RIP, Nodar Kumaritashvili.
After the unexpected and tragic death of the Georgian luger, the International Olympic Committee and the powers that be in Whistler, Canada, decided that the luge track was too dangerous, and changes were made. Why couldn’t that decision have been made before human life was lost? Why was it that the fine folks at NBC showed us the crash over and over again, as they administered CPR to the dying athlete? Why did they make remarks about the inexperience of Kumaritashvili, rather than the fact that the track itself was too fast?
Is our “reality” off kilter?
I have a hard time cheering the lugers to go faster now. It seems that the game has become more than a game, something it should’ve never been. We’re not really the Christians versus the Lions anymore; we’re just supposed to be playing. But unfortunately, sometimes the lines between life and death and sports do get crossed. Sometimes, we do watch our heroes die while they’re playing the game (Reggie Lewis, Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Korey Stringer.)
But sometimes, sports are games which remind us that “higher, faster, stronger” is a calling that gives us more life than we had before. Twenty four hours after hearing of the death of the Georgian luger, we watched as J.R. Celski, a speedskater from the U.S. competed in the 1500 meter short track race on Saturday night. Celski, by some accounts, was just lucky to be there.
Celski crashed into the boards at the U.S. Trials in September 2009 and his right skate tore into left leg, barely missing his femoral artery, and spilling blood onto the ice. He told his mother that his dream was over, yet months later he was representing his country at the Olympics. And, he won bronze.
If the line between love and hate is razor thin, it seems that the line between life and death in sports is sometimes scary close, too. Is it worth it? Maybe for those who win, and those who strive without losing life and limb. But somehow, with sports, we’re willing to lay aside our common sense and compete. Like the early Greeks, we’re eager to watch those who will train and endure, struggle and overcome, all to come higher, faster, and stronger.
We are created in the image of God. We’re meant to struggle and overcome, but sometimes, there are failures, too. It’s time we reflect on what’s worth dying for, and what’s not. If our Olympians can compete and strive for something higher, then they should, competing with what they can, for all they can. But let’s be real here: it’s just a game. So build those walls higher, and sacrifice a few seconds for the safety of everyone.
Better to fail at success the first time, and rise again, than fall and extinguish the divine spark in all of us. Better to live again, like nineteen-year-old J.R. Celski, and renew the dream. Better to rise again.