“I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the Olympics,” said one of my neighbors Friday afternoon as he came out of the elevator in my condo building.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the YMCA,” said one of the Chamber of Commerce and Development board members before the monthly meeting began.
Two losses in one week. It is salt in the wound inflicted by the Cubs and Sox both having disappointing seasons. What are we to make of Rio de Janeiro “winning” the contest for who will host the Olympic Games in 2016 and Forest Park “losing” the chance to be the home of a new state-of-the-art YMCA?
I, like many of you, tend to root for the home team. In this case it was Chicago with the Olympics and Forest Park regarding the Y. But my disappointment at losing the Olympics was soon replaced by the realization that if I were an IOC board member, I would have voted for Rio, as did 66 others who gave the nod to the “soccer capital of the world.” Rio’s map with pins stuck in the locations of past Olympics clearly made the point that it was Brazil’s turn, since the games had never taken place in South America.
An Associated Press report on the Internet a couple hours after the decision used words like “conscience” and “gut instinct” to explain why the IOC chose Rio. In a contest in which Chicago spent $20 million to promote its bid, an “upstart” won the competition.
In a contest in which the U.S. used it’s star power – Oprah, Barack, Michelle – a guy named Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was the most persuasive. The AP article said of President Obama, “He came, saw, charmed but did not conquer.”
If I were a citizen of Uganda or Paraguay or Cambodia or Lithuania, I’d be celebrating right now. David defeated Goliath. The underdog U.S. hockey team beat the Russians. The Detroit Lions finally won a game.
Many Americans have this expectation that we’re the strongest; we’re the best; and we are going to win. No one else in the world feels that way. No other country refers to itself as a superpower. No other culture feels entitled to run the show, to win the most gold medals, to get its way in international politics.
I heard a story about Michael Jordan. When the Olympic basketball team he was on ran up the score on a much weaker team, turning defeat into annihilation, a reporter asked him why the Americans humiliated the other team. The best basketball player of all time replied that, as an American, he didn’t want to just win. He wanted to dominate. Shock and awe?
When it comes to losing the Y, I didn’t detect that attitude among those attending the chamber board meeting last Thursday. Sure, there was disappointment at losing a deal that certainly would have increased traffic on Madison Street. You know, “Honey, on the way home from the Y would you pick up some light bulbs from Schauer’s and the CD that Old School is holding for me and a pizza from Jimmy’s for supper?”
A YMCA on the west side of town would have been nice. But news of the deal falling through wasn’t framed by the board members as losing a contest to Oak Park or anyone else. There was no sense of “we’re entitled,” no attitude that “we’re the best and we deserve the best.” It was simply the loss of a great possibility.
That’s one reason I like living here. Call it a sense of perspective. We don’t need to be the best. It is a competitive world out there, but on the whole it’s not about ego. Certainly, business owners want to make a profit and parents want their kids to learn in school, but we don’t need our kids to get higher ISAT scores than students in villages to the north and east of us.
Was it Billy Joel who sang, “I love you just the way you are”?
Tom Holmes has worked in Forest Park since 1982 as a pastor and as a writer. He is grateful that his children grew up in this town and finds inspiration in the personal relationships he has developed with so many.