Wednesday, September 20, 2000

Risky business

Have the folks who do the parent advisories for TV shows been watching the Olympics? Because I think they need to put a warning label on this stuff. Maybe: “The following program contains scenes of people doing things with their bodies that, if you tried to do them, would result in significant emergency-room and/or chiropractic bills. Kids, don’t try this at home.”

The disturbing thing is, most of these Olympic atheletes, the pinnacle of their sports, are doing things I’ve been trying for six years to stop my son from doing. Things like slamming his head against hard objects. In the early days home from the Russian orphanage, he used to whallop his head against the wall, slam it into the floor, bop it back on my nose if he was sitting on my lap. There was a hole in the plaster next to his crib from where he periodically hit. Since he felt no pain, we had to persuade him that really, there were more interesting things to do than inducing concussions. But now, let him get one look at those soccer players stopping flying missiles with a head butt, or those female gymnasts hitting the balance beam with a crack in mid-maneuver, or the male gymnasts practically bouncing on their heads against those unforgiving mats, and he’ll know that head-hitting is not a bad habit, it’s a sport!

Or let’s look at inappropriate vocalizations. Now, my guy has a habit of yelling out annoying words or phrases over and over. So does the man who’s calling the soccer games. I dread the moment when my son hears the word “Gooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllll.” Because I will then be hearing the word “Gooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllll” 20 times a day for a month. Do we need this? Then there’s the incessant chatter of the commentators, trying desperately to make things up to make the pre-taped events seem interesting and suspenseful, and they clearly don’t know when to shut up, so why should my kids? It’s supposed to be bad when people talk on and on and on with nothing really to say. Isn’t it?

Crazy risk-taking is a hallmark of many neurological troubles, and I've long had an eye on my boy to make sure he doesn't, say, run out into the street or use a banister as a balance beam. But watching some of these atheletes, it looks like crazy risk-taking and a disregard for consequences are necessary qualities for sports superiority. Could they all have FAS/E? There was a time, I suppose, when you’d watch the Olympics and hope that your child could someday be like one of those glorious atheletes, but these days... I look at what these atheletes are attempting, and I don’t want my kids to even think of doing that.

I suppose you have to keep striving to go farther, higher, stronger, but especially in fields like gymnastics (and ice skating in the winter) that are largely subjective, I think it’s possible to push the human body too far. The things they’re doing are just impossibly hard and complex and punishing, and you can see by the injuries and the screw-ups that perhaps human bodies were not meant to do this. Call me a philistine, more interested in good TV than the glory of sport, but I liked it better when the routines were easier and the performances were better. And you could let the kids watch.

No comments: