What a strange start Team USA has had at the Olympics this year. The Women's Soccer Team's first loss in 44 games before the opening ceremonies even took place. The Men's Basketball team, full of NBA stars, fell to France in their first match-up. Beach Volleyball veterans Dallhauser & Lucena came up short against the Netherlands. Swimming favorite Katy Ledecky was bested by a young teammate. Nyjah Huston, the winningest skateboarder besides Tony Hawk himself, came in 7th out of 8 in the finals. Naomi Osaka (playing for Japan, but an American star nonetheless) was taken out in the third round of competition. And now we've said goodbye to Simone Biles and the Women's Gymnastics Team has said goodbye to a gold medal.
This was already an obviously strange Olympic Games to begin with, seeing as it's the 2020 games not in 2020. Japan didn't want the games, but was stuck with them. And the Olympic Village is less of a party and more of a hazmat zone. So perhaps it's not a surprise that things are off to an unusual start for many of Team USA's stars. People haven't had as much opportunity to train the way they normally would. The entire world has been through a trauma in the past year. And perhaps now more than ever, every country is looking at this Olympics as a proxy for their general superiority.
So maybe this is the exact performance we deserve as a nation.
To be clear, I would never wish losses on anyone, especially these folks who dedicate their lives to one thing and do it so well. They deserve all the success in the world. But I can't help but see some kind of metaphor here for our country maybe not being quite as great as we think we are.
Over the past year and a half, we have watched as other nations just simply handled the pandemic better. While some countries were able to get back to some semblance of normal months ago, without a vaccine even available yet, we literally can't even pay people to take the vaccine now that we have more than enough to go around. The past several months have also highlighted other shortcomings, like the way we treat people of color, our lack of respect for teachers, the way we (don't) pay our service workers, the insane expenses associated with healthcare, college, and childcare. Each time you match us up against other developed nations, we come up wanting. So, maybe this is the Olympic performance to match.
Perhaps a little humility would do us good here in America. We seem to have forgotten how to have empathy for the little guy. Maybe spending time as the underdog will serve us well. And while some of the contests have already been decided, we aren't completely down and out yet. And winning will be that much sweeter when victory wasn't a given and had to be truly earned.
Best of luck to all the remaining competitors. And thank you to those who already gave it everything they had, regardless of the result.