So I’m sitting in front of the TV the other day watching The Hobbit — I mean, The Muppet Show — I mean, the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics, and I couldn’t help but think that perhaps Salome had squandered her wish on John the Baptist when she could have saved us all some horrendous agony by asking for Matt Lauer’s tongue on a platter.
Banal commentary aside, the Opening Ceremonies are great because they often artfully depict what the host nations are known for. The other night London reminded us that they are especially talented at making things up. Before that Vancouver showed off their unreliable manufacturing, and before that Beijing put on a heart-warming and astonishing display of their considerable resources in child labor. In 2014 we will no doubt see a spectacle of Russia’s penchant for jailing political rivals, and I am especially looking forward to 2016 and Rio’s tribute to the thong.
The Olympics started in Ancient Greece well before the musical Grease came about and while Grease is the word that you heard and has groove and has meaning, the word ‘Olympic’ is derived from the Greek word ‘Olympic’ which means ‘sport nobody would watch otherwise.’ The games were originally held in the city of Olympia, which is currently the capitol of Washington State. Initial participants would compete completely in the nude, a practice that has been nixed ever since officials got a load of the first East German women’s swim team.
I love the Olympics and not just because of the theme’s rockin’ tympani intro. While the events themselves are interesting, what I always enjoy is the hard-hitting journalism that surrounds the international spectacle — especially the gripping human-interest stories with which they interrupt the live coverage of the actual sporting events taped ahead of time, even though such stories grip no interest in any human.
Take for example the heart-wrenching story of the Gluckstein brothers, Steven and Jeffery, who live and train together in New Jersey, but had to compete against one another for the lone spot on the U.S. Trampoline Team. The tragedy of this story is twofold: 1) The U.S. has a Trampoline Team, and b) Trampoline is an Olympic competition. While I’m sure Steven and Jeffrey are great boingers and deserve all sorts of accolades for their awe-inspiring vertical oscillations, Barna reports that 80% of likely voters rank trampoline just above rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming as a sport so lame it deserves it own handicap parking sticker. (It turns out Steven is representing our nation as its number one bouncing baby boy.)
But then there is always a list of events that bring up the question of whether or not they should even be events — events like archery, equestrianism, synchronized diving, ping-pong, lawn bowling, ladder-ball, spoons, and Skip-Bo. I for one, care less about that than the fact that one sport has 17 different events where someone like Michael Phelps can win 37 medals by swimming the 50 meter, the 100 meter, the 105 meter, the 127 meter, the 200 meter, the 200 meter relay, the 200 meter freestyle, the 200 meter relay freestyle, the 200 meter double freestyle relay, the 200 meter super freestyle double relay, et cetera and so on, whereas a soccer player plays 8 games for an opportunity at a single medal and even then has to call it football.
Another story hot on the news stands is that of U.S. hurdler, Lolo Jones, who I’m pretty sure is named after the heroine of a 1970s Pam Grier movie. The headlines about Lolo are not that she is a great athlete and made the team, but rather that she, at the age of 29, and even though she is ridiculously attractive, has decided to remain a virgin until marriage. Talk about selfish. What is even more interesting is that the coverage regarding this story has failed to even mention that our society has eroded to the point where this is considered legitimate news.
And then there is the situation of Greek triple jumper, Voula Papachristou and her numerous vowels, who, shortly before the games were to begin, posted a controversial statement on Twitter that was interpreted as racist. Officials immediately sprang into action and banned Miss Papachristou from competition for violating the proverbial Olympic Spirit, which includes community, tolerance, and agreement with the majority. While some may see this as an example of officials over-stepping their bounds and acting as Thought Police rather than athletic officials, anyone can plainly see that what she tweeted was doubleplusungood.
The above are just a sample of current Olympic coverage. And while I do enjoy the Olympics, I will be glad when they are over so I can go back to watching sports.