Dear Dr. Babooner,
I’m happy when the Olympics come around, and also very, very sad.
I could have been on the U.S. Water Polo team at the Montreal Games in 1976. I had devoted myself to the task of becoming good enough – spending eight hours a day at the public pool in my town, pushing the other kids out of the way, taking their pool toys and throwing them out on the deck. I know it seems mean but these are the skills that lead to success.
Water polo is a surprisingly aggressive sport.
By the time the tryouts came along, I was toned and fit and fearsome. And things weren’t as systematic and regimented as they are today. There were no Water Polo Academies or WPL superstars saturating the gossip culture with their post-match escapades. It was a much simpler time when a common bully from the neighborhood pool could make the team, and I did!
I thought I was going to the Olympics! But I was wrong – our team was divided by infighting and several of the key players struggled with chlorine rashes. We didn’t make it past the qualifying round, and when the athletes marched in Montreal, I watched it on the black and white TV over the snack bar back at our local pool, crying while I took french fries off the plate of the kid next to me and dared him to complain about it.
I considered trying out for the 1980 team but my parents insisted that I get a job and then came the Moscow boycott. By the time the 1984 games came along, I had lost the kick in my legs and was useless in the pool.
I thought of offering myself as team equipment manager just to be in the arena, but water polo suits are so tiny there’s really not much there to manage. It involves carrying a suitcase, and anyone can do that. The coach had a girlfriend with a free hand, so my career was over.
Dr. Babooner, how can I learn to enjoy the Olympics, when all I can think of is What Might Have Been?
Still Treading Water
I told Still Treading Water that he might be elderly, but he sure hasn’t grown up. He needs to get over himself and let go of the past. Participating in the Olympics is special exactly because not everyone gets to do it. Still’s failure to qualify actually adds to the prestige of The Games, though not in the way he expected.
But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?