The Seven Deadly Sins of Sportsmanship in Sochi

Tae-Bum Mo of South Korea celebrates winning Silver, Shani Davis of United States Gold, and Chad Hedrick of United States Bronze during the medal ceremony for the Mens 1000m Speed Skating on day 7 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. - Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The seven deadly sins: wrath, pride, avarice, sloth, lust, envy, gluttony.

By now you've probably heard just about every possible argument over whether or not to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. I'm left wondering in which of the seven deadly sins each of us will indulge as we experience the upcoming Winter Games.

Many of those in favor of boycotting the Games claim it's a human rights issue. In other words, how can one knowingly support the Sochi Games just months after the draconian anti-gay laws in Russia were passed, particularly amidst the ongoing and horrifying home-grown homophobia and gay-bashing happening there?

Opponents of the proposed boycott are quick to point out that human rights didn't seem to be such an issue when, for example, the 2008 Games were hosted by the notorious human-rights infringer, China. Of course, as awesome as we Americans like to think we are, it's not as if the U.S. has an unsullied record when it comes to human rights, both abroad and in its own backyard. And, really, isn't the point of the Olympics anyway to supersede our national, cultural and political differences so that we can come together as one community in genuine sportsmanship?

In theory, yes, genuine sportsmanship in the Olympics is a beautiful concept. In practice, however, as demonstrated not only by the IOC's ambiguous rules but also by its own blatant disregard for them, it's not so beautiful. In fact, it has become rather ugly. Add to the ugliness the pride of the athletes, many of whom want nothing more than their individual moment to shine, the brazen greed of governments and corporate sponsors, and the antipathy of the masses, who generally only care about the medal count (if even that), and what do we have? I'll give you a hint: NOT sportsmanship.

Those on any side of the debate might reasonably feel for the athletes. After all, why make the athletes suffer by begrudging them their talent, resolve, and unyielding desire to win? Why piss on all of their hard work like that? Sure, a handful of the Olympians are already decorated in their sport, backed by major brands, and wealthy by even first world standards from corporate sponsorships and special government subsidies.* And sure, the Games could be moved to a new location, as they have been in the past. But why disrupt the lives and trajectories of the athletes? Seems a little shortsighted, no? Seems a little invidious even. Clearly, the athletes are the victims in this mess, as opposed to, say, the gay Russian men and women who are living in constant fear of being tormented, beaten or incarcerated simply because of their sexuality.

Note: the heavy sarcasm here is not meant to disparage the athletes or their pursuits, but rather to underscore exactly who's begrudging whom.

Which leaves you and me. If we're not apathetic, or perhaps fearful of unknown ramifications (political or otherwise), then we're extremely hungry, almost blindingly so, for the drama and the heroism (and the vilification) of the Olympic Games. Oh, and let's not forget those medals -- those gold medals! Why are some of us "blindingly hungry?" Because we're willing to overlook atrocities that could easily spill over and very seriously harm our own gay athletes and their advocates in the form of fines, jail time, deportation or worse -- all for individual and national glory, all for the sake of so-called tradition, and all in the veil of "sportsmanship."

So whether or not the Olympics take place in Sochi, ask yourself what role you will play. Which deadly sin, literally, might you facilitate or yourself indulge? Will it be worth it? Because sportsmanship isn't about just the athletes. It's about their supporters, fans and spectators. It's about their families, friends and countrymen. It's even about humanity at large, which includes you and me. Every one of us has a choice about how to approach the Games, and that choice doesn't have to be among the seven deadly sins. Indeed, it doesn't have to be a sin at all. You can take a more constructive, even virtuous approach. Question is, which will it be?

Seven Deadly Sins

Wrath: draconian, anti-, homophobia, bashing, tormented, beaten, atrocities
Pride: pride, win, glory
Avarice: greed, gold
Sloth: antipathy, apathetic
Lust: unyielding desire
Envy: begrudge, invidious, heroism, vilification
Gluttony: extremely and blindingly hungry

Edward Yaeger is a digital marketer and a short story fiction writer based in Baltimore, MD. While he was both an All-American and a Division 1 collegiate swimmer at Columbia University. He had neither the ambition nor the talent to become an Olympian.

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