You remember games. Tag, Hide and Seek, Stickball- things like that. A bunch of kids get together and agree on some loose rules and proceed to have fun. Fun - there's another thing you may remember. Playing for the sake of playing, not for the sake of winning. Games were fun, played for fun and won or lost as a matter of course. Not any more.
Games, along with the society, have changed. These days, games are organized from kindergarten up with vast armies of adults spending hours figuring out how the kids should play the games, be protected from accidents and, above all, be able to tell the winners from the losers. The winners are the ones who are the bigger, stronger and more able players and the losers are the rest. Sure, everybody is supposed to get a chance to play, but when push comes to shove, we all want the best slugger to bat clean-up, right?
I suppose it's always been this way. As a permanent resident of right field, I was never the star of the show and I knew in my heart that this was the way it was supposed to be. There's seldom much room for the loser. Today, there's no room at all.
I was thinking this as I watched the ultimate group of winners play the Olympic game. Yes, it's called the Games, but it's not the games I recall as a kid. I watched the women's swim team and was reminded of the front four of the Green Bay Packers. Perfect products of years of training and thousands of dollars competing for the glory of Good Old Whatever. Remember that the Olympics were originally about people, not nations. It was George beating Otto, not Great Britain beating Germany. This changed a lot when Jesse Owens gave Hitler a black eye in the 1938 Olympics. Jesse represented truth and democracy as opposed to brutal dictatorship - even though when he got home, Jesse couldn't eat in the same restaurants as his white team mates.
Today, the networks thrive on the heartbreak of the losers more than the joy of the winners. Idiotic commentators ask idiotic questions, like "How did you feel when you took that fall on the pommel horse?" or "Did you think you let your team down after that last dive?" Tears of joy are OK, though, as long as they don't prevent the winner from thanking either God or the coach or the parents for winning. It's OK to not build it yourself when it comes to gold medals.
Cut to a commercial. And another. And another. Five minutes of mindless crap as the price of a ticket to what's supposed to be a series of games. Games or just another Big Business, like pro football or pro baseball or pro anything? How much does it cost to play?