Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
At the beginning of the modern Olympics, it was supposed to follow the trail of the ancient Greeks. But instead, it followed the path of the British gentlemen’s clubs, and I suppose similar organizations in other countries. You see, a gentleman had time on his hands … he had certain skills he had learned in school, or picked up while trying to find something sporting to do. It was an amateur contest.
And that pretty much held true until after World War II. In 1948 we ran into the Soviet Union’s state-controlled athletic endeavors and amateurs who did nothing but train in their given sport. They were all supposed to have jobs, they were soldiers, they were sports trainers, and the only thing they did was train. Of course, they were paid for a job they didn’t do. And that’s when the Olympics changed. It was no longer amateur, except in name only.
And smaller countries didn’t have much of a chance so America, tired of taking it on the chin, began to push for just the best in the sport, whether it was amateur or professional.
In the 1990s, we sent our basketball “Dream Team” and they really mopped up on all the other basketball teams. And that changed everything.
I’m not really sure if it was better when the amateurs put their tea cups down and strolled down to the stadium to play a little football, or got into their sailing ships to go do the honors for an Olympic medal.
I can’t see how air rifle competition can be an Olympic sport and baseball is not? And I still see cheating going on. Now, there’s just too much to win and too much to lose.
I’ll never forget the Winter Olympics of 1980 when a bunch of college kids and minor league players beat the world’s best hockey team, the Soviet Union’s Red Army squad. The feeling I had that evening will never return.
Now it’s a bit of a yawn, even Michael Phelps’ record in this 2012 Olympics has not changed the boredom I feel.
Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.