Power Plays: Politics, Football, and Other Blood Sports

By John M. Barry | Go to book overview

THE
OLYMPIANS

These chapters too involve power, both the physical power of the athlete and political power. We begin with the athlete.

Perhaps it is the pagan in all of us, the wish to exult joyously in the physical, that makes us respect—and in moments of fantasy envy— athletes. Especially champions. The way they let everything go and hurl all of themselves, minds and bodies, at a target is proof of a freedom, a simplicity, a purity that the rest of us seek. We envy their wildness, their risking, and we envy that they are the best, the very best, at what they do. Few of us are willing to pursue such a goal; instead we settle for the comfortable and secure and safe, avoiding defeat. But we also avoid victory. So we vicariously run with them, leap with them, win with them, and we are a little in awe of and frightened by their intensity.

The athletes care little about our vicarious thrills. They do not pursue excellence for us. They seek it for themselves.

Even world class athletes do not all enjoy the adulation of crowds. I recall planning to write about a woman who set a world record in the woman’s walk, then deciding the event didn’t justify doing so. When I told her, she said, “I understand.” Yet she was as dedicated as anyone.

What all of these athletes share is a desire to be the best in the world. They also share a respect for other athletes, for others who are willing to make the sacrifices and stand revealed.

All of these athletes had one goal: to win a medal in the Olympics—the 1980 Olympics hosted by the Soviet Union. Their stories demonstrate quite directly how politics intervenes in our daily lives, even when it seems remote.

-151-

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Power Plays: Politics, Football, and Other Blood Sports
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Home 1
  • Flexible Blocking Patterns 3
  • Jimmy 11
  • Washington the Players 19
  • The Making of a Politician I 21
  • The Making of a Politican II 35
  • The Media 45
  • Game’s over 55
  • It’s All a Part of the Game 57
  • No More Play 65
  • Regrets 80
  • Washington Wright’s Play 83
  • The Floor 85
  • Peace 93
  • The Vote 99
  • Washington Gingrich’s Play 131
  • The outside Game 133
  • The Olympians 151
  • Renaldo Nehemiah 153
  • Linda Dragan 158
  • Michael Storm 163
  • Mark Cameron 168
  • Postscript 175
  • The Fall 177
  • The Trial 179
  • Epilogue 203
  • Index 211
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