02/07/2014 01:04 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Olympics: Don't Put(in) It Down

One of the first things we're told as journalists covering the Olympic Games: Don't cheerlead.

It's a classic journalistic convention.

We were all told when we started our careers: No clapping in the press box. No "atta boy" back pats in the locker room after a game. Journalism 101.

And let's face it. Everyone knows I'm an American covering the Games for an American television network.

Makes sense.

However, a lot of people have said to me in recent months that they wouldn't mind seeing Vladimir Putin somehow look bad surrounding the Sochi Games. From the Boston Bombing to Syria to Edward Snowden, he is not particularly popular in the U.S. right now, and for good reason.

Of course, no one wants to see anyone get hurt, but the people who don't like Putin, for whatever reason, think it would be amusing if the boastful Russian tough guy took a political hit from the Games.

I am here to tell you: Don't cheer for that -- even if it's just for more bad press on unfinished accommodations or something with the venues.


Because if that's what you want, then you are cheerleading against the Olympics. Even though they are now almost fully stocked with professional athletes, and the whole operation is rather commercial, there are a slew of teenage athletes here and even more awe-inspiring stories about people overcoming challenges to get to this grand stage.

These are real people who have dedicated their young lives for this moment in history.

So don't cheer against them. If anything goes wrong in Russia, it will impact everyone here, and a competition with mostly kids -- representing their country -- remains a great fortnight of events, drama and authentic emotion.

Who wants to root against that?


Apropos of nothing, I want to share the highlight of my day. You see, often in my house, we go around the dinner table and share the best moment of our day. We call it, of course, "Highlight of the Day." It's a fun -- if slightly self-indulgent -- way to go back through the last 12 hours and think about what was actually good about it. Often, it's a positive exercise that can be a mood changer. At its worst, my 4-year-old will simply say he didn't have a highlight. He will say he didn't have a bad day; rather, there were simply no highlights.

I digress.

I have taken two jogs along the Black Sea since arriving in Russia. I don't know what you call the pathway upon which I ran. There are no boards, so it's not a boardwalk. Promenade, maybe? Either way, there are two large paths the whole length of the beach: one is made out of stone blocks smoothly laid out, and the other consists of the crushed rubber you often see at the local school outdoor track. It's quite nice, actually.

If I go left out of my hotel, I go toward the country of Georgia, which is just a few kilometers away. If I go right, I am about a mile from Fisht Stadium, where the Opening and Closing Ceremonies take place.

Both runs have been pretty much the same. Older men passively fishing on the beach. Young people drinking and listening to music. Groups walking and talking. Solitary men moving about the walkway, presumably undercover police -- too young and plainly dressed to be out for a soulful afternoon walk.

Anyway, I ran by a young girl (perhaps about 10) and her grandmother, walking arm in arm. The older woman was short and plump. Put a head wrap on her and go back to the 1980s and she could have been a stereotyped Russian in a bread line.

They both looked at me as I sauntered by, and they smiled giddily. Is it that obvious that I am not Russian?

I said, rather loudly, "Hello, how are you?!"

They both giggled, and the grandmother said backwardly, "Thank you, fine!"

I don't know why I liked that moment so much, and I am not sure there is a cheerleading connection -- but there is a connection. The Olympics is about the people, and the people want to see the Games... so let them begin!

And you can cheerlead even if I can't -- just cheer for the right thing.