Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” – Hebrews 12:1-2
I’ve always been a huge fan of the Olympic Games. In fact, one of my early childhood heroes was Eric Liddell, the subject of the hugely successful 1981 film Chariots of Fire. I used to run just like him, undisciplined and free, with my head tilted back and joy splashed all over my face. But the extent of my success was more promise than substance as I was more interested in running full tilt after soccer balls than staying in a straight line.
Historically – and this is why Chariots of Fire resonated with me so deeply – it’s always been the stories that fascinate me in the Olympics. The guy from a small country who can’t afford to compete until his village gives sacrificially to make it happen; the woman who trains in the early hours of the morning while her children are asleep; the athletes who make it more on desire than talent; the missionary to China who defends his participation in “the frivolity” of running by testifying, “When I run I feel His pleasure.”
The Feel-Good Story the World Needs:
The Olympic Games can be the feel-good story the world needs so desperately, bringing together people from every nation, every political system, every race, every religion, and every economic strand. Uniting women and men who love to play, and who readily learn to love and respect one another in the context of shared joy and friendly competition.
So I’ve been a little disappointed this year at the not-so-subtle shift in media coverage designed to look hard for “feel-bad” stories, even going so far as to bait athletes into ungraciousness for the sake of this new narrative our nation is being sucked into – the story of tension, barbed comments, anger, bitterness, and “today’s grudge matchup” contrived to boost ratings.
Seriously, folks, if I see another reporter stick a microphone in an athlete’s face, then try to make her say something negative about some kid from Russia, I’m going to skip the event! Do we want another cold war? Are you that hard up for ratings that you’re cynically angling for some “I can’t believe I’m here; thanks mom; I love America!” college student to flush the Olympic Spirit down the toilet, just to give you a mean-spirited soundbite you can manipulate to boost your segment?
Well, yes. Because many news outlets would rather report Trump might be inciting violence than mention that Mike Pence reached across the aisle. The papers would rather headline, “Clinton Slams the RNC!” than report on the fact that VP pick Tim Kaine gets on well with his Republican colleagues in the Senate.
The Fourth Estate:
I have provided a lot of content for news media outlets over the years, and I still do. I have a great deal of respect for the profession; but I believe The Fourth Estate is in danger of losing its way in a desperate attempt to stay relevant.
The danger is that this anxious need to be noticed has pushed our primary mission aside. But if we can’t be taken seriously anymore, then we will have effectively lost our voice.
And if there’s anything our country does not need as we stand on the brink of forgetting our fundamental values as a free society, it’s a Fourth Estate without the credibility to be heard.