

It’s a bit like the U.S. at war or in the global marketplace. Excellence is expected and failure is proof of American decline. There is no one I would rather have leading our roundball troops into that opposition than Mike Krzyzewski.

The legendary Duke University coach is the epitome of pride without ego, success without distraction. He endured an Olympics with Carmelo Anthony and Mike D’Antoni on his bench: further testament to his steely temperament.

NBA stars were draped in Stars and Stripes after Sunday’s gold medal game because of Coach K. Millionaires danced like children around a golden Teletubby because of him. The players bring the raw metal; he forges the medal.

Some will say Chevy Chase could coach NBA superstars to gold. That perspective doesn’t respect man’s capacity to self-destruct, to swipe defeat from victory’s jaws.

I had never seen Coach K fling his hands toward the sky and leap for joy before. He did Sunday in the final minutes when guard Chris Paul sliced through Spain’s defense for a coffin nail.

And I had never seen a basketball coach get a water cooler bath until LeBron James dumped two water bottles on Krzyzewski. Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” blared in the background.

Asked afterwards what it’s like to win an NBA MVP, an NBA title and Olympic gold in a matter of months, James said, “It’s all about the USA. It’s not about me.”

LeBron channelling Krzyzewski. America maintaining dominance.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

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Tea Party tips the scales

She chased my car down to hand me her campaign brochure.

“I’m not on the ballot today, but I will be in in a few weeks,” she told me in early May after I had voted in the school board election. Smartly, Donna Campbell knew where to find committed voters: at the polls.

The emergency room physician incised a remarkable victory out of last week’s Republican primary runoff. She anesthetized a near-twenty year veteran of the Texas Senate, a body into which she hopes to breathe new life.

While Dr. Campbell celebrated her graceful, energetic victory at a New Braunfels opera house, her opponent took his campaign off life support at a Chester’s hamburger stand in San Antonio. His political career has effectively moved to hospice.

The lifeblood of Dr. Campbell’s campaign was the so-called Tea Party movement. I tend to think of them as conservatives in action. People who recognize a crisis and mobilize to help.

Some commentators lament that the Tea Partiers are widening the ideological divide between the established parties. I see them as simply taking the issues seriously: debt really will drown us; entitlement expansion is not sustainable; government doesn’t grow opportunity and prosperity.

I liken the situation to the churches of my youth. I longed for believers to take their faith seriously; to have it affect how they spend their energy, their money, their words. Whenever it happened, the establishment squirmed and cautiously cautioned against the extremes.

Between Donna Campbell’s victory over 30-year elected official Jeff Wentworth and Ted Cruz’s U.S. Senate win over long-time statewide officeholder David Dewhurst, the establishment is squirming, wondering what to make of its trampled right flank.

Will Cruz’s win make the U.S. Senate more conservative? Will Campbell’s win make the Texas Senate more ideological? Yes and yes. Elections have consequences. That’s what the voters want. If Texas voters don’t want it, they will elect these candidates’ Democratic opponents in November.

Voters sense that – intentionally or otherwise – freedoms are dissipating, private property rights are disappearing. In the name of someone else’s definition of common good, goods and services are being taxed and restricted and forced upon in greater numbers.

Examples from politics, sport and business:

1. No longer can you live freely without the government’s requiring you to buy anything. Now, you must purchase health insurance or be penalized – not by fate, but by fiat.

2. No longer can an Olympic badminton team freely strategize about its performance. Now, it must play to the satisfaction of someone else’s standards or else be eliminated – not by defeat, but by fiat.

3. And in the case of Chik-fil-a CEO Dan Cathy, no longer can you have certain opinions about the definition of certain societal institutions. Now, your business will get stonewalled – not by the free market, but by mayoral fiat.

In each case, authoritative coercion and freedom erosion.

It’s no wonder that voters are electing candidates who demonstrate less commitment to compromising. Compromise, they reason, has gotten us into the bloated shape we’re in.

It’s like voters are essentially and increasingly saying, “I didn’t build this? Yea? Well then come and take it.”

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.


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