It takes a mountain

It’s Winter Olympics time. This year, the mountains are in Beijing, China.

In the Olympics, young people work hard for years with their eyes on the Gold. Skiers strengthen their legs and practice their timing, hoping some day someone will notice. One day, some of them find themselves on a mountain, competing for the honor of being named Best in the World.

In both sports and politics, there are a few who actually make it to the mountain, where getting back down is measured in hundredths of a second. To win the bronze is to do way better than most of us at-home couch downhillers. I do enjoy watching the downhill racers, snowboarders and luge and bobsled speed demons carve their chosen path but I’ve long thought, “If you in the race, you’re a winner on my score card.”

Twenty-eight-year-old Summer Britcher, of Glen Rock, PA, near my home, got her introduction to the possibility of luge competition at a test ride staged by Liberty Mountain, in my home county. I think she was seven years old. It will be nice to watch her do the feet-first rocket ride and think, “maybe I could meet her some day.” I like meeting young people doing great things. (Anyone born after I retired from the Navy is a “young people.”)

We Americans do love our sports heroes, and I have to admit to a sense of wonder when I see the team of Brady and Gronkowski doing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers what they used to do with the New England Patriots. (I still root for the Dolphins first, but I’ve always loved watching excellence at work.)

For the winner, it is a mark in the history book that cannot be erased, whatever else happens, so it is important to the person who holds the title.

The contest is about the game. It is about working hard for a long time, getting up early in the morning and running 10 miles. Or skiing down the mountain over and over, following the snow to find more other mountains in a quest to shave one one-hundredth of a second off your time. Playing every practice scrimmage as though it were the Big Game.

One mistake. One missed flag on a slalom course. One fumble on a critical first down. One flubbed line in a speech — and it’s over. The other competitor gets the line in the history books.

One goes home with The Gold, one just goes home.

But winter competitors who have been around awhile have noticed another problem – finding places to practice. Former alpine ski racer Lindsay Vonn on NPR early this month told of canceled competitions and slalom runs between hills of exposed dirt. The girl who grew up skiing on natural glaciers has been forced by warming temps to search the world for snow.

I await with eager anticipation China’s next major boast as it builds a plastic-wrap bubble over Beijing and creates the first permanent Asian Nordic metropolis, with ski trails and bobsled taxis.

We have a less expensive solution here in the U.S. of A. The latest tech rumor says when Jeff Bezos gets his space industries moving pollution off-planet, he will bring the empty rockets back to Earth carrying frigid temps from the nether regions to cool down our home planet, thus removing China’s corner on the show market.

In the end, just being on the mountain on that final competition day, just being in the Super Bowl stadium – or just being able to own the newly snowed mountain – is to have won a major victory.

Thanks for coming along. Please take a minute to comment and share the conversation. I’ll appreciate the help spreading the word.

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