No cheering squad is louder or more enthusiastic than a bunch of kids (except maybe silly-hat-wearing, body-painted members of Red Sox nation during the World Series or Green Bay Packer fans when it snows at Lambeau Field). And the Olympics are the greatest event for kids to cheer.
Why? Because there's a sport for all of them. And it's something to dream about.
My first Olympic memory is watching Dave Wottle, in his white golf hat, run around the track during the 1972 Olympics. In a far-off land, in front of a packed and cheering stadium, Wottle simply ran around the track and crossed the finish line first. Even Jim McKay, commentating for ABC, sounded as if he leapt from his chair when Wottle won.
"I'm going to go to the Olympics in skiing, skating, or swimming," I announced as I watched our black-and-white TV (never mind that I only skied on occasional Saturdays in winter, ice skated on a friend's backyard pond, and swam in the summer, and never laps). "If I can't go in those sports, I'll make it in something easy, like track."
Because running around the playground wasn't very taxing, and Dave Wottle made it look easy. I remember my father chuckling.
As the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team prepares for Beijing, childhood enthusiasm for the Olympics is on full display at team processing at San Jose State University in California.
As the athletes pick up their Team USA gear and finish paperwork, they walk by walls hung with signed banners. Over the lounge hangs a Johnson & Johnson sponsor's banner covered in well-wishers' signatures. In the shipping room, where the athletes send home the items they don't wish to carry to China, hangs a long "Bring Home the Gold" banner from kids in Jacksonville, Florida.
But the greetings that are the most fun to read line the wall outside the alterations room, where the athletes are fitted for their opening ceremonies outfits.
These "Good Luck Team USA" cards were sent from Hilton Hotel families, and not only do they wish the athletes the best of luck, but they pass on the kind of advice heard from their parents.
"Good luck! I hope you win!" reads one, followed by, "You be kind to others, others will be kind to you!"
Another shows five cats lined up all meowing good luck. Underneath the cats, it says, "It is OK to be different."
"I hope you win but do not be shy!" encourages another. Next to it: "Good luck, I hope you win! Be hospitable."
Or this: "Have great luck in the Limpicks!"
It made me wonder what I might have written way back when (for the 1972 or '76 Limpicks). Or what I might say now, if given a crayon?
"Go Team USA. Make it look easy," followed by, "Look both ways before you cross the street."
Peggy Shinn is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This blog was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies