When I was a kid my buddies and I would bring a bag of marbles to an improvised battle zone off the pavement. One kid would draw a circle in the dirt with his finger and we would each drop an equal number of marbles inside that circle. It's not easy to remember, but I think we would “lag” to establish the order of shooters and the first kid would take his favorite marble, called his “shooter,” set the knuckle of his index finger just outside the circle and, with his skilled thumb, shoot at one or more marbles inside the circle.
If he was able to knock a marble or two out of the circle, they were now his marbles. And if he were lucky enough that his shooter would “stick,” i.e. remain inside the circle; he would get another shot with the advantage of being closer to his prey. It was fun to clean out the circle and leave the game with “all the marbles.” Maybe you’ve heard that expression.
There were a lot of games to play back then. I remember a “hi-tech” game with a small box that had a glass top and a cardboard bottom with small circular indentations or holes in it. The number of indentations was equal to the number of rolling BBs. The idea was to tip the little box and put each BB in an indentation in the cardboard. Man – what an innovation.
Gayle and I have watched our four grandsons hold a complicated, futuristic device in their hands and manipulate an animated alter ego on a TV screen. The characters in these games are so realistic that I almost attacked the TV screen with my fist when my grandson missed his shot. These characters leap from building to building, climb walls, and splatter blood all over the screen with ray guns. They do things that are obviously physically impossible for a human being to do.
All this is to lead up to the Olympic Games. We’ve been watching the Olympics until the wee hours lately and to watch the gymnastic teams perform provides the closest thing I can imagine to those weird little dudes my grandkids make jump around on TV.
These gymnasts are not human. Someone in a control booth is working one of those hand-held devices and making them fly through the air, flip around, and defy the laws of physics. Have you seen the “Fab Five?” These little girls are considered the greatest women’s gymnastics team in
U.S. Olympic history. They are amazing!
While they are in fact the “women’s” team, they all look like little girls to me, but the things they can do physically and mentally is beyond belief. Yesterday they won the gold and left little doubt that they are indeed the greatest in their sport.
Michael Phelps has won more medals than anyone and is perhaps the world’s best swimmer, but some have said he is the best Olympic athlete. He is the best swimmer, but not the best athlete. I don’t believe there are better athletes than gymnasts. (I should add that the earphones Michael wears are top-of-the-line and were designed by our former son-in-law.)
I’m a football fan and to me the athleticism of pro players is almost an art form. Basketball players have such a variety of athletic moves that they are right up there in terms of athleticism, but the strength of a gymnast relative to body weight, their flexibility, body control, and mental discipline is unmatched by any other sport. They are the ultimate athlete, in my opinion.
But I’m still in the game. I take pride in my ability to hold a screwdriver in my teeth and a hammer in one hand, while simultaneously climbing a ladder while my pants slip down my rear end. It takes years to develop the skill and balance to let go of the ladder with your free hand, pull up your pants, and then get your hand back on the ladder without a point deduction by the judges. In addition, you’re required to smile at the audience without dropping the screwdriver from your teeth. Now there’s a potential Olympic event.