Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Olympics

There are several reasons that I look forward to the Olympic Games. Perhaps it presents a rare moment for us to appreciate hard work, sportsmanship and dedication while cheering for someone who has not dated Kim Kardashian.

One of the highlights for me is the opening ceremony, a time to reflect on our shared humanity instead of our geopolitical differences. This is most poignantly displayed during the Parade of Nations when, for a fleeting moment, all mankind is united the pursuit of unparalleled athleticism. Plus, it is the only time I get to hear Bob Costas say “Djibouti” (pronounced jah-booty).
I do find it somewhat disheartening when the American commentators belittle the smaller nations’ medal chances as they are announced. Sure, we all know that Botswana is a long shot for a gold in woman’s gymnastics but I found the tone to be somewhat condescending. At least let them hold onto their dream until the main torch is lit. Instead, I find myself watching footage of the Turkmenistan delegation waving to the crowd as the voiceover says, “They don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell, but at least they got to ride on an airplane!”

My wife enjoys the dramatic back-stories of the athletes that serve to humanize their struggle to compete in the Olympic Games. Many are heartwarming, some are even inspiring; but it is misguided to believe that all competitor back-stories are created equal. “I was a homeless heroin addict for 8 years until Sister Roberta adopted me” is much better TV than “I was born into an upper-middle class suburban neighborhood and thanks to my father’s investment strategy we were able to afford top-tier coaches”. This, however, should not minimize the conviction or drive of those whose childhood was more idyllic than their teammates. For that reason I have penned a back-story segment that can be 
 utilized for an athlete that doesn’t have one:

*Cue monochrome images of said athlete weeping while occasionally cutting away to stock footage of calloused hands and random people applying ice-packs.
Trixie, unlike most of her teammates, was born without a human soul. Since the age of 7 she been unable eat gluten or perceive human sadness but that hasn’t stopped her from pursuing her dream of winning a gold medal in synchronized elbow skiing. During the 2006 World Championships she suffered a devastating fall while attempting a “Darkside Croatian Squat Ollie” and it was unclear whether she would ever ski again.
*Fade to footage of a daisy falling from a child’s hand in slow motion as the screen goes black. Switch to color image of Trixie gazing longingly at an empty trophy case.
But this year, Trixie has vowed to bring home the gold in honor of her pet iguana “Brunswick” who was murdered during a home invasion last spring. Can she overcome a formidable challenge from her arch rival Sally “Bow-Peep” Johnson? Will she finally succumb to the chromosomal abnormality that has been gestating in her soulless husk of a body since birth? Stay tuned!
My biggest pet peeve about the Olympic coverage is the floor reporters who are tasked with posing asinine questions to the athletes immediately following a competition. These rarely provide the fascinating insights the network thinks they do and more often than not the reporter comes off looking oblivious at best. The most common technique is grab someone immediately after a 5,000 meter swim and ask them sweeping questions that they have neither the perspective nor the oxygen to answer:

  • “Do feel that this race personified humanity’s collective struggle with our intrinsic weaknesses and shortcomings?”
  • “How has your badminton training shaped your views on American foreign policy?

Or they simply ask questions so unnecessary they border on rhetorical:

  • “You usually dominate in the 100M distance but today you came in 5th, how did you train for that?”
  •  “Last time you were in the Olympics you were disqualified for injecting yourself with donkey estrogen and this time you won 3 gold medals. How are the two experiences different?”
  • “Describe what went through your mind when you realized the Samoan B-Team’s water boy lapped you.”
  • “On your father’s deathbed all he asked of you was to bring home the gold medal to place beside him in his coffin and you just lost by .2 milliseconds. Do you think about that a lot?”
  • “Are you disappointed that your decision to forgo a normal diet and childhood in order to concentrate on training has culminated in a 14th place finish and no foreseeable sponsorships to reinforce your already anemic financial situation?”

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