The “Feel-Sorry-For-Me” Olympics

by | Oct 5, 2000

Throughout the Olympics, athletes from around the world who had worked their entire lives to reach the pinnacle of their abilities gave many great performances. Let us remember, celebrate, and reward them for their virtues and not for their suffering.

Altruism claimed millions of victims at the Sydney Olympics.

Instead of focusing on the athlete’s achievements and the drama of live competition, NBC’s commentators sacrificed the minds of the American viewers as well as the athletes’ achievements to a nightly barrage of “feel-their-pain” emotionalism.

The morality of altruism holds that need and suffering are the standards of value: only those who have suffered are morally worthy of our attention. As there is no rational motivation to focus on suffering, altruism relies on an appeal to one’s emotions, primarily the emotion of pity for those who have suffered.

Given that altruism is the dominant morality of our time, it is no surprise that in an event devoted to achievement, the achievements of the world’s greatest athletes become less important than their suffering.

While the athletes themselves tried to revel in their own success, NBC’s commentators tried to turn every success story into a sob story. Where a great athlete had suffered in the past, Bob Costas’ crew repeatedly drew our attention to that athlete’s former pain. Where there was no direct suffering, NBC tried to find or invent something worthy of our pity and then rub our noses in it.

From NBC’s perspective, the Olympic Games were a glorification of death, disease, and disability.

One athlete’s fiancé had been killed in a car accident immediately prior to the Olympics. Another athlete’s best friend had cancer. Still other athletes were portrayed as disabled by either physical conditions or political circumstances. With soft-focus lighting, tranquil backdrops, and impossibly sincere interviewers, NBC magnified these athletes’ pain in repeated microscopic detail.

While these stories were all true–and some were tragic–NBC’s obsession with heart-wrenching stories detracted from the athlete’s achievements and trivialized greater misfortune.

For every athlete from a former communist country who, by dint of his achievement, had risen to some level of success in his own country, thousands, if not millions, still live in squalid conditions in those countries.

For every smiling Chinese gymnast who spent her entire childhood in a regimented dormitory to enjoy a few days in an attractive costume, millions of other Chinese children will never have the opportunity. (NBC made no mention of these tragedies).

Throughout the Olympics, athletes from around the world who had worked their entire lives to reach the pinnacle of their abilities gave many great performances. Let us remember, celebrate, and reward them for their virtues and not for their suffering. On behalf of every rational person, I extend congratulations to every athlete who did achieve his goal.

FEEL FREE TO SHARE
Andrew Lewis is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

Related articles

The Beautiful Tree by James Tooley

The Beautiful Tree by James Tooley

Parents want the best for their children. They realize that one of the keys to escaping poverty is a good education. The best education, they understand, comes from entrepreneurs who offer higher quality to stay in business and prosper. – Max Borders

Parent Power Can Improve US Education

Parent Power Can Improve US Education

Parents must seize control of their children’s education from the “interlocking directorate” that is waging a war against children’s minds.

Voice of Capitalism

Our weekly email newsletter.