I cheered as Andy Murray took down his arch nemesis in front of a several thousand of his closest friends1. I watched, in awe, as the 6-foot-5-inch Usain Bolt started slow yet silenced all doubters in 9.63 seconds. I witnessed Jennifer Kessey and April Ross win two very hard-fought contests against the Czech Republic’s Marketa Slukova and Kristyna Kolocova, with Kessey relegated to wrapping her freezing feet in various warming elements merely to keep blood circulating in the freezing sand. I even watched as the oft-injured Sanya Richards-Ross finally turned her 400-meter endeavor into a dream-come-true, winning the ever-coveted gold medal for the United States of America.
Perfection at nearly every turn, victory typically ending in exhaustion and jubilation and adulation all wrapped into a gold-laced package for an entire world to see. Celebratory vignettes, anthems of nations, sweat, and tears2.
Meanwhile, just six hours west, for the viewing pleasure of those with only the sturdiest of stomachs, the Cleveland Indians dropped their ninth-straight contest, the last of a nine-game road trip against three different conference rivals; the worst such streak in the team’s 112-year existence. During the 1o-day swing, the Indians’ starting rotation combined for an 0-7 record with an 11.69 ERA, allowing 55 earned runs over 42 1/3 innings. Prior to Sunday’s crushing extra inning loss, the offense managed a measly .190 batting average, collecting only 20 runs, an average of two-and-a-half per game.
And this is all unfolding during a crucial point in the season where contention was not only within reach, but even remotely possible, what with the whole bowl full of “contention window” narrative that we’ve all been force-fed with used platicware.
Notice that this debacle known as the Cleveland Indians baseball club did not make it into the items which were viewed this past Sunday. I was not even aware that they were playing a contest on this very day. While I’m undoubtedly a Cleveland fan and I write for a Cleveland-addled web site, I’m arguably a larger fan of sport executed not only on the grand stage, but done so with high levels of execution. It’s why I’ll take in the NBA Finals and not necessarily care who comes out the victor3.
These Olympians often sacrifice years of their existence for a mere few minutes of competition. This shear desire and determination makes the viewing all the more pleasurable, to see someone so dedicated to perfection, often spurring time with family as well as any sort of plausible income4 in order to perfect their craft, only to face the potential disappearing act enabled by the four-year window between Games.
The Indians, many of whom inherited substantial raises over their 2011 compensation, have seemingly regressed. And this regression isn’t strictly an observation of the players which litter (and up until the last week of DFAs, littered) the roster. The degeneration undoubtedly starts at the top. There is no doubt in my mind that the players who fill the Indians clubhouse yearn to win. I will, however, debate that they’re consistently put in the best position to do so5.
Not only has the self-induced implosion made the Cleveland Indians difficult to support in any capacity, be it financially or emotionally, the comparative athletic excellence being displayed in London, England has left them without peer. One can say that these two compared parties are not “peers” to begin with as domestic, professional sport is hardly met with the same pageantry, pomp and circumstance as the spectacle that is the Olympiad. And certainly one (or even nine) baseball games are a drop in the bucket of career that is one Olympic Games. But athletes are all wired the same. Some are afforded more in their adolescence when it comes to training and support, but the competitive gene is universally shared. It’s what is done with said gene that separates the top of the medal podium from the third place of the lowly AL Central.
As a 28-year-old Brent Lillibridge flails at a curve ball located near his shoes, 16-year-old Gabby Douglass is flipping and twisting mid-air, only to land effortlessly on a four-inch wide beam of leather and suede. As Casey Kotchman looks to get his third hit since July 25, Missy Franklin will take just as many gold medals back to Regis Jesuit High School where she’ll gear up for her senior prom. And as Ubaldo Jimenez gives up 29 earned runs in his last 39 innings of “work,” leading the American League in wild pitches, and all of baseball in walks allowed, Kayla Harrison triumphed over effusive history and years of sexual abuse to take home the first gold medal in the history of female judo in America.
The former will all have a well-paying job come next week. The latter, well, they will someday — if they’re lucky. For now, given the option, I’ll gladly stick with the latter. Determination, desire and execution win out every time6.
(AP Photos via David J. Phillips, Carlos Osorio)
- Murray, after all, is so Cleveland [↩]
- And in Richards-Ross’ case, two Chanel earrings the size of silver dollars [↩]
- Though I was indeed rooting for Kevin Durant and the Thunder, I can still walk away appreciative. [↩]
- American weightlifter Sarah Robles, for instance, is the strongest woman in the world, yet, at one point, was living on $400 per month stipend, and isn’t sure she will be able to afford attending the 2016 Games in Rio. How about that for defect spending? [↩]
- Chris Seddon, with all due respect, is not exactly a show-stopping starting pitcher [↩]
- I will also add Lyoto Machida’s stellar knockout of Ryan Bader during Saturday night’s UFC showdown. Would be remiss otherwise [↩]