SEATTLE -- Think of the most memorable, most exciting, most overwhelmingly intense moment you've experienced in the past month. Now imagine that kind of occurrence three, four or five times a day. For 16 consecutive days! This is what going to the Olympics is like.
If you've been to the Games, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Likewise, if you've done missionary work, or gone to war, or traveled to a strange and exotic land for any length of time, you know what comes next. Re-entry from any kind of extraordinary and immersive experience is difficult, and describing what you've left behind can be even harder than that. If you've told somebody your great adventure story, and you see their eyes glaze over after 30 seconds, that's it, right there
. It's the disconnect that makes vacation slide shows so boring. Yes, I should have been there but I wasn't, so shut up.
I beg your patience, at least for a couple of days, as I take that long, time-bending trip back to the East Coast on Tuesday (note: we have some prepackaged thoughts on the BracketBusters wreckage lined up). Returning from Vancouver feels like coming back from Barcelona or Sydney did, or even from Atlanta or Salt Lake. It's all Temporary Olympia, and it's another nation in another dimension. But there's something particularly different about this particular comedown.
I've spent the last two and a half weeks writing about art, design, politics, economics, war and peace to a larger audience, using sport as mere framework. Now it's back to pushing against prevailing ideas that competition needs dress-up to be relevant, as well as trying to convince readers that sports are infinitely more interesting with a sense of place. Back to thinking up synonyms for "3-pointer," too.
I tell you this, though: it is a big world out there, and it's full of curiosity and wonder. Most human beings see themselves as humble pieces in an enormous puzzle, not the absolute centers of the universe. Out there, it's okay to be earnest, literary, poetic, well-spoken, well-read and -- wait for it -- patently heterosexual too. I can't believe it myself.
Not everyone in the world loses gold instead of winning silver, judges sports based on the presentation quality, or bitches about the specificity of the content beamed into their Luxury Suburban Skybox. Folks like us are the true majority, my friends, and we have them outnumbered by thousands... millions, even. The frustrating and heartbreaking thing is to be stuck here, in the most decadent and least imaginative sporting nation on earth, knowing that the window to the outside only opens 16 days at a time.
And yes, this is just Whelliston acting all nuts again, as sanctimonious and strident as ever. But I'll get over the Olympics, I promise, because that's what always happens. I'll rewire my brain, fall back in line, and get along. After all, we have work to do here: Championship Fortnight begins tomorrow, the third phase of this long journey. Despite the terrible pileup of dead seasons that starts tomorrow, when the Horizon League and OVC and Big South tourneys get underway, things are about to get a lot more beautiful
And we will not speak of the Olympics again.
Before we continue on, though, there are many thanks that are in order. First and foremost, gratitude is due to John Gasaway
, who took over this space by storm
during the first of the two weeks. John is a true and transcendent craftsman with the rarest of dual gifts -- the ability to summon incisive, decisive basketball analysis from out of the King's English. If it were in my power, I would dub Sir Ex-Wonk
both Lord of Poets and Monarch of Geeks, so he might forcibly fuse two kingdoms like Edward I. (We tried this ourselves, but we ended up with Henry VI instead. Sorry about that.)
Special plaudits for the wonderful and talented readers who sent in "My School" essays. Each one was great! But we ended up with far too many words than we had weekdays to fill. To the eleven (11!) authors who did not see their work published, despair not. We'll try our hardest to get as many published as possible before the end of Season 6. Above all, we'll attempt to present them in a respectful way -- so that it doesn't look like what Fox always does with your favorite TV shows, dumping the remainders on some Saturday night in July.
Extra-super thanks to Alex Keil, who came up with the guest-spot idea in the first place. Alex shared his wonderful story about his decision to uproot his life and work in sports information
. I'm honored that this change was spurred by words found here on this site. Likewise, there must be a 17-year-old high school student out there who was affected by a "My School" over these past two weeks. His or her life path might be be redefined forever, just because they were inspired to send in $60 and an application. These are not things we necessarily think about when we share our writing with a public full of strangers, but these are things that do definitely happen.
And isn't that why we do this? To send our words out into the ether as a beacon for the like-minded? Isn't this all
The bulk and breadth of all thanks go to reader T.F.. He funded this Vancouver excursion in the first place, out of his own pocket. I hope I did well enough up there, and that the legacy of Vancouver 2010 is not that it ruins TMM forever. Kidding! To you, I give over the highest and rarest honor we offer -- L'Ordre Royal de la Majorité du Moyen, to ascend to the company of only one other
. I've also brought you back a Mukmuk
Otherwise, we'll get back into the swing of things this week. In the meantime, I've brought you all back a story from up North.
This is an Eastern Canadian tale about a businessman and a fisherman. It's told in Quebec, but they tell it in French there... and I don't speak very much French. In the maritime provinces, it goes like this.
One summer day, a businessman in a shore town took his lunch outdoors. It was a beautiful afternoon with warm breezes -- not quite too hot, it being Canada and all. He walked down by the dock, admiring the blue sky and the blue water. The trout and the salmon were jumping, and the fishermen were all in boats, collecting as many fish as they could by way of reels and nets.
Except for one fisherman in an old cap, who sat sunning himself in a wooden chair on the dock. He was relaxing with his feet propped up, reading a book, smoking a corn cob pipe.
The businessman approached. "Taking your lunch, eh?" he said. "It sure is a beautiful afternoon."
"Oh no," the fisherman replied. "I'm done fishing for the day. I caught what I needed this morning. I'm going to read my book for the rest of the afternoon, then when the sun goes down I'll take my catch home to my wife. She's going to cook a nice meal"
"But look at how they're are jumping," said the businessman. "You could easily catch more fish."
The fisherman put down his book. "What for?"
"Well," the businessman said. "If you were working on one of those boats out there, you'd be earning some money."
The fisherman remained incredulous. "What would I do with money? I have everything I want."
"You could put the money in the bank," continued the businessman. "You would accumulate some savings. If you invested wisely, eventually you'd have enough to purchase your own boat."
"And what would I want my own boat for?"
"You'd be a businessman then, your very own boss. You could hire fishermen to work for you. If you made a successful enough go at it, you'd be able to retire someday."
"Retire?" the fisherman countered, visibly baffled. "And what would I do then?"
"Think about it," the businessman said. "You wouldn't have a care in the world. You could spend your days reading books, smoking your pipe, and spending time with your wife."
"I'll take that under advisement, sir," replied the fisherman. He tipped his old cap, the businessman bade him farewell, and the two parted company.