Monday, May 10, 2010

Coming In Last

I realize the Winter Olympics are long since over, but I had occasion the other day to think back to them. Specifically to the Nordic cross-country event. I think it was on the last day of the Olympics, and for a change NBC was sticking with the coverage of the event all the way through the very last competitor. (Due, in no small part, to it being the last event and therefore there was nothing else left to cover.) The leaders had long since come in, and for that matter so had most of the pack, when the last competitor came into the stadium. Dead last, way behind everyone else, and yet the moment the crowd caught sight of him they erupted, just as much as they had for the medalists.

To his credit, whoever he was, he crossed that finish line as hard as he could. He could have slacked off, knowing full well he wasn't going to catch the person in front of him. At 48th, he was so far out of contention that the leaders had their skis off. Even 47th place was waiting for him across the finish line by the time he could see it. But he went at it anyway, competing as hard as he could until the end. And while he didn't come close to medaling, I feel confident in wagering that the sound of that Olympic crowd (granted, a small one, as it was the Nordic cross country event and the last event of the last day) made his struggle worth it, and perhaps inspired him to just a little bit more speed as he crossed the line.

A lesson in perseverance, and in sportsmanship, and a little bit in the spirit of the Games which, romantic that I am, I choose to still believe exists even in these modern times of pro-athletes and big name sponsors.

As for what this has to do with writing, and why I'm bringing it up several months after the fact, the event that triggered it came with one of those little community support rallies that occurred in the online writing community I hang out in. (Link is to the left) I don't remember the exact event, only that it wasn't anything big like landing an agent, more of a small victory, and the way everyone rallied around this person and offered congratulations - like they had, in fact, landed an agent or book contract - brought the Olympics example back to the forefront of my mind.

(In complete honesty, I had jotted the skier's victory down as a potential blog entry all the way back in January. It just never materialized.)

Now, the analogy with the Olympian only goes so far. I have in other entries here decried the existence of those "cheerleaders" who cheer on everyone and everything, regardless of actual merit. As I have also mentioned before, not everyone can write, and the numbers are far less than those who persist in thinking they *can.* We'd all have been spared some really bad poetry if enough English teachers had the guts to take an aspiring poet aside and politely suggest they ought to write just for themselves. Certainly that creative writing class in college would have been a lot less painful for me. The equation may only be 10% talent, but it's an important 10%.

The Olympic skier was no Eddie the Eagle. Because of Eddie, there are certain standards you have to hit in order to compete at the Olympics. So you have to have a basic level of talent and ability in order to compete in that venue. No backyard skier is going to be getting there, let alone coming in 48th (out of 52, by the way, so not everyone finished). However, armed with those caveats, I think it's an apt analogy.

As long as you have what it takes to get there, and are willing to push for it and keep at it, you can find some measure of recognition and adulation. Not everyone gets a medal, and not everyone gets the multi-million bestseller book deal, but that doesn't mean you can't celebrate the small victories you do achieve.

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