Thursday, August 9, 2012

Expectations and Subverting the Olympic Narrative

on pop theology, philosophy, theology, culture, pop culture, christianityby Ben Howard

My two favorite stories at the Olympics so far are Aly Raisman and Michael Phelps. Don't worry, this isn't going to be an ode to "America's Underdog Gymnast" and "The Greatest Olympian Ever." I'll leave those articles to people who cover sports for a living. Raisman and Phelps are my favorite stories because they undermined the corporately approved narrative of the Olympics. I love me some subversion.

Every time the Olympics come around, we the viewing public get a new batch of corporately approved stars. Almost every commercial during the Games is based around some athlete who was expected to win, expected to become a star, expected to become the love of the entire United States population.

However, much to the dismay of BP and Proctor & Gamble and other corporate sponsors, the Olympics are comprised of actual sports which don't necessarily go according to plans. These expectations drive the narrative of the Olympics.

That's why I love Raisman and Phelps. Raisman was an afterthought. The 3rd member of Team USA. And Phelps? Phelps was boring and played out. His story was old. Ryan Lochte and his diamond-studded grill were far more interesting than Phelps and his brooding greatness.

Then the events happened. Raisman went from afterthought to a 2-time gold medalist, who just missed a bronze in the all-around finals. After a rough start in the 400 IM, Phelps made it his personal mission to make Ryan Lochte into a footnote on the way to becoming the most decorated Olympian in history (Zeus excepted).

Expectations are a powerful thing and they can drastically affect the way we respond to the world. It's not simply limited to the emotional aspect of sports either. Historically, the Jewish people expected a Messiah who would be a physical conqueror and king. When they received a different interpretation of the conqueror and king, they crucified him.

This extends to the modern church as well. If you expect that the world ends in a fiery inferno, then you'll act with that goal in mind and God's creation becomes a sinking ship we need to escape. If you expect God to embrace everyone no matter what, then you'll find that there's a thin line between acceptance and apathy.

I'm not saying which one is right or wrong. I certainly have my opinions and expectations. Everyone does. I want to see how things play out and I'm going to assume we're all wrong to one degree or another. That's the way predicting the future works. (Though I'm still holding out hope for that Chicago-Miami World Series in 2015, you promised Back to the Future II).

It'll all make sense. Just be patient. And have faith that all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.


When Ben isn't gleefully rooting for subversive athletes, he likes to wax rhapsodic about James Harden's pharaoh beard. You can follow him on Twitter @BenHoward87.

No comments:

Post a Comment