The Stages of an Olympic Fan
We are born and rely on our parents because we can't do it ourselves. As kids, the actions and words of the people around us shape our beliefs. As adults, we still grow and change. No matter what job a person has, what hobbies a person enjoys, or what fandoms in which a person takes part, their opinions and beliefs of those things change as they grow in them.
Now that my Olympic fandom is more than just a biennial celebration, I'm starting to see my opinions and beliefs change, too. From those changes, I've put together some stages I took as I grew up. Here's where I've been:
Stage 1: Two Weeks Every Two Years
I was showing my students examples of what I would put on my personal Art board, and one of them was the Olympic rings. A student copied the Olympic Rings on her board, but confessed, "I just like watching them."
She is in Stage 1. Any other time of the year she wouldn't pay any attention to Olympic events, but in those two weeks she likes it when her parents put it on the television. It's a great step! There are some people who would rather watch anything else; she is not one of those people.
It's important for people in the higher stages not to look down on people in Stage 1. If you love the Olympics and someone comes up to you and says, "I love watching the Olympics! I loved it when Bolt won for the USA!" don't immediately correct them and douse their love. Build on that love, and they'll progress to
Stage 2: U-S-A! U-S-A! National Pride
Stage 2 people adore the Olympics, but usually only when their national team does really well. Outside of the Olympics they would tune into competitions if they recognized athletes as those that competed for their team. When marketing allows for Team USA members to be plastered all over the place, it also allows for competitions to plaster those same faces on posters in order to attract those Stage 2 people.
National pride is terrific. I love watching the crowds at international sporting events because different pockets become excited at different times for different athletes. However, it is really important that this nationalism doesn't turn into xenophobia. Don't hate on a country just because your country lost to them. In this day and age, people can lean into xenophobia and not even realize it. Be aware! Support your country with pride, not hate.
Stage 3: Olympic Feeding Squad
As that Olympic love grows, it needs to be fed, and two years is way too long of a gap between feedings. There needs to be smaller feedings in between. Lucky for us, there are athletic competitions taking place all over the world all the time! When the summer sports wrap up, the winter sports are getting warmed up, and vice versa. It is a lovely cacophony of all the great sports.
I've been in Stage 3 for many years. Thanks to cable I was able to catch many competitions. My parents even made fun of me when I would want to watch gymnastics on the Big Ten Network. ("I hear that they're showing archery tomorrow!") But I watch it because I want to stay connected. I watched because I wanted to be ready to root for some of the athletes that don't get as much attention from the media, but are dominant in their sport. Ever heard of Kim Rhode? She's an Olympian who's won three gold medals and been in the Olympics ever since Atlanta. She shoots, so she's not on the Wheaties boxes. But you should know her!
Stage 4: History Buff
It's easy to remember Olympics from eight years ago, and it's easy to remember one or two little things from Olympics of your childhood, but do you recall any Olympic memories from 1932? Do you even know where those Olympics were? (Answer at the end!)
The history of the Olympics is amazing. The more I read The Games by David Goldblatt and watch Olympic Channel history videos, the more I am interested in filling all my Olympic holes. (I'll be reviewing The Games in an upcoming blog!)
Just a small spit of history: while we know these modern athletes to come from all different backgrounds, the Olympics of the early 20th century were sports enjoyed by aristocrats and competed by the bourgeoisie. It made it very hard for commonfolk to overcome the rich-white-boy-sport stigma and make the Games something everyone could strive to do.
Stage 4 doesn't require a computer brain to spout off information. When men's long jump comes on the screen, you don't have to spout off, "Bob Beamon has the Olympic record in long jump from 1968 and he jumped so far they had to postpone the event because the electronic measuring tape didn't record it and they needed to bring in a measuring tape to prove he'd jumped the record and he did which was 8.9 meters and that was the world record until 1991..." But it does mean when someone mentions Nadia Comaneci during women's gymnastics, you might say, "I remember her! Didn't she compete in Montreal?"
Stage 5: International Pride
Learning about the history of the Olympics means that you'll be exposed to amazing athletes outside of your country. Before long, that national pride will develop into international pride and appreciation for a job well done by athletes all over the world!
Coming into stage 5 is very difficult, especially for those who have a rabid sense of national pride. It would seem outrageous to root for the Canadian men's hockey team, or the Japanese women's soccer team, because they are direct rivals to their American counterparts. However, stage 5 means that you're just looking for good events. It might make for nailbiting action, but if it results in a great game, it's worth it!
Stage 6: New Sport Alert
What are sports in the summer Olympics? Ask a child this one day (one that's watched some Olympics). They'll probably spout off three sports: gymnastics, swimming, and track and field. Why? Because that's what is aired on NBC most nights.
When you've achieved stage 5, suddenly new sports are open to you. Learning about the Asian heritage in martial arts means that watching taekwondo and karate is fascinating - even if an American isn't competing. Watching informational videos about amazing young climbers means that sport climbing suddenly becomes a must-watch event. An African country sending its first athletes to compete in rugby means that you get to discover the crazy, hyper-football sport known as rugby-7s!
Stage 7: All Day, Every Day
This is very different from Stage 1. Now you're following Olympic athletes on social media, watching Olympic videos, and listening to Olympic-related podcasts. You're discovering a bright new world of professional sports that don't simply contain baseball, basketball, football, hockey, and auto racing. Wimbledon becomes a must-watch every year. You mark your calendar for the gymnastics national and world championships. (Those are in October this year, BTW.) Weekends are about watching track and field in the mornings.
A word of warning about Stage 7: like any fandom, it can be easy to burn out. Too much intake can mean frustration with athletes, sport organizations, or rules. If that ever comes, take a step back. Breathe, enjoy something else, and come back when you're ready to enjoy and have fun again!
Stage 8: Experience the Olympics Live
There's not much to explain about this stage. You're buying tickets and you're going to see these athletes and events in person! Heck, you might even be volunteering instead!
Stage 9: ???
I'm not sure what Stage 9 would contain. I guess it would be Olympic involvement increasing so much that you're getting paid to work the Olympics or promote the Olympic spirit. Regardless, all of these stages are a positive trend. There can be setbacks to any stage, but the Olympic spirit will wait for you.
What do you think about my stages? Are there any stages that you would move around or add to? Which stage are you on? Let me know - I would be excited to hear your thoughts!
Olympic Channel Video of the Week
I'm going to give you two videos this week, because I was enthralled by both. They're a little longer, but worth your time. The professionalism done on these are very well done!
The first is all about South Africa's history of apartheid and its negative affect on all of its athletes, and how the elimination of that law allowed athletes to come out and thrive:
The second video came out the next day, and covered a beautiful beach in Fukushima, perfect for surfing. The area was devastated in March 2011 when a tsunami hit Japan and caused nuclear reactor meltowns in Fukushima. Now the area is working to recover and try to promote the beach once again.
Tokyo 2020 Prep
I got an email on Friday from Jet Set Sports, another company that does Olympic travel. I applied there for information about six months ago, so I'm surprised to hear from them after so long. They want me to call and discuss my interests and their offerings. Should I call to humor them? Or am I asking for spam calls and aggressive, pushy behavior?
- This week's BlurbWatch
- Beach Volleyball
- Team USA gymnastics is still dominant, but it's still not at its peak. The giant sexual assault scandal and subsequent USA Gymnastics heirarchy cover-up and overhaul means that the women on the apparatuses may be amazing, but there is a lot to do in order to make USA Gymnastics a respectable organization again.
- I loved the statement Simone Biles made with her teal leotard, and second place goes to Jordan Chiles' Wonder Woman-inspired leotard (and Wonder Woman soundtrack floor routine!).
- I have all the respect in the world for beach volleyball athletes - men and women. That's a lot of ground to cover, and there's only two of them, and the area is all sand.
- Phil Dalhauser, who I watched win gold in the Beijing Olympics ten years ago, just won the AVP Manhattan Beach Open. So... is he immortal or something?
- Answer to the question above: Los Angeles hosted the 1932 Olympics!
Weekly Cauldron Check
Is the cauldron lit????
I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The Cauldron! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!