Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I've been thinking about Bruce Jenner

I've been thinking a lot about Bruce Jenner - once the World's Greatest Athlete and now the Kardashian's dad. First of all, I love track and field. I remember Flo Jo and her bright colored nails zipping down the track, and I remember Carl Lewis jumping the distance of a large school bus. There is just something about those short events that really excite me. They are so short that you absolutely have to be perfect because there is no time for mistakes. Bruce Jenner didn't win one of these events, he won TEN, making him an Olympic gold medalist in the Decathlon in 1976. He was a major bad ass.

Now Bruce Jenner is known to a large audience as the dad in Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Most people who watch that show don't know anything about the Montreal Olympics, or that his face was on a Wheaties box. He recently featured in a short video called, The Bruce Jenner that was and I've also heard him interviewed on the radio about his life. Is he an athlete that became an well-known personality (positive)? Or is he a sell-out former athlete who can't do anything besides reality TV (negative)? Or did Bruce simply play the cards that were dealt him?

I watch the Olympics and somehow feel that it could have been me. Given another time, another place, and knowing what I had, maybe I could have been a fierce competitor - you know, like 15 years ago. Maybe I shouldn't have turned down that super small track scholarship at that super small liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere. Maybe I should have begged my parents for a coach instead of a voice teacher.

But then I think about people like Bruce Jenner and Michael Phelps who may have already been the best they can be. Bruce puts it this way:

"How many athletes walk away from their sport, absolutely, totally satisfied because you climbed every mountain you can climb. There is nothing left in that sport besides, (to) do it again."
What do you do after you are already the World's Greatest Athlete? It seems to me that you are kind of finished. I see that a lot with Michael Phelps this year. He already was the world's greatest swimmer. He did that in Bejing 4 years ago, so what motivates him to want to do it again? That may have been his top, and that's quite ok. Now Michael has to play the cards that are dealt him. Maybe he'll go into acting and we'll see him and his ten children on reality TV. (Or a commentator or coach would be a nice idea. Yeah, I like that one better.)
In a way, we who are just getting started are some of the greatest athletes. Sure, we'll never win a competition or get a gold metal, but the will and ability to fight ourselves to constantly improve is exciting. I realize now that I don't have to be the best swimmer today because it gives me something to work on. I don't need to necessarily win races in my 30's because if I keep myself alive and healthy I'll be much more competitive when I'm 40 and 50. The people who continue to do it are the people who inspire me, much more than the best athletes in the world. Hell, those professional athletes are better looking than the rest of us, but that 80-year-old running the marathon looks pretty awesome too.
We are also way too hard on Bruce Jenner. He was once an awesome athlete, but he hit the top, and went into show business. He is unapologetic, and I don't think we can fault him for that. He played the cards he was dealt. The only thing I fault him for is not passing down his bad ass abilities to his children. God knows they could use some more exercise.

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