Poe’s Perspective: The Special Olympics fly under the sports radar

first_imgWe might not get everything right when it comes to sports. But the Special Olympics has it figured out — emphasizing the good of sports, and letting everything else follow. March has been the former state, a wonderful combination of the start of March Madness and a collection of shocking NBA, MLB and NFL trades and contract negotiations. Even storylines such as the U.S. women’s soccer team’s lawsuit, which typically would garner top attention, have struggled to maintain a presence in the nightly headlines. This is a common battle in any sort of oversaturated news environment, where no single story can reign supreme unless it holds an otherworldly, overarching importance — LeBron James leaving Cleveland, for example. The past week has certainly been that way for the USC community, from admissions scandals and tragedy to the announcement of our new president. And no sector of news suffers from these crashing waves of news more than sports, where trade deadlines and playoff schedules construct timelines that move from wildly hectic to shockingly dull on a regular basis. Today, on the day of the Games’ closing ceremonies, I think it’s important to spend at least a moment appreciating the athletes who represented the U.S. over the past week. At the end of the Special Olympics, the U.S. has won almost 200 medals — 69 gold, 55 silver and 67 bronze. Nothing ever happens neatly, one by one, allowing proper time to rest and recuperate before the next news item comes along. When news happens, it’s typically a downpour, and in the deluge it’s often easy to miss out on much of what is happening. Often, we see how sports bring out the worst in one another. When spectators yell at athletes, when fans fight on Twitter, when stories of corruption and abuse and scandal dominate the sports news cycle, it’s sometimes difficult to believe that the good of sports could possibly outweigh the bad. But the Special Olympics has always been a counter to that, at least for me. It’s a reminder of the joy and love that sports can create and the way in which sports can connect people across any difference of culture or ability. But this week, unfortunately, the rush of recent news overshadowed an event that often gets pushed to the back burner of sports media. Last Thursday, the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics took place in Abu Dhabi, bringing together thousands of athletes from almost 200 countries. Of course, the importance of this event runs much deeper than just medals and on-the-field accolades. For these athletes, the Special Olympics offers the same intangibles that any other Olympic athlete would receive. It’s a chance to experience other cultures, deepen team relationships and create new ones around the world. It’s an opportunity to showcase years of hard work and to receive international recognition for their dedication. One of the best lessons I’ve learned over eight years of student journalism is that news comes in waves. Maybe you weren’t aware of the Special Olympics, or didn’t follow it closely during this year’s Games. That’s completely OK — as a sports fan, it’s hard to keep up with everything, and this year’s Special Olympics slipped under the radar. But I hope that they will continue to inspire people, those who love sports and those who just love others, to support and further this organization. Julia Poe is a senior writing about her personal connection to sports. Her column, “Poe’s Perspective,” runs weekly on Thursdays. I served as a Special Olympics coach in high school, and I’ve seen firsthand the impact that this organization can have on athletes of all ages. Over the past week, that impact has been beautifully illustrated — from the power lifter who impressed Arnold Schwarzenegger to the athlete who hit a 75-foot full-court shot to beat the buzzer. The Special Olympics is a place that creates joy, and the entirety of the past week’s events have been filled with it. The event was met with a scattering of press awareness here in the U.S., as outlets such as ESPN interspersed its typical coverage with content and clips of events. Most of this coverage took place on social media, but it was few and far between, easy to miss amid headlines about Mike Trout and Le’Veon Bell’s contracts. In fact, most sports fans in America are likely unaware that halfway around the world, hundreds of U.S. athletes are competing in the biggest event of their lives. last_img

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