Vol. 11    No. 17
AUGUST 18, 2016
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                                                   The Olympics and more
It’s not that I was glued to my TV set or anything, but I must admit that I watched more of the 2016 Olympics than I intended to. Perhaps it was the
sheer beauty of Rio de Janeiro as long as they didn’t zoom in to the garbage floating around in the water or the slums on the mountain tops.

There were a lot of compelling stories at the Olympics. Women accounted for about half of all of the U.S. medals. The U.S. women’s basketball
team won gold for a record sixth time in a row and hasn’t lost an Olympic game for the last 49 games I believe. And they were just fun to watch.
They seemed to really play like a unit and worked together to rack up some incredible lop-sided victories.

And while the men’s team won their third gold medal in a row, they seemed to labor more at it. They had glimpses of fun, but a lot of their games
were close. And while they showed flashes of working as a team, a lot of times it seemed like it was just five guys out on the court doing their
own thing. And I think it was just their sheer talent, which clearly outmatched any other team in the field, that allowed them to do that and still
win gold.

But the U.S. team had better be forewarned. As the NBA becomes more and more the International Basketball Association with players from
Africa, South America, Europe and Asia playing in the NBA, we will continue to see the American advantage shrink and shrink until there is a lot
of parity between the U.S. and the rest of the field.

But in the meantime, let’s enjoy it.

At the beginning of the Olympics, there was a controversy surrounding Gabby Douglas — America’s gymnastic darling four years ago —
because she did not put her hand over her heart while the U.S. national anthem was played during the gold medal ceremony for the overall team
gymnastics gold. Somehow, there was social network chatter talking about how Gabby was dissing the American people, Mom and apple pie.
And she is such a sweet person.

Well, you know that I had to keep track of what other folks were doing with their hands during the playing of the national anthem. And there were
plenty of folks — Black, White, male and female — representing the U.S. who didn’t put their hand over their hearts. And yet I didn’t see any
social or mainstream media chatter about how unpatriotic they were being. It was silent. That just goes to show you that while I love the Internet
and use social media, it allows some people to get awfully stupid so quickly in relative anonymity and then disappear into the network so
quickly when everyone else realizes how stupid and untruthful they are being. So Gabby, we know where your heart is, Just be yourself and
continue to be the excellence that you are in spite of those who are envious and have nothing better to do than to cut down others.

And then there was petite, but all so muscular Simone Biles — so perfectly aerodynamically blessed — who set an Olympic record with four
gold and one bronze medals. I know hardly anything about gymnastics, but even I could see that she was near perfect and so much more
advanced than the other gymnasts.

And what was beautiful about the women’s gymnastics team was how much they supported each other. When Simone was taking home all of
that gold, her teammates were coming up and hugging her and congratulating her even if Simone had just relegated them to second place. And I
can’t help but think it is that collective support that allows the young women to excel individually. It was wonderful to see.

All of the sports were rather fascinating. I was in awe of the track and field competitions. It seemed to me that many of them had slender bodies
and skinny legs. I kept wondering how they did it. There physiques seemed different from when Carl Lewis was winning all of his gold in the
1990s.

And I felt so bad for Vashti Cunningham, the daughter of former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham. Vashti just graduated
from high school and was already getting hyped by the sports media in part because she is the daughter of Randall Cunningham. For almost the
two weeks of the Olympics, she was hyped so much that I thought she was a given for a gold medal. Just show up in Rio and they will
automatically give you the gold. And so I felt so bad for her when she failed to make it to the finals. I know it was heartbreaking. It was beautiful
the way that one of her older high jump teammates comforted her. Vashti will be back and will someday EARN the gold medal.

In the end, the United States walked away with the most medals of any other team. She won 46 gold, 37 silver and 38 bronze medals for a total
of 121 medals. The closest country in terms of total medal count was China with 70 medals, a 51 medal difference. The U.S. also took more gold,
more silver and more bronze than any other team.

As I watched the Olympics over the past two weeks, I couldn’t help but notice a striking difference between the U.S. and other teams. The U.S.
was a lot more diverse. In all of the different Olympic fields, there was a mixture of Asian Americans, African Americans, Latinos and others
who represented the U.S. proud.

And I can’t help but think that it was our diversity — after all, China has way more people than the U.S. has — that allowed us to run up the
medal count. At least in athletics, the United States allows the talent to come to the fore regardless of race, national origin, etc. And this allows
us to compete exceptionally well against the rest of the field. Other countries had diversity here and there, but not across the board like the U.S.
did. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could recognize this key to our greatness in all other phases of American life? No one would be able to touch us.
Special Edition Insert
2016 The Diversity Times
A UW-PEOPLE Summer Class Project for
"Exploring College through Media"