Not long ago, the Olympic committee produced a series of commercials entitled “The Best of Us”. One such commercial displays giant sized Olympic athletes, each standing on their home continent, holding an enormous rope. Bracing their mighty feet against buildings which mark the crowning achievements in architecture and engineering of their respective civilizations (the rest of us), they proceed to pull on their ropes, thus bringing the continents of the world together and restoring Pangaea.
In Canada, we have been equally guilty of amateur athlete worship, treating our athletes as something more than human. From ads that show snowboarders soaring into space to touch some celestial body, to the attempted religious fervour of the “I Believe” campaign, our athletes are increasingly portrayed as being more than human. At first glance, this appears an abrasive contrast to our nation’s “second place rocks” status, but perhaps that is what allows us to regard our athletic achievers as being greater than ourselves. Our encouragement and financial support, rather than being received with humility and gratitude, are demanded as worship and tribute. We are led to believe that by playing sports for the rest of their lives, these spry teens and young adults are contributing more to us than we are to them. It is high time to replace the question: “Do You Believe?” with a much more profound and appropriate slogan: “Thank You”.