July 1976, it was the summer before high school. It was hot, as only southeastern Texas could get. It was the summer of a lot of things for me; growing up, figuring out who I was, figuring out what was ‘cool’ and what was not, who was cool and who my friends were, and getting ready for high school. It was also time for the Summer Olympics.
The Summer Olympics come around every four years, which is fortunate because if they came every summer, they might not mean the same thing, they might not be as special; because, the Olympic Games are something special. I have no memories of the Olympics before 1976.
Even though I know about the 1972 Munich Olympics; the massacre and Spitz’s seven gold medals those memories are mostly learned from reading or watching old clips.
The 1976 Olympics were different, I was older, much wiser, and much more likely to watch TV. I do remember watching the Winter Olympics from Innsbruck, Austria and Franz Klammer flying down the mountain and winning the gold medal in the downhill. Those Olympics were also the Winter Games of Dorothy Hamill and her signature haircut, which all the eighth grade girls wanted to have, and some did.
But, it was a hot summer and I was swimming for the swim team. I was swimming on a swim team for the first time and I swam two events – freestlye and buttlerfly. I had some success that summer, I had won a race or two and my times kept getting faster. But, when the Summer Olympics started, I stayed glued to the tube and kept track of the results in my Sports Illustrated magazine. Maybe it was because the summer games were in Montreal and TV was able to broadcast many of the events ‘live,’ or maybe it was just the timing of the games. I don’t know, but I was inspired. That fall, I tried running cross-country and I swam the following season and then gave it up in favor of football, then tennis, then cars, school, and girls.
It’s summer now, and thirty-six years later; my mind is filled with Olympic memories of watching and dreaming and of related events. I was never good enough of an athlete to think, realistically, about competing, but I watched, dreamed, and rooted for the USA. Every summer since, I’ve watched the Summer Olympics and I always recall the handwritten notes in my Sports Illustrated magazine, running with Robert barefoot around our subdivision, and pretending to win the gold medal in the pool.
That was a long time ago. This summer O has caught Olympic fever; we watched the swimmers and the gymnasts last night, she even watched the men’s volleyball game yesterday afternoon as well. W has, too. Yes, the Olympics are on and happening, but many other things are going on as well. Like the last week at the lake, school starting in three weeks, and fishing, swimming, boating, and yard work, cleaning, and the list goes on. I am glad I have the Olympics to watch and inspire me, even today.
And, if I don’t get going the day will pass me by, so I’d better jump up, jump in and seize the day because today is gonna be a great day! Making the Days Count, dreaming of Olympic fame, fortune, and gold – even at fifty!
What are your Olympic memories? What event or venue does the phrase “Summer Olympics” bring back?