For me, as I imagine it is for many of you, sports is an escape from reality. For the most part, turning on a game at night or on a weekend serves as a distraction from the mostly depressing news in the world around us.
Occasionally the real world intrudes upon the sports world, or vice versa. I recently heard a story about Ira Newble, who has been in the NBA for what seems like forever (I heard it on "Only A Game", which I wrote about last week - this is the type of story I love that show for). Newble wanted to do something about the situation in Darfur, so he went there, heard horrible stories, and used those stories to raise awareness around the NBA. I don't mind an instance like that, where people try to use their status to promote something good - or at least good intentions.
What I don't like is when the two worlds collide negatively, and I feel that's what's going to happen during this summer's Olympic Games. I like the Olympics. I'm not one of those people who hates the Olympics, but I'm also not someone who lives and dies with each event, bleeding red, white, and blue. I just like them, I like watching some of the events that I don't get to see very often...or, to put it more accurately, don't care about very often.
And recently, I have been into the Olympic site selection process. I really wanted New York City to get the 2012 Olympics - I just thought that would have been cool. One of the swimming venues would have been Astoria Park, where I took swimming lessons growing up, and I thought that would have been the coolest thing ever. Especially since I wouldn't be living there and dealing with the hassles that supposedly come with hosting the Olympics. London got 2012. But I digress. Beijing has this year's Olympics, and I didn't want that to happen.
There are two sides to this. One is that Beijing gets to put on a happy face and pretend like it's just about the games, and there are no human rights violations going on in the country (please know that anytime I refer to "China" or "Beijing" in this entry I'm referring to the government, and not the people). The other side is that the Olympic Games serve as an expose and public service announcement raising awareness about what really goes on in China - and why they really didn't deserve the reward of hosting an Olympic Games. The reality will probably fall somewhere in the middle.
And I'm left with a personal quandary, and since this is a sports blog, I'm keeping this sports-related rather than political. For China, nothing will make this more worthwhile than for them to win the medal count in the Olympics they hosted. So I could easily root for the U.S. (or any other country, for that matter) to smoke China in the medal count. But that would mean that these Chinese people who are snatched sometimes involuntarily from their families to be trained by the government and to live their lives for no other reason than to serve the country well in the Olympic games....these people would have failed at the only thing they are looked at as useful for. And who knows what repercussions they will face. And that makes me sad.
Either way, I don't think I'll be able to enjoy the Olympics this summer. For me, the Olympics in China won't allow me to escape from reality. It will only be a constant reminder of what is wrong in our world.