We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Medals

hermannismMillions watch the Olympics, their eyes Krazy-glued to the television screen. They stare at the athletes’ bodies, sculpted from rock and honed by years of training. They cheer them on, choosing strangers to overcome other strangers based on their nationalities, their youthful looks. They adorn the winners with shiny, rust-proof baubles that will one day fetch a fair price on eBay. They speak of Olympians as if they are gods, descended from the mountain of legend, awestruck by their abilities.

The Juggler does not receive standing ovations or glittering medals. He does not have sponsors or live in a village of other jugglers, wondering what to do with so many free condoms. He does not compete with others from different nations, choosing to learn from them instead of aiming to best them.

And yet, The Juggler, too, deserves the same praises lavished on the Olympians. He has trained for years, decades. He is fueled by passion and dedicated to perfection. He is a physical specimen with ripped muscles that are sometimes hidden under loose clothing and a layer of fat.

But The Juggler does not need the appreciation of millions. He does not need the rust-proof baubles draped over his head while the orchestra butchers his national anthem. He does not need sponsors (although he would proudly use Gballz or Dube if they shipped him some lovely samples).

All he needs is an audience of one. Just one person to watch the trick and enjoy it. Just one wide-eyed kid to wonder aloud, “How did you do that?” Just one silver-topped lady to stop and watch him perform as her Bichon Frise lifts a leg on the bushes, thinking how she once saw a similar trick back in Vaudeville days.

And sometimes that one person who watches and enjoys The Juggler is The Juggler, practicing before a mirror, smiling through the exhaustion when he finally runs his 7-ball cascade to 31 catches. And that is all the audience, all the adulation, he needs.


Jonathan Hermann juggles words, balls and small children in Alexandria, Virginia.

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