Epiphany: The Olympics are about celebrating athletes … not stirring up trouble when there is none.

I’ve been on relative shut down the last two weeks for a couple of reasons but the major one has been the Olympics. My late night television no longer consists of Big Bang Theory re-runs, Baseball Tonight highlights, or the occasional DVR’ed movie. Instead, I’ve been treating myself to London’s 2012 edition of the summer games.

And yeah, it’s been pretty awesome.

I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing some really great things this year too. The USA’s Gabby Douglas took the all-around in women’s gymnastics and thus became the newest member in a very elite group to win the gold. She was also the first African-America woman to accomplish the feat. On top of that, she is only 16 years of age. When I was 16, the greatest thing I did was pass my driver’s test (after my second try of course). All in all, it’s an absolutely amazing achievement for little Miss Douglas, to say the least.

However, if you’ve been reading much of the coverage after her historic showing, you may not be celebrating as much. Yes, there were breaking news updates about the win but swifly behind those posts were other, less appealing headlines. Stories broke with titles like, “Douglas wins gold, but sports bad hair” and “Gabby Douglas captures gold, but mom files for bankruptcy”.

Hopefully you can say this one with me: “Ok, really?”

First of all, Douglas won an Olympic gold medal. Last I checked, that’s supposed to be really hard so having a “pulled back” hairstyle must be one of the last concerns an Olympic athlete is thinking about. Secondly, Douglas’ mom is unfortunately just another statistic in the growing number of Americans who have faced hard times in this economy. Regardless of her financial decisions, I’m sure this was one reality Douglas’ mother wanted to keep in the states while her daughter was conquering the gymnastics world in London. And yeah, I wouldn’t blame someone for that either.

Despite everything that’s happened, these are the comments that come swirling about after Gabby’s amazing feat. Gabby herself was quoted as being “confused” by all the strange comments concerning her hair just hours after her historic win. If I had to relate, it must have felt something like this: being graduated from college, returning home, and then discovering every family member in attendance took closeup photos of your mouth because you forgot to shave that morning. Throw out the fact that you just earned your degree. Or that you wanted to celebrate with your closest of kin. The fact is, you had a five o’clock shadow and by golly, you should have known better.

I’m sure if that were you in that situation, you’d probably be confused as well.

And yet, this is how we, her American supporters, choose to show congratulations to our star athlete. Instead of praising, we scrutinize; instead of boosting up, we mock; and to top things off, we stir the pot on issues that are either long since dead or not even noteworthy during an Olympic competition. For that reason above all others, I salute you, America media. You certainly try your hardest to tear down heroes when they are at their peak.

The same can be said for other Olympians like the human dolphin, Michael Phelps. Here is a guy who became America’s most talked about athlete since the likes of Babe Ruth or Muhammad Ali. Along with winning eight gold medals in Beijing, he stormed to the forefront of major sponsors like Subway and Head and Shoulders to become a poster child for American pride. Then, the unthinkable happened when a photo leaked which portrayed said Phelps smoking pot from a bong. In hindsight, not one of life’s greatest decisions when one’s every move is always under a microscope. What impresses me now, however, is how Mr. Phelps has grown since the ordeal. He’s been quoted as being more “calm”, more “mature” and less “intense” as he was some four years ago. And although the commentators in London have stayed mum on the bong topic, I’m sure it’s something that still crosses Michael’s mind every time a camera gets forced into his face. But even after all this, he’s rebounded from the situation. He’s learned from his mistakes and ultimately, he’s shown the type of resilience it takes to block out media coverage and just focus on what matters most: the end result of years of hard work.

That being said, Gabby Douglas’ reaction over the media coverage she received post-medal ceremony was not surprising. I’d be just as confused as well. Thankfully, she appears to be on such a high right now that these articles speaking against her won’t affect her too badly in the long run. At least I hope that’s the case. As someone who watches the post-event interviews, I’ve seen Gabby at such a loss for words that the best she can do is just smile when asked, “How do you feel?” And who can blame her for that? But hey, that’s what everyone stateside should be doing in light of her victory; just smiling.

At this point in my life, I’ll never win a medal or compete in the Olympics. I’ve had to deal with that crushing reality for some time now. Sure I wish I could could do some event but the chances are very unlikely in my relatively old age. Unless I suddenly decide to take up equestrian or something similar, I’m grounded.  Lord knows I can’t do backflips very well or adequately perform a strong rendition of the breaststroke so I’ll be sitting on the sidelines for the rest of my life in that regard. However, what I can do is cheer on the athletes who have worked so hard for these moments because that’s the most appropriate thing to do. I refuse to turn the Olympics into a fashion contest over racial stereotypes or kick somebody when they’re down (or up for that matter); no, I’d rather just clap at the end of a great performance and then wait another four years to see if it’ll happen again.

Before I end this, I’ve had a second thought about my own Olympic dreams. All things considered, if I ever did go to the Olympics, I’d probably be screwed. My Facebook page has way too many pictures of me acting a fool, my Twitter account makes comments about celebrities being stupid, and a book I wrote has some pretty strong opinions of its own. So yeah, maybe it’s best that the real stars like Phelps and Douglas are winning the gold because if the American media ever gets a hold of me, I’ll have to walk away from social media altogether. Or be forced to defend myself in open court. Until that day comes, I’ll be sitting here writing about the folks who are really doing something special. You know, like winning gold medals and representing their country with pride. So congrats to Michael and Gabby on your achievements. Job well done, says I.

And lastly to Michael, rest easy knowing that I’ll never eclipse your record medal count. I know you were worried.

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