The Olympics

The Olympics can teach us a lot about life. Watching Apollo Ohno lose in the semi-finals of short track skating, or Bode Miller finish out of the medals in the downhill, one is struck by the apparent arbitrariness of the event outcomes. Yet, when Shaun White won gold in snowboarding, as expected, we still recall how he almost missed qualifying for the finals. And Michelle Kwan having to withdraw due to injury seems highly unfair. But of course, life isn’t fair. We idolize life’s winners, perhaps rightly so, but for every winner, there are several “losers” who, but for a bit of “bad luck” would be on the podium.

In “real life” we’re not so attuned to that one big chance that makes or breaks us. Usually, our reputations are made over the long haul, and a few slips along the way don’t destroy our career. Yet, I think the difference between the CEO of a corporation and a talented middle manager may be as small as the tenths of seconds separating downhill racers or speed skaters. Likewise, the difference between a sitting president and his “lecture circuit” former opponent may also be as arbitrary as a coin flip. Yet, his impact on history may incalculable. Such is life. Scary and wonderful at the same time.

DadObservations02/13/06 1 comments


Patrick • 02/20/06 11:14 AM:

Think, too, of the arbitrariness of war: they guys who make it back are the lucky ones, that’s all. Yet human beings have long attributed death as evidence of some failing and survival as some reward. The city of Sodom was filled with wicked people, so God destroyed it. Now you hear the same thing re: New Orleans. Nowadays, we’ve cut down many risk factors for our children, but there are still children who die in freak accidents or in freak, unlucky encounters with predators. What can one really do to protect his children? Store harmful chemicals in an inaccessible place, sure. Don’t own a gun, sure. Live in a safe area, where there is no through-traffic, where people are well off and don’t rob one another, sure. But in spite of all this, somebody’s kid will die from some accident, like the kid whose mom’s truck flipped on the icy highway last week. He was four years old.

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