The Olympics – Memories & Money
I used to love the Olympics. It was all about, as the introduction to ABC’s Wide World of Sports would say, “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.” But it was so much more. As one of my favorite parts of the Olympic coverage was when Olympic host Jim McKay (I’m showing my age) would profile athletes, bringing their backstories to life, making the events more personal, touching, and, often, dramatic.
And today? Well, at the risk of sounding like an old person and the yearning for “the good ‘ole days” when the Olympics were about sports, athletes, and medal counts, it now seems like the word “politics” has cast its ugly shadow on the Games. The “backstories” of the Beijing Games are about protecting our athletes (not just from COVID, but from China hacking cell phones) and whether we should even be competing because of China’s human rights abuses. An Olympics with diplomatic boycotts, and China and Russia using the opening ceremony to declare a “partnership”.
All of which I found myself saying to Black, then making the innocent (or so I thought) comment of wondering why the Olympics just can’t be the way it used to be. For the record, it was a rhetorical question. I didn’t want an answer, I wanted to stroll down memory lane. But Black, of course, felt the need to reply,
Follow the money. The Olympics is big money, with sponsorships generating billions of dollars of revenue and global corporate sponsors spending hundreds of millions of dollars. When we were growing up, it was a sporting event that unified the world, if only for a few weeks. (Plus, there were only a handful of television networks – no cable, no streaming, no social media). Now, it is a commercial event. “Wanting to win” used to be about national pride, now it seems to be about market share.
I knew what she meant and thought about all the “marketing” behind the companies like Ralph Lauren dressing the U.S. Olympic team, but preferred to think about the athletes talking about how they felt when they wore the team uniforms. A feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves, a culmination of years of hard work and dedication, about doing their best for their country. About pride.
But what about when there are moral implications? I know the athletes don’t get to decide where the games are held, but when the host country is one that we have serious humanity issues with, shouldn’t the Olympics and its sponsors stand up for what they believe. I couldn’t help but ask Black, this time hoping for answers, but instead got questions,
If you are the International Olympic Committee with so much money on the line, plus so few countries willing to go to the expense of hosting, especially given the complications due to COIVD, what do you do? If you are a sponsor, who “claims” to value social responsibility (companies are even rated by environmental, social, and governance criteria), how do you make decisions about a country like China that is such a huge business opportunity, even if it is politically intolerant? How many people, let alone companies, do you think have the guts to stand up and do what is right versus what is profitable? And, is there a longer-term price that will be paid?
Maybe I’m being an ostrich, but I didn’t want to think about the future of the Olympics. Instead, I thought about the millions of fans worldwide who love the Olympics and need them more than ever before as they look to them for diversion and inspiration. For me, I’ll look forward to the backstories of this year’s athletes and enjoy my memories of past Olympics vs. wishing that I could change the realities of today.
The more time passes, the fewer the number of people who remember D-Day happening in real-time (we’re old, but not that old), but the importance and significance of the day are more important than ever …
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|I still can’t believe you didn’t know what D-Day was.|
|All I knew was it had to do with World War II and beaches. And, required lots of strategic planning. Remember, I am not a history buff like you.|
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|Or a movie buff. There has been an assortment of D-Day movies, and I wouldn’t expect you to have watched the older movies, like “ The Longest Day” with John Wayne, but I figured you’d have seen “ Saving Private Ryan .”|
|The Tom Hanks movie? It was a great war movie, but from what I remember, it was about the search for a particular soldier during WWII. Although I remember the opening scene showed the horrors of war. Regardless, I do not get my “history” from movies that might take literary license for the sake of storytelling, even if Steven Spielberg’s movies are mostly accurate.|
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|That opening scene WAS D-Day.|
|I know that … now. I always remembered D-Day fell on June 6 because Mom and Daddy got married on June 6 (1950). And, almost 40 years later, you got married on their anniversary.|
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|Well, that’s ancient history. And unfortunately, my marriage wasn’t as successful as D-Day. Although I’m not a WWII expert, D-Day’s also known as the Battle of Normandy and considered the beginning of the end of the war in Europe. It was an incredible turning point and changed the course of the war . And history.|
|I have always found it fascinating how a singular event can turn the tide, not only through its success in the moment but in its ability to inspire people. How bravery, perseverance, and the willingness to fight for what you genuinely believe, to the death, if necessary, is extremely powerful.|
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|Are you talking about D-Day or more recent events, such as the war in Ukraine? I can draw parallels as they’re both about fighting for freedom in Europe, which also impacts the world. But it’s as if people refuse to learn lessons from history. And we live in a world, in a country, that’s becoming more and more polarized, with seemingly fewer and fewer people willing to put the greater good above themselves.|
|That is why days of remembrance, such as D-Day, are so important. I may not have known the specific details, but that does not stop me from appreciating and respecting the sacrifices that so many made for our country. At the time, those soldiers may not have known the far-reaching impact of their actions, or even whether they would be successful, but that did not lessen their commitment and bravery.|
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|I can’t imagine the feeling of responsibility and willingness to die for the future of the free world. Historians regard it as one of the greatest military achievements ever, but not to lessen its significance, and I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve never known what the “D” in D-Day stands for? Maybe Departure, Decision, or even Doomsday? Although I could make a case for Democracy, Determination, or Daring.|
|How about “Day”? And no, I am not being sarcastic. “ D-Day” was an Army designation used to indicate the start date for a specific field operation. So, it does not stand for anything. At least, not at the time … because D-Day now stands for so much.|
To honor the significance of D-Day, consider taking a few moments for these inspiring quotes.
Connected By More Than Chinese Food. Connected By Humanity & Respect.
May is Asian American Pacific Island Month (which prompted our conversation below about Jews and Chinese food), but we should treat all our fellow Americans with respect and kindness every day.
|Have you ever wondered why Jews love Chinese food so much?|
|No, but what prompted that? Did you take in Chinese food this weekend? Or, did President Biden signing the anti-Asian hate crimes bill make you think about how Jews can relate given all the antisemitism in the world?|
|Only you would connect those dots. I was straightening up papers in the kitchen and noticed how Chinese takeout menus look the same as they did when we were kids, and how we've laughed over the decades about how much Jews love Chinese food. But now you've reminded me about how we've recently talked about the recent increase in hate crimes against the Asian community . I simply don't understand how people can hate an entire group of people based on race or religion.|
|You are the history lover. It is not a new phenomenon. And, the reasons have not changed – Ignorance, prejudice, feelings of supremacy; the list has many "reasons". What I find scary is that people form stronger bonds with others based on what they hate than they do on what they love. But, there is no question that the Asian community and Jews have experienced hate for a long time.|
|I know, but in America of all places, that just shouldn't happen. Ever. We're a country built on immigrants, and the contributions of Asian Americans and American Jews have been so significant. From scientists to doctors, artists to activists, the list goes on and on.|
|The lists of contributions can be sliced and diced in so many different ways – gender, race, religion, nationalities. There are not enough months in the years to celebrate them all. However, some groups tend to be forgotten or overlooked, which is why President Carter signed the first proclamation celebrating Asian/Pacific Americans , which eventually led to May becoming Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. But now, with hate crimes increasing against them, celebrating by learning about their cultures is even more critical.|
|Well, I admit that I personally didn't know any Asians before I lived in Hong Kong, and then Shanghai, several years after getting married. Until then, all I knew was that I loved Chinese food. I know that might sound condescending, but that's not how I mean it.|
|No, it sounds like you just did not have any personal experience except for enjoying the food. And, except for dating Raman Sehgal, who was from India, when I was a graduate student at NYU, my experience before moving to Houston was basically the same as yours.|
|Sorry, but I can't keep track of everyone you've dated. Anyway, I learned so much about the people and their culture when living in Asia. It made me realize just what a young country America is and how many countries have so many more centuries of history than we do. And there I was the outsider, and although I might have been seen to be different, I was never disrespected in the way Asians are treated here.|
|A redhead in Asia. I bet you stood out like a sore thumb. Which is the problem they face here. Identifying Jews is a little more challenging, but that does not stop antisemitism. There was a very interesting article that interviewed Asian American Jewish leaders , asking them to share their experiences.|
|I never thought about being Asian and Jewish! But that explains the Chinese Kosher restaurant in Queens I used to go to when I was a teenager. I couldn't figure out why there was such a thing, but the food was so delicious I never gave it any more thought. Until now, when I realize Asian Jews must have run it.|
|I appreciate that food, and people, get "Americanized" over here, but what did you think about authentic Chinese food?|
|It's very different from American Chinese food, but both are delicious! They each have their own unique characteristics and flavors, and although very different, I appreciate them both, and there will always be a place for each in my culinary world!|
|Just as there should be a place for "different" people …|
Don’t Expect A Compliment From A Sarcastic Sister. An Important Message About … Sunscreen?!
I’ve always been a proud redhead, even though I used to wish that I could tan like those glamorous models in fashion magazines. Or maybe I just got tired of Black’s sarcastic comments about my white skin. Except for the one time when we played a rare round of golf together (see below), which ended up becoming one of my favorite memories! Although I do wish I had known back then about how important it is to protect our skin from the sun … So, now I invite everyone (regardless of hair color) to join us in not only observing Skin Cancer Awareness Month but also celebrating National Sunscreen Day.
I'll never forget the day. It was an "almost" ordinary day out on the golf course with my mom and dad during the heat of a Long Island summer. Now, if "Long Island" conjures up images of stately manors on the North Shore (think "Great Gatsby") or beachfront mansions in the Hamptons (think Robin Leach and his popular show "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous"), you can put those out of your head. I'm not talking about some fancy country club golf course, just a regular public course.
I loved the game ever since I learned to play as a teenager, and although I never got to play while at college (Wake Forest, which was renowned for its golf program, with its most famous alumni being Arnold Palmer), I'd try to get out as often as possible when I was home. I wasn't a phenomenal player but had a decent game and natural talent. And most of the time, I hit it pretty straight, so one of the things I enjoyed was walking down the middle of the fairway, pulling my clubs along (no fancy golf carts on this course), appreciating the day and the sport.
On one (very rare) occasion, my sister came back to New York to visit, as she moved out of state as soon as she graduated from business school. She also played golf, but unlike me, who relied on natural ability and played for fun, she worked extremely hard at her game, was overly competitive, and played "business golf". The result was that she was a far better player than me, although I was holding my own on that day.
As Black often says, the scorecard contains only numbers, no editorial. And it would ultimately show that she'd beat me, but as we were each walking up one of the last holes toward our respective balls, in the heat of a late summer afternoon, with the sun at our backs, I was secretly hoping that she'd be proud of me. So, after I hit my fairway shot onto the green, I heard her call out to me, and my hopes were high,
Hey, Red! I was watching you hit that shot, and well, I have been watching you all afternoon, and I have to say … you have the whitest legs I have ever seen, or are you wearing white pantyhose?
I wasn't sure whether to laugh, cry, or be angry. Or to just roll my eyes as it really was something only my sister would say. And to this day, I'm not even sure if she had even noticed how close I came to beating her and how well I played – "upping" my game driven by her much better game.
But I also know that I can never look down at my very pale legs without laughing just a little at how a lifetime ago (or so it seems), she was so right. Recently, when she treated me to my first pair of Birkenstocks, I stood in the store trying them on, and before she had a chance to say it I told her … Yes, I do look like I have on white hose.
P. S. – I feel it only fair (pun intended) to have a P.S. for a P.S.A. – Long ago, the harm of the summer sun wasn't as well known, but in the years since, we've learned how important sunblock is. Year-round. So, whether you're a redhead who never tans (I used to cycle between being extremely pale and burning red and back again) or someone who does tan, take care of your skin!