Against the grain

It is popular to say the Olympics are a failure for [enter your reason here].  

I'm a hopeless romantic steeped in English lit and when I see the athletes and see the work and detail put into these games I hear Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Ulysses: 'to strive to seek to find and not to yield'.  Followed by the wild world of sports 'the thrill of success, the agony of defeat' and I'll watch nearly anything.  

Naomi Osaka has had an interesting couple of years.  She convinced the US Open to honor the Black Lives Matter movement amid a summer of death and protest.  Then she proceeded to beat Serena and win the tournament wearing a mask with the name of a different victim of police brutality each day.  The final match was marred by questionable umpire decisions the result of which is the crowd, although happy for her, booed the umpire in support of Serena after the match.  So she beat her idol amid a controversy that probably would not have changed things (she was a much better player that day) and accepted her trophy while the crowd was booing.  It sent her on a personal tail spin.

Then she got to the French Open and exercised her option to be healthy.  In this case she was suffering from depression still stemming from last summer's US Open result and the fallout from it.  She did not want to field the endless insipid press questions about that event and her mental health in general and withdrew from the press conferences which are required for tournament players.  The French Open organizers then managed to do everything possible to look idiotic and overbearing and became bullies fining her $15,000 (she is the highest paid female athlete so that is pocket change but a slap none the less).  She very gracefully left the tournament saying she did not want to be a distraction and would like to go work on herself.  She did that by withdrawing from Wimbledon also.  

And then she appeared on the stage at the Olympics, an event that knows something about a difficult couple of years.  In so many ways this was the perfect meld of striving and not yielding but still maintaining ones' humanity.

Ninety percent of the Olympic athletes will never be heard of again.  But for that one moment they are on the athletic stage they will be heroes.  I'm envious and happy to give them their moment.


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