Tuesday, February 14

Reality check

Bravo to Joey Cheek. Not for winning an Olympic gold medal, but for what he did at the press conference after winning.

I know you want to do sweet Hallmark stories about chocolates and butterflies and all that, but I've had a pretty unique experience, this is a pretty unique opportunity and I'm going to take advantage of it while I can.

I heard that this morning while I was still in bed trying to wake up. It woke me up. His grim, matter-of-fact tone was not at all what one would expect for a post-medal press conference.

For me, the Olympics have been the greatest blessing. If I retired yesterday, I have gotten everything in the world from speedskating and competing in the Olympics. And the best way to say thanks that I can think of is to try and help somebody else.

I have always felt if I ever do something big like this I want to be able to give something back. I love what I do; it's great fun, but honestly, it's a pretty ridiculous thing, I skate around in tights. If you keep it in perspective, I've trained my whole life for this but it's not that big a deal.

But because I skated well I have a few seconds of microphone time. And I know how news cycles work. Tomorrow there will be another gold medalist. So I can either gush how wonderful I feel or use it for something.

So I am donating the entire sum the USOC gives me [$25,000] to an organization, 'Right to Play,' that [Lillehammer speed skating medalist] Johan Olav Koss either started or gave to in 1994. It helps refugees in Chad, where there are over 60,000 persons displaced from their homes. I am going to be asking all of the Olympic sponsors if they will match my donation.

In Sudan, there have been tens of thousands of people killed. My government has labeled it genocide. Hopefully, if we can stabilize the region, with U.N. or U.S. pressure, we can go in and start programs for refugees there.

Johan has lived his life in a manner I hope to live my life. I can only hope to fit in his large shoes.

A couple of days before the race, he had coffee with Johan Olav Koss. Koss' response says a lot, too:
He was talking that he wanted to do something big," Koss said. "I was so humbled to meet such a person. The most important race of his life is coming up in a couple days, and he's talking about what he can do to give back.

Here's to you, Joey. Thank you for stepping up and doing the right thing. Thank you for reminding us that "winning" and "losing" are so abstract as to be meaningless in the face of war, genocide, starvation, and suffering. I'm not saying don't enjoy the competition or cheer for your favorite athletes, just remember that winning is not everything. Remember that we can't keep living in our ridiculously-affluent lotus-land and ignore the world around us. Enjoy the games, but not to the exclusion of doing something to make the world a better place.

1 comment:

  1. Amen, brother! How nice to have someone think of others at a moment when nobody would fault him for being happy and self-absorbed.

    Cheek has challenged us.