Is it just me, or are the Olympics just not as exciting as they used to be? As a kid, I remember the entire family being glued to the TV for all of the coverage. Of course there were some mitigating factors. Dad coached track & field at good old Spring Lake High and the Olympics were just about the only time that you could watch track and field events on the TV. And there was the drama – in 1968 we watched the black power social protests, and the tragedy in Munich in 1972 kept the whole planet glued to the coverage. Then there were the boycott dramatics, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the whole amateur vs. professional debate, and a bunch of other social issues that added to the event.
But it seems that there must be something more to my apathetic response to the most inclusive ever coverage of the games. I keep trying to watch and recapture some of that Olympic magic, but it just doesn’t seem to be coming. This morning Dad and I turned on the TV to watch some more Olympic coverage. First up was the final match in Women’s Olympic Grass Growing, or as we call it in the states – soccer. Now this may just be the “ugly American” in my talking, but I don’t think so. I will plead guilty to being both ugly and American, but I am also conversant, if not fluent, in at least 3 languages besides English, I don’t mind the National Anthem being sung in Spanish, and I am embarrassed by President Bush declaring that in this century we must respect the sovereign borders of countries like Georgia (but not apparently Iraq or Afghanistan). So I don’t think that is it. I do respect the endurance and athletic abilities of the young women on the soccer field, and I appreciate the rivalry between the U.S. and Brazilian teams. But I just can’t muster up much enthusiasm for a two and a half hour game where only one goal is scored. I was impressed that the crowd was still lively and following what passes for action in the game, but it just didn’t do much for me.
When that contest was finally decided, we flipped over to another channel for some different Olympic coverage. And what do we get? Olympic Rhythmic Gymnastics, or as we call it in the states – Olympic Stick Waving. Now I will give the event this – it avoids the creepy kiddy-porn vibe that regular Olympic Gymnastics gives off. I do feel sorry for the little 16 year old beauty queens in the regular gymnastics. They get shoveled off to gymnastics concentration camps when they are toddlers. Their childhoods are taken away from them, they are not allowed any normal sort of life. The ponderous overly enthusiastic perverts on commentary even remarked the other day that one of these little darlings had been able to attend “regular” school for a whole year! Then, when their one and only shot at stardom occurs once they turn 16, they are tarted up in skimpy costumes and far too much makeup and told to perform for a worldwide audience of pedophiles. Of course, once they have had their shot at Olympic fame & fortune, they are now deemed too old by the standards of their “sport” to compete in the next Olympiad.
Turning this back to Olympic Stick Waving, at least these women have a shot at a career. The whole time I was watching Olympic Stick Waving, I was thinking “if only they bought these women fake boobs and put a brass pole into the act, they could rename this the ‘Stripper Olympics.’” So when their shot at Olympic fame & fortune is over, at least they are able to put out the cash for a good boob job and shimmy their way into a career in the exciting world of exotic dancing where they can perform for normal perverts instead of pedophiles like their “regular gymnastics” little sisters.
And while I’m off on this rant about the titillating nature of so much of the “modern” Olympic games, I’ve got to get Women’s Olympic Beach Volleyball off my chest. What is the deal with this? Did some secret Olympics Marketing Brain Trust decide “we need more nearly naked women prancing around on the beach?” If so, they should have factored in some way to get more attractive women into the sport. I do get excited every time I see the beach volleyball venue come onto my TV screen. I settle in and focus my eyes on mutant giraffe women who must have way overdone the testosterone injections. Yuck! Time to flip to a different channel.
And don’t even get me started on the NBA promotional team. Remember when Olympic athletes represented our highest ideals? Not our highest paid pampered babies? These days pretty much every member of the U.S. Olympic team gets paid a stipend of some sort, and has sponsors who help pay their way. Now, Olympic athletes represent only the pursuit of the all-mighty dollar, and none do that better than the NBA promotional team. Shouldn’t there be a rule that if you want to represent your country that you have to live in the same dormitories as the rest of the team? Of course these tattooed millionaires didn’t even live in dormitories when they were in college. At worst, they lived in special “athletic dorms” but more likely they lived in posh apartments paid for by over-enthusiastic boosters. The only part of the American Ideal that they represent is the part about illiterate jocks that get paid thousands of times more than teachers. Oh well.
The Olympics that I remember from my youth features SPORTS. Sure they were sports that you didn’t get to see on TV very much like track & field, wrestling, boxing, weightlifting, archery, team handball, swimming, and the like. They were sports that for the most part we understood, and that we only got to watch on TV every four years.
And the young people participating in those sports represented an ideal, something bigger, better, and more important than themselves and their accomplishment. I remember all the talk about Mark Spitz in dentistry school and the hard work he had to put in on both his academics and his swimming. All I’ve heard about Michael Phelps is debate about what products he will endorse.
Now TV gives us hundreds of channels, and we get about 50 different sporting events on the tube at any given point in time, nearly all of them contested by professionals of one degree or another. The novelty is gone, and so are the ideals of the games themselves. The Olympics are now just another over-hyped professional sporting event, the kind that we can watch on TV every hour of every day of every year. There just isn’t anything special there anymore.
I wonder if there is an old Batman rerun on that I can watch instead?