Professor Mika Lavaque-Manty spoke eloquently of the position of sport in the world as a means of establishing position. For this reason, I decided a reference to that American golden age of sporting, hairdos, fashion, television, the 1980s was necessary; therefore, I included an image of the cover of Huey Lewis and the News on their album entitled “Sports.” In all seriousness, the Professor begins chapter five of his book, The Playing Fields of Eton, with a quote by paraplegic athlete, Scott Hogsett, who said of his endeavors as an athlete, “We’re not going for a hug, we’re going for a f***ing gold medal.” This addresses the fact that we, as a nation (and could even expand that statement to those in the civilized world) tend to treat parathletes as though they were lesser. The people who participate in the Paralympics and other sporting exercises for the disabled are seen in inferior terms. The Professor also discusses women, and how their sporting ability is sometimes scorned as well. This is because, physically speaking, neither meets the classification that men have. It is a biological and physiological fact, that a man who does wheelchair sprints will not be able to sprint like a regular Olymic athlete. A female Olympic weightlifter will never be able to lift as much as a male Olympic weightlifter.
However, in spite of these physical differences, these athletes have been allowed to play as institutional barriers the Professor mentions have been, piece by piece, broken down. The thing of it is, there also is a barrier, the Professor referred to as a values barrier that people also struggle to overcome, whether it be those who prejudicially think the women or disabled are incapable or whether it be those who don’t acknowledge the inexorable facts of life that the disabled and women must face in their base physical differences from a typical male athlete. The problem here lies in the fact that the mentality required to engage in sport is not addressed. These people all have different limits, but are all striving, pushing their bodies to those individual limits. To push a body to the uppermost limit of its potential is a very mentally demanding process, and it is no easier for any one group over the other to do so. Therefore, when we do not respect the people who are willing to do that, and treat them as equals for the mental toughness they display to achieve such a tremendous level of excellence within their contigent inhibitions, we make them into second class citizens. To take a person who has exhibited such determination and grit and dismiss them is to rob them of the time, effort, blood, and pain they endured to get to such a point. It is a deplorable notion for anyone to think that the devaluing of the unparalleled efforts these athletes input into their lives is legitimate for the sake of political correctness. When Scott Hogsett has to articulate the fact that he is playing hard and fast to achieve a gold medal, and not a “hug,” it demonstrates the fact that we as a society have taken to babying those who don’t want to be babied. The only solution is to take those who would go through the long, intense, painful process of finding and reaching their full potential, whatever level that may be, and recognize them for the mental toughness and acuity they displayed in getting there. See them for their greatness, not their setbacks.