March 1st, 2010
10:20 AM ET

Dear President Obama #406: To those who toil in obscurity

Reporter's Note: President Obama might like the Winter Olympics. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure he must like my daily letters. But frankly, I don’t know about that either.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

You know what I really like about the Olympics? I love watching how very close the competition can be between people from opposite sides of the world engaged in sports they have dedicated their lives to, and yet about which I know almost nothing. Did you see the finals in the biathlon? You know that whole ski-shoot-ski routine?

Unless we’re talking about cultures that are deeply engrossed in some sort of strange winter war, this is not an activity that you’re just going to stumble into. And yet people train at it, study it, practice it, condition for it, and have these breathtakingly close contests to decide who is best. (As an aside, I’d like to try this sport, but I’m a bit hesitant. When I was a teenager I once chased a possum out of our garden, threw a rock at him, and broke the garage window. Ok, I made that up. But skiing with a rifle? I fear if I get involved the first thing they’ll have to do is herd all the spectators into a bunker.)

Still, I get a lot out of watching such contests. I admire not merely the athleticism of the folks involved, but also their tenacity. It can’t be easy to spend so many hours training for a sport that no one understands, to compete in a contest only a few people care about, and to only maybe…maybe…maybe come away with anything to show for your efforts.

I mean, the worst player on a college basketball team still has instant cache around campus. “You’re on the team? Cool.” But the very best…oh say, fencer…is likely to labor in anonymity; appreciated by his teammates, his parents, and perhaps the Princess Bride Appreciation Club, but that’s about it. “You’re on the fencing team? When are they going to fix that split rail near the Student Center?”

And yet, these rare, talented, and dedicated folks toil on…sweating and fretting from early morning to late night, getting better and better at their craft, whether or not they ever receive any recognition for what they have done. I like it. I think there is some kind of lesson in their efforts for all of us.

Now, if I can just figure out what it is, then I’ll be set.

Call if you have any ideas about that. If I don’t answer, let it keep ringing. Might take me a while to get the skis off.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (One Response)
  1. Annie Kate

    And after all those years of practice, effort, hopes & dreams – for the most part they are such wonderful sports when they lose and when they win. I'm partial to the winter Olympics and I can hardly wait for the next one in 4 years.

    March 1, 2010 at 10:14 am |