A Curmudgeon on the Olympics
For the last week or so, my nightly TV blogging companion has been the TDT Olympics. TDT. Time Delayed Tivo’d. I figure since the events are already time delayed by NBC, I’ll add another hour so I can fast forward past too frequent, too long commercials … doting chatter by announcers … events I’d rather skip. You may wonder how can I blog with all that drama, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, going on in front of me. The truth is, I check the results during the day, which eliminates the drama. And knowing the results, I get to skip the agony of defeat, like poor Ally Raisman realizing she missed a medal due to some obscure tie-breaking rule. They give multiple medals for ties in swimming, why not gymnastics? Oh, yeah, it’s gymnastics. I don’t enjoy watching someone who’s worked hard for years for a few short minutes at the Olympics as they come up short. Then again, I sometimes chafe at the way we glorify the single-mindedness of our athletes who sacrifice their childhoods to jumping around on a piece of wood or beating their neighbor across the pool. Is that REALLY the best use of a childhood? Why don’t we wax orgasmic about little Julie who dedicates her childhood to studies and becomes a renowned scientist or doctor? Sorry. The Olympics.
I enjoy the events with no judges and the fewer rules, the better. Since swimming meets those requirements … and I was a swimmer in high school … my favorite is swimming. I swam the same events as Micheal Phelps, which is like saying I can sing One Moment in Time, the song Whitney Houston made famous for the 1984 Olympics … doing the same thing doesn’t put me in the same universe. So much has changed since I swam competitively … no more tiny Speedos, the technical details of the strokes and especially, the times. I had the good fortune to swim against Steve Clark, the world record holder in the 100 yard freestyle, in 1962, two years before he won 5 gold medals at the Olympics. He had just broken 50 seconds. Nathan Adrian broke 48 seconds for the 100 meter freestyle in winning his gold medal. In case you’re not a metric system geek, that means he swam more than 9 yards farther than Steve Clark did in 2 seconds less time. Amazing. I also enjoy the volleyball, both the indoor and beach varieties. The games are usually close and the athletes are phenomenal but not spoiled by too much fame. There is something mesmerizing about rowing, too … rhythmic teamwork over water. Gymnastics? Let’s just say I do a lot of fast-forwarding … enough gets to be enough and nowhere is there more heartbreak. It is a cruel sport when someone like Jordyn Wieber who has accomplished so much gets to feel like a loser for not making the all-around finals. Parenthetically, it bothers me that physical stature and looks seem to count a little too much in women’s gymnastics. Bigger gymnasts seem to be penalized by the judges … and aren’t there any homely young women out there who can do a triple whatever? You can bet there aren’t any swimmers rejected because they’re not petite cuties if they can make it across the pool faster than anyone else. Sorry again.
Looking at the Yahoo poll, Gabby Douglas is clearly the consensus sweetheart for this Olympics so far. Me? I’m going with Rebecca Soni, who without a lot of flash broke the World Record … twice … in the 100 meter breaststroke, then managed her post race interview with no giggles and not one awesome. Sweet. Among the men, how could my favorite not be Micheal Phelps? Poor good-looking Ryan Lochte underestimated The Man when he claimed this was his time after beating Phelps in the 400 meter IM. I thought Phelps handled that loss … and his second place finish in the 200 meter butterfly … with remarkable grace for a man used to winning. He seemed to be savoring it all and in the end, I think that’s what carried him past Lochte in the 200 IM. I also love it when someone wins unexpectedly … they seem so appreciative. In the 100 meter freestyle, Nathan Adrian beat James Magnussen, the so-called Missile, by a touch to win the gold medal. That race … and Adrian’s joyful reaction … is my favorite moment so far.
So, next week, it’s on to track and field. And the U.S. NBA Team against the rest of the world (156-73? Really?). I’ll be watching … and blogging.