My best man and I fancy ourselves intellectuals. Much of our youth was spent pontificating on the state of the world. Lately our conversations have centered around an apathetic public that has allowed itself to be spoonfed lie after lie, a complicit press corps, and the overall fragmentation fo the attention of the American public.
The basic contention is that there is so much information and distraction available for the population we have collectively lost our ability to focus on what's important. Our economy is in shambles. Despite the most advanced health care system in the world, we prevent those in the greatest need from having access to it. Last but not least we are mired in an ill conceived, fraudulent war that is crippling our ability to defend ourselves and our position on a global stage.
America has lost focus. We are all so busy struggling to survive we stopped caring about each other. We haven't had a thing to come together about in a long time. 9/11 was seven years ago and the aftermath became a twisted heap of collective grief and not something we could all look to as something positive.
Last night I played poker at the Marietta Billiard Club in Marietta, GA. I play there quite often and have marvelled at the odd cross section of humanity that joins me at the tables. From a demographic perspective you cannot find a more diverse group. With a group that diverse you will find a variety of interests and opinions. Last night however, there was a singular focus. That focus was on the far wall where a projector usually shows the Falcons, Braves or NASCAR. Last night the massive picture showed 6'4" half human, half dolphin Michael Fred Phelps and when he and his band of reknown hit the screen everything stopped.
No cards were dealt. No pots were splashed and no one complained of the infamous bad beats you take when you play free poker. The focus was on the 22 year old human fish from Baltimore and his quest for the improbable. The crowd roared when Aaron Piersol hit the water. Piersol's leg was strong and Hansen, who has had a rough Olympics really held his own giving Phelps a real opportunity to pull ahead. Phelps first 50 meters was just ok and for a moment he fell behind the Australian. Then, in the second 50 he surged ahead, each stroke pushing him further and further in front. When the American anchor, Jason Lezak hit the water the crowd's individual chants had morphed into a continuous repetitive cheer. GO! GO! GO! When his outstretched hand touched the wall and Phelps and America were once again champions the crowd erupted as one.
Michael Phelps' excellence unified a bouillabaisse of people last night, bringing their focus to something positive and helping people that have little in common connect. It was beautiful and in a small way gave me hope.
No 1 of Consequence