Category Archives: The Armchair Critic

The Armchair Criticby Anne Mikolay
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Christmas Pickles?

anne mikolay 2012 120“Oh, Christmas tree! Oh, Christmas tree!
Such pleasure do you bring me!
Oh, Christmas tree! Oh, Christmas tree!
Such pleasure do you bring me!
For every year, this Christmas tree,
Brings to us such joy and … pickles.”

Pickles? Yes, pickles.

The first time I saw a glass pickle hanging on a Christmas tree, I was as baffled as you are now. Apparently, however, there are many “odd” holiday symbols that, while not widely familiar, are as beloved to some people as the traditional Christmas bells and stars.

For example, in Germany, where the fir tree was decorated on Christmas Eve, pickles were considered a special decoration by many families. Parents hid the glass pickle deep within the tree’s branches. The first child to find the pickle on Christmas morning received a special gift from St. Nicholas. Acorns, too, held special meaning for Germans, who considered the acorn tree sacred. Acorns symbolized rebirth of life as witnessed through the coming of the Christ child; early German Christmas trees were thus adorned with acorns. Today, glass acorns have replaced the oak nut, but the symbolism remains. Like the acorn, carrots represented good luck in Germany, and glass carrots were traditionally given to new brides to ensure success in the kitchen. Bounty and blessings were similarly represented by glass ears of corn, and walnuts were thought to predict  the future. During holiday celebrations, parents cracked walnuts hoping the nut would not be spoiled; a spoiled nut predicted death. Children stuck tiny candles in walnut shells and set them afloat in water. Long life was promised to the boy whose candle burned to the end without capsizing, and the best husband was promised to the little girl whose candle stayed afloat the longest.

Such superstition played a major role in Christmas traditions not only in Germany, but throughout the world. In medieval times, if an apple was cut and revealed a perfect star inside, good health and fortune were assured. Birds were considered messengers of love and harbingers of prosperity. To this day, legend dictates that prosperity will come to any home where a bird’s nest is found nestled in the branches of the Christmas tree. While parents hoped to find the bird’s nest, children looked forward to finding an orange, a reward from Santa for good behavior, stuffed into their Christmas stockings. Many years ago, oranges were costly and scarce during winter months and considered a special treat at Christmas time. Oranges were the first figural glass ornaments mass produced.

Though our Christmas ornaments have changed through the years, the inherent sentiment remains the same. Whether you’re hanging Grandma’s old, glass pickle on your tree, or a resin donut from Dunkin Donuts, may you find good, old fashioned joy in your holidays – and a bird’s nest in your tree.

 

Too “Uncool” for Christmas

anne mikolay 2012 120At the risk of hinting at my age, I admit I did not know some of the performers at this year’s broadcast of Christmas at Rockefeller Center on NBC. Of course, the whole world recognized Neil Diamond, Dolly Parton, Sarah McLachlin, and that classic crooner from my daddy’s era, Tony Bennett, but who the heck are Tori Kelly, Pentatonix, and Anthony Hamilton and the Hamiltones? Even though I was unfamiliar with these artists, I watched their performances; it’s good to be exposed to new things. Right? Wrong! I didn’t care for any of them. In fact, in this case, I will gladly fall into line with the cliched older generation who turns a deaf ear to the younger set. As I listened to the music, I wondered why it was necessary to take something as simple and traditional as Christmas and attempt to turn it into something hip and “cool”.

Tori Kelly, whoever she is, looked lovely as she sang “O, Holy Night”, but she spoiled her performance for me at the end when she belted out what was intended to be a classy, high note, but was perceived (at least by me) as a screech similar to all the other glass-shattering shrieks from Whitney Houston wannabes on American Idol. A little advice to contemporary singers: not every song, and especially not “O, Holy Night”, requires a climactic scream. If you feel rather than wail, the audience will feel with you rather than cringe.

And Pentatonix. Oh, dear! Pentatonix! What can I say about the ensemble I had never heard of before the Rockefeller Center tree lighting? They had their five tones in there, but for me their performance was the worst of the night. In fact, it was Pentatonix’s arrangement of “O, Come, All Ye Faithful” that left me scratching my head. With all due respect to their fans, I thought Pentatonix was laughable. Transforming a beloved Christmas hymn into contemporary music might be thinking outside the traditional box, but it’s akin to giving the National Anthem a disco beat. Pentatonix looked silly trying to dance and inject “coolness” into a traditional Christmas song. Last but not least, the Hamiltons were a disappointment. While they did not look silly, they should have known you don’t mess with a John Lennon classic. Nobody can sing “And So This Is Christmas” except Lennon; thus, for my generation, Anthony Hamilton and his crew failed right out of the gate.

Admittedly, my assessment of NBC’s presentation this year probably leaves me in the minority; nevertheless, I pose the question: at some point, do we all become “too uncool” for Christmas? After all, things like Christmas caroling, secret Santas, and giving without receiving are not too popular these days. I’m well aware that a Norman Rockwell-like Christmas only exists in Hallmark holiday movies, but the old fashioned, Catholic school girl in me will likely never boogie to the Christmas hymns we sang in church nor scream out “O, Holy Night”. However, despite my affinity for the traditional, I am not too “uncool” for Christmas. When the anticipated tree lighting occurred, I oohed and aahed along with everyone else.

Bottom line: nobody is too “uncool” for Christmas; we each just make a different joyful noise.

 

Facebook Politics

anne mikolay 2012 120These days, when the status quo isn’t good enough, and middle America feels overlooked, bitterness is understandable. Toss volatile fear into the mix, and we wind up with an intolerant “me, myself, and I” mentality that creates dangerous dissension. During the chaotic 2016 election, this was clearly evident on Facebook where Americans revealed ourselves to be a contentious, angry bunch of know-it-alls.

Facebook was meant to bridge the distance between people, connect new and old friends, close the gap between us; however, as always, with the good, we get the bad. During this election, Facebook emerged as a bully’s playground where people freely argued with one another and said hurtful things they would not have dared to utter otherwise. Vulgar memes and commentary regarding Senator Hillary Clinton and President-elect Donald Trump popped up daily in Facebook newsfeeds. Apparently, In the Facebook arena, every person is an expert spouting their own brand of politics often to the detriment of the opposition. There are no consequences in Facebook politics. Humanity and dignity are discarded. Truth falls by the wayside. Propaganda is neatly packaged in bogus news reports, and disrespect is disguised as humor. I like to laugh as much as the next guy, but there’s a big difference between a polished Saturday Night Live parody and disgusting personal insults.

There’s also a big difference between a Facebook posting and truth.The politics of Facebook is misleading. During the last few months, I lost count of the counterfeit news bulletins about the election as well as the pseudo medical experts weighing in on Senator Clinton’s health. Newsflash, folks: personal opinion posted on Facebook is not fact. It does not matter what Megyn Kelly or Bill O’Reilly say if they can’t support their statements with fact; nor does it matter what John or Jane Doe say if they don’t have the credentials to back up their positions. And celebrity endorsements announced on Facebook do not lend credence to any candidate’s position on the issues. I’m not going to sleep any better at night knowing Katy Perry is “fighting for what’s right” with Hillary or that Chachi, aka actor Scott Baio, loves Donald.

The 2016 election was largely hard-won in the battleground of social media. Today, Trump supporters are ecstatic; Clinton supporters are angry, some even crying. But what’s done is done, folks. Whining doesn’t change anything. Neither does pledging to “make America great again”. Let’s be honest. Those who naively believe Donald Trump will easily turn things around are destined to be disappointed. Contrary to popular belief, he has no magic formula; neither does Hillary Clinton. The only thing left to do now is stand together. Let’s move beyond the Clinton vs. Trump debacle, avoid disruptive backlash, and reintroduce dignity and mutual respect. As they say, it is what it is. Put simply, let’s be nice to one another.

I’m the Armchair Critic, and I approved this message.

 

Time Will Tell

anne mikolay 2012 120Autumn leaves are falling, stores are selling tons of candy, and costume shops are enjoying steady business. Yes, it’s that time again! This Halloween, I expect to see a lot of little ones dressed as Elsa or Darth Vader, and adults dressed as orange-skinned Donald Trump and pant suit clad Hillary Clinton. While neither outfit can be deemed original, a review of Halloween trends of years gone by reveals popular culture and politics always dominate Halloween attire.

In the 1950s, cultural icons usurped the traditional for the first time, thanks to that new wonder of technology, the television. Vampire, witch, and monster Halloween costumes yielded to television characters like Zorro, Davy Crockett, and Dennis the Menace. The 1960s made dressing up for Halloween easier than ever as kids trick or treated in cheap plastic masks and suits sold in cellophane covered boxes in Five and Dimes across the country. The burst of pop culture in the 1970s unleashed a parade of Star Wars figures; now Chewbacca and his cohorts annually wander the streets. In the 1980s, a new kind of swashbuckling trick or treater, Indiana Jones, hit the pavement along with a few Michael Jacksons, Hulk Hogans and Elviras. The 1990s were ruled by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Power Rangers, and Barney, every parent’s purple nightmare. Austin Powers was all the rage in 2000, and who can forget Harry Potter or Sponge Bob? Clearly, Halloween choices mirror cultural trends, and cultural trends predict popularity.

Can cultural trends predict presidential elections? Party City unsurprisingly reports election themed costumes are most popular with adults this year; HalloweenCostumes.com adds that Donald Trump costumes are outselling Clinton costumes by 30%. Is that an accurate assessment of Trump’s popularity or how laughable he? Is it an illustration of the public’s disdain for Clinton or how drab she is?

Time will tell.

 

Let Kids Be Kids

anne mikolay 2012 120While in the Halloween store the other day, I saw a lot of little kids perusing frightening costumes, seemingly with their parents’ approval. I must admit…I don’t get it. Why would a parent want their preschooler dressing as a chainsaw toting serial killer or the grim reaper? Preschoolers shouldn’t even know about such stuff of nightmares. Halloween should be simple fun for the little crowd; there’s plenty of time for gore and fright fest when they are teenagers.

Apparently, Halloween has changed a lot since I was a kid. Back in my day, there were no Halloween stores displaying gruesome decorations and costumes. Your mom got your costume at the Five and Dime, or she made it herself. In these days of bigger is better, a handcrafted outfit might be construed as not good enough or the consequence of inadequate income or position.Today, it’s all about impressing other people, taking the best selfie, going viral. Somehow, good, clean fun has gotten lost in the shuffle.

Tell me: where is the fun in putting a hockey mask on a four year old and sticking a machete in his hand or putting fangs in his mouth and painting blood on his face? Where I come from, the only little vampires that are cute are the ones that know Big Bird and teach kids to count. You may call it much ado about nothing, but allowing impressionable children to step into the macabre before they possess a clear definition of good and evil is misguided and ill advised.

Let kids be kids! Sooner or later, Reality will burst their bubble, and they will learn, as we did, that life can be cruel and scary. Let children enjoy their candy coated world for as long as they can! A child’s Halloween should be about plastic pumpkins filled with M&Ms, little boys in Star Wars gear, and little girls dressed as Elsa or Anna from Disney’s smash film, Frozen, not about horror films, nightmares, and monsters in the dark. Steer children away from the gruesome. Sit down with them and enjoy simple pleasures of the season: watch Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin, carve or paint a jack-o-lantern, make paper ghosts and masks out of paper plates. Forego a haunted hayride and take tiny tots to a pumpkin patch where they can run and play. Create your own family traditions that your children can pass down to their own kids. As a child, I loved to help my mother fill the Halloween candy bags for the neighborhood children. Not a Halloween passes that I don’t remember the candy kisses, the orange slices, and the nonpareils scattered on the kitchen table as my mother instructed me on exactly how many pieces to slip into each bag. Perhaps such an activity is too tame for our present thrill-a-minute society, but I’d rather create memories my kids can smile at rather than fearfully run from.

You can’t stop the hands of time, folks; why help them move any faster? For the younger set, Halloween should be uncomplicated fun, sans fear or any psychological twist. As adults, it is our responsibility to seize every chance we get to direct children toward goodness and light. Halloween is a perfect opportunity to do so. In time, life will impose its own darkness; we have no need to help it along. Let kids be kids!

 

Ignorance is to Blame

anne mikolay 2012 120When you’re in a bad mood, itching to criticize someone, look no further than Kim Kardashian or Donald Trump.

Up first: Kardashian. By now, the entire world knows Kim Kardashian was bound, gagged, and robbed in a Paris hotel suite. The thieves made off with millions of dollars, including a 20 carat, $4 million dollar engagement ring given to Kim by husband Kanye West. Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the woman is a victim of a heinous crime. Imagine how frightened she must have been! Despite how you may feel about her, you have to feel sorry for her. Nobody should go through that. This incident will likely haunt Kim Kardashian for the rest of her life. That being said, she may have brought the tragedy upon herself.

According to twittercounter.com, Kim Kardashian, with 48,316,679 followers, is the eleventh most popular celebrity on twitter. Social media’s complex psychology equates the number of twitter followers or facebook “likes” with personal identity, popularity, and self worth, giving rise to a generation employing selfies, etc. to maintain personal and social relevance. Kim Kardashian, like her peers, has been sucked into the circus. Of course, Kardashian purposefully utilizes social media to bolster the character she has created for herself, that of a rich, trendy Barbie Doll famous for nothing more than physical attributes, wealth, and marriage to a performer. As she has unfortunately discovered, social media is a double-edged sword and self-indulgence is dangerous. Why is it necessary for Kim Kardashian to have a 20 carat diamond ring? Why must she travel with jewels worth millions? Why must she put her expensive possessions on full display via countless selfies? Common sense dictates one can’t flaunt one’s indulgent wealth without stirring temptation/envy in others. Sadly, Kim Kardashian has learned a hard truth. As Bill Gates once said, “with great wealth comes great responsibility.” And responsibility begins with oneself. I wish Kim Kardashian no ill will and hope she heals from this terrible event in her life…and stop behaving like a spoiled kid with all the candy.

Up next: Donald Trump. During recent remarks to veterans in Herndon, Virginia, the Republican presidential candidate unintentionally implied veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder are weak when he said, “When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat, and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over – and you’re strong and you can handle it – but a lot of people can’t handle it.” The media instantly pounced, as did Clinton’s camp, including Vice President Joe Biden, who harshly rebuked Trump. Once again, Donald Trump is insensitive. How could he say such a thing to veterans? As the daughter of a proud WWII U.S. Army veteran, nobody can tell me that any soldier, with our without a PTSD diagnosis, is weak. Until Donald Trump witnesses the atrocities my father and his fellow servicemen and women have witnessed, “The Donald” should keep his mouth shut, or at the very least, carefully prepare before taking the podium and cease foolishly speaking off the cuff. That being said, media bias involving Trump and Clinton is rampant, and we must exercise cautious criticism. Perhaps we are misconstruing Donald Trump’s words; I can’t believe he would intentionally offend veterans, the backbone of our nation. However, Joe Biden’s assessment of Donald Trump is quite often true. “This is an ignorant man,” Mr. Biden said. “This guy says things he has no idea about. He’s not a bad man. But his ignorance is so profound. So profound.”

Whether it’s Kim Kardashian’s jewel encrusted fantasy land or Donald Trump’s foot-in-mouth disease, ignorance, our nation’s ailment, is to blame.

The Silver Lining

anne mikolay 2012 120On Thursday, September 29th, New Jersey Transit train no. 1614 on the Pascack Valley Line crashed into Hoboken terminal, killing one commuter and injuring approximately 108, including the engineer at the controls. Bystanders rushed to assist. First responders were on the scene within minutes. Media descended upon the terminal.

A few observations on human reaction and media coverage: New Jersey/New York commuters were actively compassionate; media was informative if not repetitive.

New Jerseyans and New Yorkers are closely related. We live together, work together. The New York/New Jersey mindset is often difficult for visitors to accept. The city is fast paced; we are always on the move. We walk fast, talk fast, weave in and out of traffic until we get where we’re going. We are undeterred, focused; nothing slows us down. Generally, we’re not cheery, smiling people. In fact, if somebody gets on the train grinning, wishing folks a good morning or a nice day, the synonym “weird” promptly comes to mind, and we hardly look up from our cell phones. But toss us into a crisis, and we come together. The world witnessed our solidarity on 9/11, and yesterday, once again, New Jersey/New York proved that humanitarianism is at the core of who we are. Passengers on New Jersey Transit train no. 1614 united to assist the injured and help each other escape the train. Compassionate bystanders in the Hoboken terminal risked their own safety and rushed toward the crash site rather than in the other direction. Local merchants supplied coffee, food, shelter for first responders. In a moment of dire need, nobody was rejected due to race, religion, or political affiliation, proving once again that New Jerseyans and New Yorkers are generous, decent human beings.

And the media proved once more that they can report on a crisis in a timely, informative manner…over and over and over again. In this age of 24 hour news reporting, commentators and reporters are forced to fill the excessive air time with repetitive details and observations. As a viewer, once I learn who, what, when, where, how, I can retain the information and do not need to hear it again and again. And I will never understand why reporters at news briefings ask questions the government representative specifically addressed in their statement. Perhaps the reporter is seeking clarification or a direct quote from the representative, but asking the NTSB official or Governors Christie and Cuomo the same questions over and over is pointless. Admittedly, I’ve written only human interest pieces for newspapers and have never done straight news reporting, but to me redundancy reduces reporting to nothing more than background noise.

The events of September 29th are tragic to be sure, but if a silver lining is to be found, it’s the compassion and resilience of New Jerseyans and New Yorkers, who once more proved when the going gets tough, they come together.

 

America’s Got Talent?

anne mikolay 2012 120Allow me to take a break from the debate over Hillary Clinton’s alleged parkinson’s disease and Donald Trump’s taxes to focus on something truly important (tongue in cheek): the controversy surrounding the winner of America’s Got Talent.

For those of you who don’t watch the popular NBC summer show, it’s a glorified talent contest spotlighting the truly gifted and the truly stupid. This year’s five finalists included singer Sal Valentinetti and Brian Justin Crum, magician and former football player, Jon Dorenbos, a pair of mentalists calling themselves The Clairvoyants, and twelve year old singer/ukulele player, Grace VanderWaal. All were remarkably talented; three acts were eliminated, narrowing the competition down to The Clairvoyants and little Grace VanderWaal. The winner? The little girl.

Needless to say, the internet is on fire this morning with commentary from fellow armchair critics. VanderWaal’s supporters cite her voice, ukulele skill, and the fact that she penned her own songs as proof she deserved the win; her detractors (myself among them) can’t believe a little girl with a whispery, unusual, not quite developed voice beat a slick, highly polished act like The Clairvoyants. If I’m shocked, imagine how The Clairvoyants feel this morning!

VanderWaal is definitely talented. It’s a rare twelve year old who can compose her own music and lyrics and confidently perform on a stage before thousands of people. Her songs were good; her lyrics poignant. The moment she opened her mouth, everybody knew little old ladies and pre-teens across the country would fall in love with her. She is squeaky clean, charmingly innocent, sweet. All things considered, however, in my humble opinion, she is not a million dollar act. I certainly would not pay my hard earned money to buy a ticket to see her show in Las Vegas, and I don’t think I could bring myself to listen to more than one of her songs at a time. That being said, I wouldn’t pay to see The Clairvoyants either, but if I had to choose the act that I believed would fill seats in Las Vegas, I would definitely choose the mentalists over VanderWaal any day.

That being said, I agree with Simon Cowell’s prediction that little Grace VanderWaal is the next Taylor Swift. VanderWaal a diamond in the rough, or more specifically, a fortune in the making. Though her talent pales in comparison to her fellow America’s Got Talent contenders, VanderWaal is a marketing guru’s dream. Like an unused chunk of clay, Grace VanderWaal can be molded into whatever Simon Cowell and his cronies want her to be, and surely that’s a giant dollar sign.

While I’m raining on America’s Got Talent’s 2016 parade of colorful performers, let me throw this out there: what was that on Nick Cannon’s head? Was he auditioning for a role in the Broadway production of Aladdin, practicing to be a snake charmer, or was his jeweled turban part of the divorce settlement with Mariah Carey? Cannon is known for his sparkling shoes and trendy suits, but his choice of headgear for the 2016 finale was equally as baffling as this year’s chosen winner.

 

A Few Observations

anne mikolay 2012 120It happens every September: a child was left unnoticed on an empty school bus. I do not understand that! Five year old Prince Oquendo of Pennsylvania missed his first day of kindergarten because he was locked inside a school bus for nearly four hours. Apparently, the driver was unaware the child had not disembarked at Monacacy Elementary Center in Berks County. He didn’t notice because he didn’t check to confirm the bus was empty! What is wrong with people? If you work with children in any capacity, whether you are the teacher or the aide, the volunteer, the bus driver, or the person dishing out tater tots in the cafeteria, you are responsible for each child’s welfare. Ask yourself: are all the children lined up? Count heads! Are they all off the bus? Check the seats. Look under the seats. Check everywhere. It’s your job. No child should be left in a hot, locked school bus because the driver was too hasty or too lazy to complete his task. I worked with children; I know what I’m talking about. Children are precious and must be protected. There’s no excuse for leaving a child unattended on a locked school bus. None.

And there’s no excuse for insensitivity. In late August, San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick stirred ongoing controversy when he refused to stand during the National Anthem, stating that he was not “going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” In a show of solidarity, US soccer international and Seattle Reign midfielder Megan Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem before her team faced the Chicago Red Stars, professing her belief that the American flag does not protect all her liberties as a gay American. Both these individuals exercised their First Amendment rights to free speech, and while I see their points and concede that America has a long way to go to accomplish inclusion, I detect insensitivity and short-sightedness in the athletes’ actions. Did they not think about members of the military, past and present, who risked life and limb to protect democracy? Did they not anticipate how offensive their rejection of the American flag would be? Did they forget they live in the United States and daily take advantage of all that implies? By all means, if they perceive transgressions in our country, they should take a stand, but they should not disrespect the very country that makes their freedom of speech possible.

While campaigning on Labor Day in Cleveland, Ohio, Hillary Clinton had a coughing fit at the podium, reached for a glass of water, and discreetly spit something into the glass, reigniting speculation about her health. Give me…or Hillary…a break! The woman coughed and inconspicuously spit phlegm into a glass. Whippee. Would her critics have preferred she spit on the ground instead? Never fear; Republicans are not exempt from scrutiny. Marco Gutierrez of Latinos for Trump recently warned MSNBC that there would be “taco trucks on every corner” if illegal immigration is not stopped, and the internet lit up with election day “Taco Tuesday” jokes at the Republican candidate’s expense. Though the taco truck comment sounds like a “Trumpism”, Donald Trump did not say it. If the political arena has become so petty and nitpicky that talking heads are harping on the inane, we’re in worse trouble than we thought.

And isn’t that an understatement?!

 

True Sportsmanship

anne mikolay 2012 120The closing ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics was held at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 21st. Sports fans will remember the Rio Olympics for various reasons, including the stellar performance of the U.S. women’s basketball team and the contrastingly disappointing behavior of Olympic medalist, Ryan Lochte, who falsely claimed to have been robbed at gunpoint at a gas station. Neither will stand out in my mind, however; going forward, the Rio games will define sportsmanship for me.

Sportsmanship, as defined by a simple google search, is “the ethical, appropriate, polite and fair behavior while participating in a game or athletic event.” Sportsmanship, or the lack thereof, was called into question on August 7th when Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten unsuccessfully navigated a slippery curve in her pursuit of an Olympic medal, flipped off her bike, and crashed head first on the side of the road. Cyclist after cyclist sped by van Vleuten, casting doubt upon the existence of fair play. How on earth, I wondered, could those cyclists pass van Vleuten without rendering aid? Surely I would have stopped to help a person in such obvious distress…or would I? With an Olympic medal and potentially millions of dollars in endorsement deals at stake, would I have risked everything to stop my race and help a competitor? I don’t know! After untold hard work and training, what Olympic contender would throw it all away on another athlete who, quite likely, would not stop to assist if the tables were turned? The Olympics, after all, is about winning, being the best; thus, sportsmanship takes a back seat to grabbing the gold.

On August 16th, just days after Annemiek van Vleuten’s accident, two strangers collided, and sportsmanship usurped the pursuit of glory.

New Zealand distance runner Nikki Hamblin and US runner Abbey D’Agostino were laps away from the end of the 5000m in Rio when Hamblin stumbled and fell. D’Agostino, directly behind her, fell to Hamblin’s side. D’Agostino jumped up and pulled Hamblin to her feet; the two strangers raced on. However, D’Agostino’s leg was injured, and she went down again. Hamblin stopped running and reached for D’Agostino, telling her “we have to finish this.” These two Olympic contenders did not think twice about helping one another. Falling behind and losing did not matter; offering assistance and encouragement to a fellow human in need was paramount. Thanks to the mutual kindness of two strangers, sportsmanship took center stage at Rio.

Why did the distance runners from New Zealand and the United States interrupt their race to Olympic gold to help one another? Was it natural instinct? Was it because of something their parents taught them? With so much at stake, who among us is certain he or she would do the same and forfeit a long held dream to help a total stranger? I’d like to think I would, but I can’t say for certain. Regardless, the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics will forever define true sportsmanship. Let’s learn and apply the definition!