The Inspiration of the Olympics

I’m not a huge sports fan – in my house I’m the sports widow during football season since Amy is a total football fanatic (although she’s pretty down on the new Broncos quarterback.) So – I sit downstairs with her while she watches sports and I bang away on my computer.

We are watching the Olympics today. I always get sucked into the Olympics especially individual sports like swimming, tennis, and track and field. As I was watching the heats for the 400 IM and pondering Phelps and Lochte I suddenly realized how inspiring the Olympics are to me.

I’ve felt flat the last few days – I think I picked up a small cold when I was in Boulder on Wednesday and Thursday and I finally got tipped over by a hater yesterday. I’ve got a bunch of writing deadlines in the next week so I’m in that classic “grind to ship” mode on a couple of fronts while trying to stay on top of everything else going on in my world. I’m in Boulder all next week and scheduled wall to wall with stuff and my running training has increased steadily over the past few weeks.

Basically, when I woke up this morning, I felt really flat. I got up early, did the dog thing, and then crawled back into bed for a few more hours. I’ve spent the morning catching up on email, watching the Olympics, and pondering punting my workout (an 18 mile bike ride.)

A few minutes ago I finally lit back up and decided to do my bike ride. At the same moment, I somehow shook off the malaise that I’ve been feeling the past few days. I paused and tried to figure out what had changed. It was that I was watching the Olympics and seeing the incredible individual achievement of these athletes who were totally giving it their all after years of disciplined training.

If you are feeling down, do yourself a favor – get comfortable, turn on the TV, and watch the Olympics for an hour. I challenge you not to feel inspired.

  • tonygwu

    Your wife Amy is down on Peyton Manning? One of the top five quarterbacks of all time?

    • She’s never liked him. So now she both doesn’t like him and has to root for him.

  • I’ve been watching the Olympics for 2 hours now, Mac Air on the lap, and I’m feeling more like a couch potato than jumping outside. But that’s just me. However, I am thinking of the years and months of preparation that the athletes have to go through, all of it for just a few moments of performance where they either make history or be history.

    I think the Olympics coverage by the networks has become too curated and edited to a tee. I feel I’m watching snippets of the Olympics based on what they decided to show. I’m not getting the spontaneity of the moments, the unpredictability of the events, the crowd’s excitement, etc…I don’t feel like I’m there.

    • The years of training condensed into a few brief minutes of performance is so powerful to me.

      While I find some of the curation annoying, Amy and I watch it on “Feld delay.” We just tape it and then fast forward through all the commentary. Since it’s already tape delayed, we don’t really care that we aren’t watching it live.

      I did randomly see the 400 IM live yesterday – I was on Youtube and I saw a message that I could watch it live pop up. I clicked through, said I had Comcast (which I do) and then was automagically watching the 400 IM. The discovery of the Youtube channel – – made me smile.

      • I didn’t know about that NBC YouTube channel. It’s even better than the official YouTube channel. I’ve said this already on Fred’s blog: the online coverage of the Olympics has been pretty dismal.

      • NBC’s YouTube channel: “NBC is only allowed to show Olympic competition video on the internet to users in the United States and U.S. Territories.Users outside of those locations will still have access to an extensive set of non-event video on”:( 🙁 🙁 And don’t feel so bad. The CTV (Canada’s exclusive NBC equivalent) Olympics iPhone App doesn’t play video unless you’re on wi-fi. Hello, have you heard of mobile users that aren’t on wi-fi and have a 6GB plan. I will repeat it. Following the Olympics online feels like we’re in the Internet’s early days. That’s what happens when everything starts with old-school institutions (IOC) partnering with conservative ones (NBC, TV networks). The Internet? Twitter? Global reach? OK, back to my antique TV where I get to watch what CTV wants me to watch although there are 86 simultaneous things happening. Amazing freedom of choice.

  • What is great about watching the Olympics is hearing random stories about a particular athletes. It could be a prepared piece or just a random comment made by a commentator. For instance, yesterday I heard a small bit of a personal story about how Bradley Wiggins (British winner fo Tour de France) parents were split when he was young and his father was murdered 4 years ago. It is a bit inspiring that despite the personal difficulties an athlete of his calibre pushes through and still attains the highest accolade in his sport

    • These great stories should come out before the Olympics, not just during.

  • Something that gets me fired up before playing tennis is pro tennis on TV — I almost always play better if I’ve just watched some great tennis. When both effort and mastery are sublime, seeing it in action is sorta spiritual. For me, the effort is perhaps more motivating than the mastery, I think. I get an inspirational rush/emotional ping, for example, when I see a very overweight person out and about running or jogging for excercise — I feel overwhelming admiration for the effort that the runner, probably at the start of a hopeful new journey, is making. I reckon being inspired by others’ supreme effort is a common thing in most cultures — I wonder what’s in the human API that enables it?

  • kind of similar here – when i’m bummed I sit down with my fav saved videos (ted talks etc) or essays.

    This morning I wrenched my upper back (while doing dishes of all things ..) majorly worried might not be able to work on the playhouse today…

  • James Mitchell

    This is what I find particularly interesting about the Olympics: I think I am talented enough to start a company from scratch and grow it into a large company, and perhaps even do so relatively quickly. (Others might not share that assessment.) But to run an organization that basically goes from 0 to infinity in one day is a management challenge I cannot even fathom how it would be done. And there are no second chances, you can’t just say, “Guys, I need a bit more time, how about if everyone comes back in a month while we get our act together?”

  • anuj_agarwal

    Feld, most inspiring for me was seeing this Chinese Farmer traveling nearly 90,000 miles by rickshaw to reach London Olympics. Worthy of praise if not an olympic medal.

    • Yup – Dean is a monster (the good kind).