I have spent the last four days working for a certain sports centered cable network at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles and it has been amazing.
For those readers who are not familiar with what I do when I’m not being the Eddie Haskell of the Milk and Whiskey duo, I’m a sound guy for television and film. Sometimes I run around with a kangaroo pouch and a microphone on a stick and chase a camera operator. This is one of those times, but this time has been very different then the usual experience.
A great deal of my work is reality television, which I know is a guilty pleasure for many people. Personally, I don’t actually watch most of the shows I work on. Which is weird, it’s like being a guy who helps make Chevy cars and then refuses to drive one. On the other hand making a car is in my mind an honorable living, making television is often not. Many of the productions I’ve worked on have contributed to making my fellow Americans dumber, or misinformed, or glamorized people I find horrible. I like to think it’s just harmless entertainment, but I have kids to feed, rent to pay, and I require custom made surfboards occasionally so it’s off to work I go. My most despised work falls under the “Douche Bags and Whores” (industry term) shows. You really start to lose faith in humanity after a while.
But last Saturday I had a feeling of hope and love and courage and a million other feel good words wash over me just when I thought I was jaded to the point of immunity to such things. When I took the job, the guy who brought me on tried to tell me how amazing and inspirational it would be, and I was all “yeah that’s great, let’s talk about money…”
Then the athletes walked down the tunnel. The Greeks were first, and they looked so proud and determined and courageous it was infectious. And every team after them, just completely pumped up, chanting, singing rally songs and war cries, they were not people to be pitied. These are not people to make sure your curious three year old doesn’t ask loud questions about; they are competitors, and they are here in LA to kick some ass.
Our team of myself, camera op, and producer made the mistake of trying to cut through the Indian team to cross the LA colesium and get to our next location. We were immeditaly engulfed in hugs and and spent fifteen minutes letting them take selfies with us. Two Australians demanded we film them dancing, and when Mixmaster Mike of the Beastie Boys started spinning the place went bananas. There were many other celebs and the first lady (who, by the way, looks fantastic in person), but the real reason to be there was the vibe.
The day after opening ceremonies we spent in the medical tents. There is a complex of giant tents with all sorts of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, etc. Every athlete is welcome to visit, and there they get workups by top sports medicine people but, even more important in my mind, eye docs and dentists. Many of these athletes come from third world nations and they are developmentally disabled. Even if they have the luxury of seeing a doctor, that doctor lacks the same training and the equipment that the games offer for FREE. Hell, I live in the United States of America, where everything is awesome right up until you don’t have insurance. I think our mom may have bought my former dentist a starter Chalet fixing my teeth.
I hate watching the news but I do, it’s like picking at a scab. Especially since the internet came along, any terrible story can become front page, and make you fear your neighbors, or get really depressed about the future for your kids. That combined with some of the terrible shit I’ve helped film has taken its toll.
But I’ve been embedded like a tick in Special Olympics goodness for four days with six to go and I’ve really never felt better. If you’re sitting around watching TV this week, you should check it out. Think of it as reality TV that won’t eat your soul.