I have always been a fan of the Olympics, ever since the first games that I remember, 1960 in Rome. I still remember some of the stars of those games, like Wilma Rudolph and Rafer Johnson. I have followed all of the Olympics since, with varying degrees of interest, and I attended the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid for a few days. But this year, my interest approaches zero. I have watched none of the games so far, and probably won’t from now on.
To some extent this reflects my disaffection from sports in general and the fact that there are no fans in the stands. But it is mostly the result of wokism that has infected the U.S. sports world. Many athletes, selected to represent the United States, instead see the Games as an opportunity to launch attacks against their own country, despite the fact that they are among the most privileged people on the planet–and would be, even if they were not blessed with exceptional athletic talent.
Does a focus on politics detract from the quality of athletic achievement? A friend emailed me today:
Do you suppose that wokeness has anything to do with losses by USA basketball and soccer? Lack of attention to the sport itself?
It is an interesting question. Of course, by the time the Games are over the U.S. team may be triumphant, and the question moot. But, for what it is worth, this was my answer:
I don’t know. It is a tempting thought. The woke thing has been a massive distraction in the business world, the sports world, and pretty much everywhere else. In the academic world I think wokeness has clearly damaged quality, sometimes intentionally—doing away with letter grades, math is racist, etc. I think standards are slipping in the business world as well, but in the competitive arena of sports the damage at the margin no doubt will show up faster and in starker fashion.
Time will tell whether that last observation turns out to be correct. Meanwhile, it is hard to get excited about an Olympic Games where many of our most prominent athletes see the competition as an opportunity to display foolish, left-wing political stances, and “sports” reporters unanimously cheer them on.
To be fair, some Olympic sports don’t seem to have been infected by politics. Boxing, for example. Whatever other faults they might have, boxers as a group haven’t succumbed to trendy anti-Americanism. So maybe I will tune in to cheer on a few American fighters. Frankly, though, the whole enterprise has gotten so dispiriting that I am not sure I will bother.
Sixty years ago, I didn’t think anything could ruin the Olympics. I didn’t know about wokism then.