My Olympia

by wjw on August 11, 2012

Every four years, during the Olympics, I find myself almost caring about sports.   (It’s not that I’m too good to be a sports fan or anything, I just don’t have a lot of time to be a fan of anything but good writing.)

But now, as the great thundering $15 billion spectacle staggers towards its end, I’m experiencing Olympic fatigue.  I’m just not used to spending that many hours in front of the television.  Especially since I’m not spending the whole time drinking beer.  So I’ve worked out ways of skipping to the finale.

For instance, many sports seem to be decided in the final moments, if not seconds.  There’s no point in watching anything but the last minute of a water polo match.  Either it’s decided in the last minute, or it goes into overtime, or it’s a total blowout so there’s no point in watching it anyway.  Ditto soccer/football.  Ditto basketball.

Ditto any long-distance race: 1500 meters, 800 meters, 5000 meters, 10,000 meters, or the marathon.  Skip to the last lap.  Nothing happens before that.

Even the women’s swimming marathon, which lasted a couple hours, came down to a sprint over the last 50 meters.

Contrariwise, most rowing contests are decided in the first few seconds.  Whoever jumps into the lead right at the start generally holds the lead right to the end. Everything after the first ten seconds is boring, so jump to the next event.

You can save yourself a lot of time if you follow these simple rules.

Where are my martial arts?  I’ve seen a little wrestling, but I can’t seem to find boxing, taekwondo, or fencing on any of the half-dozen channels carrying the Olympics.  They don’t even seem to cover the modern pentathlon, which demonstrates antique military skills like shooting, fencing, and riding.

I understand why you don’t see contact sports in prime time.  It’s because NBC thinks that women won’t watch people hit each other, and will change the channel.  (In my Kenpo training I’ve been kicked by enough women to cause me to doubt this presumption, but I’m sure NBC has its polls an’ stuff, and I don’t.)  But not covering the noble art of self-defense at all?  I’m sore annoyed.

So what does NBC show us instead of people hammering each other into lumps of undifferentiated protein?  What the Peacock Network considers girlie sports, like gymnastics.

But I’m starting to think that women’s gymnastics verges on child abuse.  Most of these girls suffer such a beating during training and competition that they’ll never see a second Olympics.  Their muscular and skeletal systems aren’t mature enough to take the pounding.

Boxing is unacceptably violent, but watching driven, talented teenagers turned into arthritic old ladies is true family entertainment, beloved by all.

And where is my damn yachting?  I haven’t seen a single frame of yachting.  I bet most of you don’t even know that there are fourteen whole days of sailing events at the Olympics, and that’s because it’s just not carried on television.  Curse you, NBC!

And here’s something else I bet you didn’t know.  The Olympics used to award medals for painting, architecture, sculpture, and literature.  At the 1928 games, they even gave an award for epic poetry!  (There were still epic poets then, because after 1919 there were all these new countries that needed national epics.  Though sometimes there was a degree of confusion: the Polish national epic, Pan Tadeusz, not only borrows the plot of Romeo and Juliet but is set in Lithuania, and begins with the line, “O Lithuania, my Fatherland!”  But I digress.)

The Olympics stopped being about culture in 1948, and they went so far as to un-award all 151 culture medals, and strike them from the lists, so that you won’t even find them on the Olympic site.   Even though the records for silly sports like tug-of-war and solo synchronized swimming still stand.

But wouldn’t you like to see culture back at the Olympics?  I’d adore seeing International Poetry Slam.  (I’m from New Mexico, where poetry slams were  invented, so we’d have an advantage, naturally.)  I’d love to see Olympic judges ruling on whether elephant excrement is a suitable artistic medium.  And I’d adore hearing the national epics!  We have so many more countries now.

Poets of Sealand, stand forth!

Urban August 11, 2012 at 7:05 am

Even more strange, to our modern minds, than cultural events is that it wasn’t until 1912 in Stockholm there were any rules or even which competitions published or agreed on beforehand.
Great fun to impromptu decide that “fishing” would be a good sport. Without telling the participants what the criteria for winning was.

Dave Bishop August 11, 2012 at 8:50 am

Please, please, please let it be over!

Mark Wise August 11, 2012 at 1:07 pm

NBC is all about the USA medals. Screw general sports coverage.

I enjoy watching fencing (even though I have to use slo-mo to decipher the action). It only gets coverage when a US competitor makes it to the semis.

Not Todd August 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Those who know where to look can find a lot more on the internet. So pleased I was able to find about half an hour of cross-country equestrian coverage from BBC2.

Kathy August 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I’ve got it! A sport that looks like rhythmic gymnastics, but the competitors have to recite epic poetry while they do their exercise!

Erich Schneider August 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Soccer is like sex. The final result, or the number of goals scored, is less important than the process of getting there. Also, watching other people do it is not to everyone’s taste.

shash August 12, 2012 at 2:51 am

Google “Olympic sailing commentary” for some interesting observations. I’d send you my link but it broke due to either NBC or the IOC not liking the Irish showing them up.

Ralf The Dog. August 12, 2012 at 6:43 am

Woman’s high diving is an unusual sport. First, they sit around in a hot tub. Then, they get out and climb up a big ladder. Next, they dive in the water, get out and take a shower on camera.

It makes me wonder what demographic they are targeting.

Foxessa August 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Olympics? What? Huh?

Joking aside, my back therapist was a competing gymnast through her undergrad years. She has some things to say. (Yes, she’s extraordinarily tiny; she also nurses a joking resentment of tall women because they can wear all these things she wants to wear bu that make her, she says, look ridiculous.)

Love, C.

Ralf The Dog. August 12, 2012 at 7:39 pm

I like the idea of a “General Event.” You get a few people from every country that are, “Good at stuff.” You have a bunch of events like archery, running a triathlon and really hard math. You pick five or six of the events randomly and they compete in each event. I would think, you would pick three physical events and three mental events. You might pick four, then let each competitor drop one physical and one mental.

Ralf The Dog. August 12, 2012 at 7:40 pm

GACK!!! After reading my post above, I think I have just invented reality TV!

Dave Bishop August 13, 2012 at 7:28 am

It’s over! Thank God!

Brian Renninger August 13, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Chess boxing. Should it be an Olympic sport? Hell yeah!

Erich Schneider August 14, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Ralf, I think Piers Anthony beat you to that idea in his “Apprentice Adept” stories.

DensityDuck August 15, 2012 at 2:03 am

A: One of my friends suggested that roller derby should be an Olympic sport. (I replied that if they let curling in, then surely they have no excuse to keep out roller derby.)

B: Good point about “why there’s no tae kwon do”. That actually dovetails neatly with my observation that my mother and grandmother were both absolutely enthralled with women’s gymnastics, and were actively conspiring to get my five-year-old niece into the sport.

Myrna Arnold August 15, 2012 at 2:05 pm

The ancient games also included dancing and plays. I realize dancing would quickly devolve into Dancing With The (has been) Stars, and playwriting is an almost a lost art. These, along with your events would add humanities to the games, and that is what the PTB do not want. Over the last forty years, as an educator, I have watched history and humanities be almost eliminated from curriculums. If “frills” must be cut from the budget, it is the art department that must go, not the football program. History books replace Thomas Jefferson with Ronald Reagan, and, to get the revolutionary era into my Early American Lit class, I had to go to my old textbooks and a photocopier. We have replaced education with training, and the Secretary of Education is empowered to make sure that the next generation know science, computers, and math, ONLY.

BTW: WHEN WILL WE GET THE RIFT OUT IN KINDLE? Such a brilliant book should be more accessible for those of us with old eyes.

Jerry August 15, 2012 at 11:58 pm

Jump directly to the last few seconds of an event? How about skipping jokes, going directly to the punchlines? (“My friend? I thought he was with you!!”) (“You ought to try girls, they’re better than pork!”) (“He throws down his golf club and says, “What you mean, ‘wrong hole???’ “) Okay.

Fortunately, I’ve NEVER felt that way about anything written by WJW. Getting there is all the fun!

wjw August 17, 2012 at 5:03 am

Fortunately, jokes are short.

Marathons, not so much.

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