Suzanne Tobias

Olympic dream alive in our home

Jack's humming the Olympic theme again, air-drumming the opening timpani while his dad sets up another game of Connect Four on the coffee table.

Cue the trumpet fanfare —"daahhn, DAAHHHHHN, da-dun-dun-DUHN-dun..." —and all heads turn toward the television to see what flying, spinning, twisting craziness we're in for tonight.

It's been all Olympics all the time at our house these past couple of weeks, save the occasional basketball game. And that's all right with me.

It started the night before opening ceremonies, when we popped big bowls of popcorn and watched "Miracle" on DVD. Hannah and Jack were more impressed by Herb Brooks' sports coats than the historic hockey match, but the movie did give us a chance to talk about the former Soviet Union, the Cold War, and the fact that the 1970s were not, as my son describes them, "the olden days."

The next night we invited friends over, ate pizza and watched the Parade of Nations and opening ceremony.

"Where's Algeria?" Jack asked. "Where's Andorra?... Where's Azer— Azer—?"

"Azerbaijan," I answered. "See the little dot on that map? It's kind of between Europe and Asia."

By Estonia, Jack's interest waned. By Liechtenstein, he stretched and sighed. But the promise of U.S. athletes toward the end of the parade kept him watching. National-ism, especially in America, starts early.

Every evening since, we've gathered after dinner to watch the Games. I think about all the children watching and dreaming of Olympic stardom, of shredding the slopes in eight years, or 12.

My own kids' commentary runs more toward the obscure. Jack wonders if Shaun White's hair is real, what skiers listen to on their iPods, why Apolo Ohno is named for the Greek god of the sun when, obviously, "he's god of the ice."

Hannah ponders the physics of halfpipes, the point of cross-country skiing ("Aren't you supposed to ski on mountains?"), and the insanity of luge and skeleton. Future Olympians, these children are not.

And yet the Olympic dream is alive, in our home as in millions of others. We gasped when Lindsey Vonn won gold, soaring down an icy, bumpy mountain on a badly bruised leg. We cheered as Ohno flew past competitors on the short track. We watched Team USA beat Canada in ice hockey.

We heard cowbells and the screaming play-by-play as Johnny Spillane — an Olympic sounding name if we ever heard one — captured America's first medal in Nordic combined, a sport my children had never even heard of until this month. (But, "Ooohhhh, that French guy won?!" Jack screamed. "That was so close!!")

Cue the trumpets, folks, and pop the popcorn. We may look like couch potatoes, but we're living the dream.

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