Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat - the XXII Winter Olympics

The XXII Winter Olympics have been interesting to watch but not great to watch.  I can't exactly put my finger on it, but these Olympics are a bit strange.  It might be my surprise at seeing palm trees along the streets of Sochi.  I wondered, is there something wrong with this picture?  A winter Olympics set among palm trees?  The weather here in Ohio has been more conducive to the Winter Olympics than the weather in Sochi.

The alpine and cross country events, which I watch religiously having been a skier in my youth, are fun to watch, because I can relate to coming down those long wintery runs on skies, just not at 65-85 miles per hour though.  I have skied in all types of snow, ice, packed, powder up to my waist, and slush, so I have no time for skiers or snowboarders complaining about the snow.  At this elite Olympic level all these alpine and snowboarding athletes should be able to adjust to the snow conditions and go with it.  Even win with it.  

I also love the grace and beauty of the ice skating events.  I never miss them and I am always amazed at what these athletes can accomplish on a single blade on ice.  The ballet, gymnastics and skating technique are all rolled up into one performance and these athletes make it look so easy, which is a compliment to their professionalism in an, ahem, amateur sport.

And, I think that is part of the problem with these modern Olympics.  Most of these elite athletes are professionals, not amateurs.  It seems amateurs were left back in the dust, or the snow, so to speak, years ago.  It just is not as fun to watch the U.S. Hockey team beat Team Russia when the athletes are from the NHL from here in the U.S.  The last true hockey amateur game was the 'Miracle on Ice' in 1980, when the U .S. honestly beat Russia with a truly amateur, college boys team.

Although, I admire Shaun White and his great feats in snowboarding, he is a professional snowboarder, not an amateur.  I also think he is past his prime and while I feel badly he did not win a medal at these Olympics, he is 27 years old.  The Olympic games are meant for youth, and so many of the Olympic athletes today hang on way after their prime because they are professionals and this is their life - Olympic competition.

I was also a swimmer in my youth, and believe me, swimmers peak between the years 18-22. After age 22, you are pushing it as a swimmer in competition.  I don't believe Olympic competition was meant for athletes to continue to compete in them into their 30's and 40's. Olympic competition, which originated in Greece in the BC era, and today, is meant to showcase youth in all its athletic glory, not become a lifelong athletic career.  I think too many athletes are hanging on for more glory.

Evgeny Pleshencko, the Russian skater, is another example of an athlete who should have skipped these Olympics and given his spot to a young and up and coming Russian skater.  At 31, his body is telling him 'no' to anymore skating.  While I admire his team effort in winning the team gold medal for Russia, it was time for him to be the elder skater and bow out before he was forced to for medical reasons right before his individual skate.

Having been a competitive swimmer in my youth, having gone to hundreds of swim matches and tournaments, I know the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.  Fourth place is the most difficult position to place in any competition, yet alone on the Olympic level.  To have missed winning a medal by fractions of a second, and landing in fourth place is the agony of defeat to these Olympians.  It is more difficult to accept than place 12, 30 or even last place. 

 To all those Olympians who have come in 4th place,  I salute you for your bravery, perseverance, good grace and sportsmanship.  You stood before the cameras and gave difficult interviews and my heart goes out to all of you.  You are the true heroes and winners, who are able to show the grace and love of your sport in difficult and heartbreaking circumstances.

And, then there is Vladimir Putin lounging around these Olympics like a lounge lizard with his smug, smirk smile on his face.  I have never seen a country's leader preen so much during Olympic Games.  It is as if he orchestrated these games for himself, to show off himself, rather than the Olympic athletes.  He needs to maintain a lower profile at these games, or go back to Moscow and do some real work, and then return for the closing ceremonies.  To see him preening everyday I watch these games is disturbing.   

So, while these Olympic Games have been interesting so far, they are not great.  And while I hope all the athletes are having the time of their lives, there is a luster that just is not there at the XXII Winter Olympic Games.

Copyright (c)  2014  Suzannah Wolf Walker   all rights reserved

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Dylan Farrow's Letter to the NYTimes

Dylan Farrow
Source:  NY Times

First, I must say, you have grown to be a beautiful, intelligent, and empathetic woman, Dylan. You are brave to write an open letter describing your sexual abuse at the hands of Woody Allen and I believe you.  Your truth rings loud and clear and you pose the correct question at the beginning and end of your letter.  I agree with your premise that we continue to honor a man who has done shameful things to you and probably to others.

In the name of art, we continue to praise Woody Allen and herald his lifetime achievements as if nothing had ever happened to you.  This is wrong.  

I remember loving Woody Allen films, especially when I was in college in the 70's.  He was the comedian and film director/producer of the times.  His movies were hilarious satires of our society and government and the governments of other countries as well.  He was able to get to the truth of all our insecurities in life and make fun of them, and we all felt better about ourselves because of his movies.

We followed all of Allen's love affairs in the tabloids.  Those quirky, charming women he seemed to attract and star in his movies we fell in love with too.   We envied those women and dreamed ourselves of starring in a Woody Allen film.  

But, that all came to a screeching halt for me when Woody Allen brazenly announced his love for Soon Yi Previn, his, I believe, 17 year old step-daughter with Mia Farrow, his lady and supposedly love of the moment.  I was stunned and outraged when he made the announcement.

To me, that was and is incest, plain and simple.  Both Allen and Soon Yi had betrayed your mother, Mia Farrow, in the most insidious way.  I realize Soon Yi and Allen are married and have been for about twenty years, and today are parents of teenagers, but I still cringe when I hear or see pictures of them in the tabloids.

I remember the sex abuse accusations by you through your mother, Mia, and I was sickened by the whole situation.  I lost all respect for Woody Allen.  I have not seen a Woody Allen film since that time in the 90's.  

While I would love to see Cate Blanchett's performance in Blue Jasmine,  I have not seen the movie because what Allen has done to your family sickens me.  I have to agree with your opinion in your letter.  How can these actors take part in his movies and the Hollywood establishment give him accolades and prizes?  How can we as a movie going public support his films?

I realize making movies is a business.  Allen has written great parts for these women actors and most women actors in Hollywood wish to star in an Allen movie as it boosts their career. But, when it comes to sexual abuse/incest that is where I draw the line and I believe Hollywood's actors should too.  It is heartbreaking that some of these actors were/are friends of your family and watched you grow up.  I don't know how they look you in the eyes.

You are brave and courageous to write this open letter to the New York Times, and I herald them for publishing it for you.  You have spoken your truth.  You have made a valid point in questioning the actors that continue to act in and support his films.  

Through his actions, Woody Allen has spoken his truth, incest is best, and what a sad truth that is.  May you continue to grow strong, Dylan, and move forward with your life.  You have made us all pause and think about what you have written, and if you have done that much, you have won your fight.

Copyright (c)  2014  Suzannah Wolf Walker   all rights reserved