So, we are heading to the last days of the 2014 Winter Olympics. I neither skate, ski, nor bobsled, but I love watching the Winter Olympics…even the curling, although I have a five-minute threshold for that particular sport.
When my kids were young, part of the joy in paying attention to the Olympics was in watching my three reenact the sports in various rooms in whatever house we were living in at the time – some dining rooms were better for the speed skating, some family rooms were better for the ski jumps, and some basements just rocked it for the ice hockey games. Furniture, toys and household items would be reinvented as “winter sports equipment”, and these reenactments would be hilarious to watch – although more than a few “events” concluded with big ouchies and sometimes even blood. But they all lived to tell stories, as they say, and were back for more four years later. These were my favorite Olympics – the ones when the kids were home.
But, one pre-children Olympics stands out in my memory, and is still my reference point for all Olympics to come: the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York. We lived in upstate New York at the time, and saw the torch as it passed on its way to the Games. That was thrilling. And so was watching the games live – and seeing the likes of Eric Heiden win gold not once but five times. But, best of all was the high stakes ice hockey game between the Soviet Union and the U.S.A. It was more than a game, and that victory was more than just a gold medal. It was, as my sixth graders would say, epic.
It’s funny how I will always measure the Olympics by that long ago experience – everything is faster, bigger, more technologically advanced each passing year, but the Games don’t quite measure up. It’s still thrilling to watch clips of Heiden skating in the outdoor rink, his suit and skates looking so old-fashioned and geeky. It’s still thrilling to watch those final minutes of the ice hockey game – when it seemed that that which was about to become true could not possibly be true.
So, even as I enjoy watching these 2014 games, every once in a while I have to confess to needing to time travel back to 1980, and watching things like this (by the way, this is some kid’s history project, and is an incredible time-in-a-bottle kind of experience – those were interesting times!) :
Those are moments worth reliving, even as I root for the 2014 teams and athletes.