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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Things That Chap My Ass About The Olympics

What is it? Two weeks now?

Frankly I’m about done with the Olympics.

I generally have little interest in sports in the first place and the endless saturation of the Olympics does nothing to improve my outlook.

People who know me in person will confirm this, I’m not a fan of sports.

I’d make an exception for Calvinball, but the fascists at the IOC still won’t recognize it as a real game.

I don’t hate sports and I can understand why other people enjoy the competition so much. But to me, it’s just a bunch of generally obnoxious meatheads getting paid a generally obnoxious amount of money to run around playing a generally obnoxious kid’s game so that the next day the generally obnoxious idiot you work with can interrupt every single business conversation with “Hey, did you guys catch the Naked Lobster Tossing Championships last night?” I’m glad they’ve found something that gives both them and others joy without, mostly, illegalities, but I really couldn’t possibly care less about who beats who, or who wins the championship, or who goes home with the title, trophy, big ugly gold belt, or the other guy’s balls in a shoebox. Just don’t care. Can’t make myself care (The single exception to this is the Iditarod Sled Dog race. Seriously, when I see a quarterback making $20 Million a year to lead the offensive line across a thousand miles of ice at sixty below, maybe I’ll start paying attention to football).

Sporting events bore me. Sitting on sticky plastic seats with a bunch of shirtless intoxicated goobers wearing giant plastic cheese wedges on their heads isn’t really something I look forward to. I’m always watching the clock and waiting for it to be over – and, really? Overtime? For crying out loud, just kick the damned ball and let’s get the hell out of here already.

So, anyway, I’m not a big sports fan.

I’m not, but by rights I should be. 

Howard Cosell was the narrator of my childhood. I grew up in a family of sports nuts.  My dad loved sports, especially those traditionally American sports. Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, boxing, you name it, he always had a game blaring from the radio while working in the garden or in the yard. Whenever I hear a ballgame on the radio nowadays, I smile and think of my Dad. He knew every stat for every player of every sport by heart. Sundays we’d spend over at a relative’s, with a house full of noisy cousins and a game on the TV. Beer and colorful cursing flowed in equal measure, especially when it was Michigan vs. Notre Dame. Every week throughout the entire decade of the 70’s, we’d come running at the sound of the blaring trumpets that heralded The Wide World of Sports, just so we could cringe at that Yugoslavian ski-jumper, Vinko Bogataj, who famously lost his balance on the ramp and went spectacularly out of control in a tangle of arms and legs as he careened off the side of the jump in Oberstdorf, West Germany during the 1970 Ski-flying World Championships. Every week we’d watch the agony of his defeat in horrified fascination as he tumbled wildly through the air like a rag-doll in a hurricane and crashed into the crowd below the ramp. The scene would always end with the same phrase from one of the watching adults, “…that poor bastard.”

If it wasn’t a bunch of guys chasing some kind of ball around some kind of field, it was two knuckle draggers pounding the slobber out of each other in a ring.  Boxing is probably one of the reasons I got interested in politics, well one particular match anyway. The hype surrounding the famous “fight of the century,” i.e. Smokin’ Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali at Madison Square Garden in 1971, was basically a thumbnail version of everything that’s come since in America.  The black-power anti-establishment liberal with the funny religion in a brutal no-holds-barred slug fest against an establishment-supporting conservative pro-war Christian. For years before and after the fight both contenders engaged in hyperbolic self-promotion, bizarre insults, and endless character assassination (too bad the current batch of jackasses running our country can’t follow Frazier and Ali’s later example and bury the hatchet and, if not become friends, at least tone down the assholery and engage in some small mutual respect). A couple of years later, long past both their primes, they met again at the Thrilla In Manila. I remember that fight, because the bottom of the screen kept flashing “live via satellite” and I thought the implications of TV from outer space were a whole lot more interesting than two slabs of beef pounding their frontal lobes into oatmeal.

When there wasn’t a ballgame (and really, when isn’t there a game of one kind or another on?), or a fight, there was always auto racing. Dale Earnhardt’s death a few years back was notable because it happens so rarely nowadays, but when I was growing up we watched auto racing specifically for the fatal accidents, which happened about once a month. (Oh sure, everybody says they don’t watch car racing for the carnage, but without the threat of death it’s just a bunch of florid rednecks roaring around in a circle cutting each other off. They might as well be on the DC Beltway. Big whoop).

If there was nothing else on, there was always golf. I have never understood the attraction of watching paunchy middle-aged people with sticks amble aimlessly across a lawn for two hours while other people follow them around whispering like they’re in a library. Honestly, you know what golf needs? Heckling. Scantily clad cheerleaders. Mascots. Drunken rowdy soccer hooligans. Exploding balls. Hungry lions released onto the fairway. Something. I have never understood the attraction of golf. I never understood it until Tiger Woods that is. If I had known that round-heeled women were uncontrollably attracted to men in ugly pants…

And of course if all that wasn’t enough, every couple of years, there are the Olympics.

The Olympics’ primary function is to make you cheer for sports you’d never ever watch otherwise. Ever. Rowing? Dressage? Nordic Skijorning? Seriously, what the hell is that? Who cares? USA! USA!

Two thousand years ago, the Greeks invented the Olympics as a way to honor their gods,  Zeus in particular – a large muscular bearded man’s man of a manly deity who apparently enjoyed the company of other manly men while watching naked oil-covered men wrestling. Bring the kids, we’ll make a day of it. But I digress.

Every couple of years, the constantly warring Hellenistic world would declare a truce and athletes would come from all over the Mediterranean to compete against each other.  The Olympics were more than just games, they were an opportunity for intrigue, political alliances, treaties, and war by other means. There were great religious celebrations and even competitions in song, poetry, and art. 

As to the actual games themselves, they began as a simple footrace, but eventually grew to include sports derived from the military arts: boxing, wrestling, a form of mixed martial arts, chariot and horse races, archery, javelin and discus throwing. 

The ancient Olympics were tough, competitors often died like some Greek version of The Hunger Games.

First prize was a crown made from leaves or upon occasion an olive branch.

Congratulations, Diagroas, you’ve pummeled Theagenes into a bloody mush, the crowd loves you, history shall always revere your name, Zeus himself admires your manliness (and would like you to stop by the temple later tonight, bring your olive oil), you made Rhodes proud and shamed  those Spartan pricks back to their stupid mountain, well done, Sir.  Here’s your prize, it’s this, uh, yes, a uh, magic stick for your trouble. Remember to put it in a glass of water so the leaves last longer. Thanks for coming.

Oh, yes, one other thing just in case it wasn’t clear from the context: in the ancient Olympics, athletes competed completely naked, slathered in olive oil.  Seriously, think about that. No no, not the naked grappling part (though that would be risky enough even without the olive oil), I’m talking about the naked martial arts without a cup part, I’m talking about the naked horseback racing while covered in olive oil without stirrups or saddles or an athletic supporter. Seriously, no wonder men died, I’d think you’d welcome it. Testicles make really bad shock absorbers. Kill me, Zeus, please kill me now.

Two millennia ago, Olympic sporting events were based on the skills used to wage war, plowshares from swords so to speak.

Fast forward to 2012.

Modern sports, though often couched in war-like narration, are no longer based on warrior skills. That’s why you won’t see Drone Dodging or Freestyle Grenade Juggling in London this year. 

What do we have instead?

Badminton.

As somebody said on the my Facebook page, winning Olympic Gold in Badminton is like being crowned the best ballerina in the Marine Corps. 

Back in the early part of the last century, the Olympics included power boating and ballooning.  Power boating. Ballooning in coal fired, steam powered hot air balloons that rammed each other with giant metal prows for mastery of the skies! That’s what I’m talking about.  There was Tug-Of-War, teams of soldiers dragging each other through a pit of starving alligators! (OK, I just made up the part about the steam powered alligators, but tell me you wouldn’t watch that. Because that would be awesome!).  Hell there was even polo.  I know, I know, polo sounds like something a bunch of sissy weak-chinned inbred aristocrats do instead of having sex, but we’re talking Olympic Polo here – big hairy brutish sons of bitches on horseback swinging giant flaming wooden mallets of death at each other. Think Canadian Hockey, on war horses. Dude.

And they gave that up for what? Badminton?

Badminton sucks so bad that communist countries apparently cheat by trying to suck at it more.

What else have we got?

Golf? Damnit, it’s still just paunchy middle-aged guys in ugly pants aimlessly wandering around with sticks.

Canoeing? Woohoo! An Olympic sport I can participate in! Let me get my cooler and stop by the liquor store, I’ll meet you guys down at the river. 

Curling? No, really, curling? We gave up Olympic power boating for curling? That’s not a sport, that’s a bunch of maple syrup addled Canadians sliding rocks across a frozen pond. Look, I’ve driven across the Yukon, rocks and frozen lakes that’s pretty much the whole damned thing, so sure, it looks good to them. But what’s next, Flannel Groping? Lumberjacking?  Curling is the Canadian equivalent of the American sport of driving around in your truck shooting holes in road signs. 

There’s beach Volleyball. Now I think we all know why there’s beach volleyball in the Olympics. And I think we all know who decided that there should be beach volleyball in the Olympics. And I think we can be pretty sure that decision was made at a Hooters and frankly I think it beats the ever living hell out of naked men wrestling in olive oil. But, a sport? Come on. Look, there’s a reason why the internet is saturated with pictures of volleyball players in their “uniforms” – and damned few images of anybody actually playing volleyball.

How about Dressage? 

Perhaps you’re more familiar with its common working man sports name, Horse Ballet.

Horse Ballet.

I’ll be honest, right now I’m picturing Budweiser beer wagon Clydesdales in tutus performing to the commentary of Howard Cosell, there may or may not be naked men and olive oil involved.

Dressage and Eventing are supposedly descended from actual military equestrian arts, specifically the skills necessary for horse soldiers to guide their mounts during battle.  Frankly that sounds like the kind of comforting bullshit parents tell their nerdy horse kids after they got picked on by the football jocks.  But, hell, let’s go with it.  War horses. Jazz it up by combining Dressage with Olympic archery and shooting events and what do you get? Full on cavalry battles!  More, let’s make it a rule that owners have to ride their own horses.  Tell me you wouldn’t tune in to watch Anne Romney wielding a rifle in one hand, a saber in the other, and controlling her mount with her knees. Sure it would be disturbingly close to watching a Romney home sex video, but sacrifices have to be made in the name of international brotherhood.

Speaking of combining lame sports into awesome events:

How about a hybrid of the previously ridiculed badminton with kick boxing? I call it Bad Judo. Replace the shuttlecock with something a little more … interesting. Say like this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic. I know, I know, brilliant. I’ll split my Nobel with Zach Weiner.

What if we combined figure skating and powerlifting? No? It’s the leotards, isn’t it? OK, bad idea but check this out: you know what you get if you combine Olympic Sailing with Fencing? Pirates!  Tell me the whole world wouldn’t tune in for Olympic Pirating. To hell with Zach Weiner, that Nobel is all mine!

Maybe what this thing needs is some new events.  Did you know that the International Olympic Committee recognizes the card game Bridge as a sport? Ditto Chess. The advantage of both is that the threat of including either in the Olympics makes people tune into badminton. 

The IOC also recognizes “underwater sports,” I’m not really sure what that is but I’m picturing some kind of big battle with spear guns and mini-subs like in the James Bond movie Thunderball. I’ll be honest, I would watch that every single day of the year. 

Sumo is another sport that is not currently included in the Olympic lineup. And that’s a damned shame because I think it ought to be.  Now, I’m not talking the Japanese version because obviously they’d have a seriously unfair advantage over other countries – especially those where food is a bit scarce. No, to be fair, I think Olympic Sumo teams would have to be composed of drunk college freshmen in those giant fat suits. 

Here’s the thing, people who watch golf on TV will watch anything – even badminton.  Frankly, I think it’s only a matter of time before texting while driving and eating a cheeseburger is a recognized sport (the women’s version would be texting and driving while putting on makeup).

What?

Oh right, my drunken sumo wrestling idea is stupid but synchronized swimming is a real sport.

Fine, how about this?

Two words:

Naked luge.

51 comments:

  1. Thank you for making me laugh so hard that I no longer have the urge to smack the next idiot that speaks to me! It's been that kind of week, and yes, people in my house are watching the Olympics. Personally I prefer the cooking channel. Just please don't make me watch the heavy weight lifters naked and oiled. Please. No.

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  2. One year someone made the mistake of asking the owner/maitre d' at our favorite Greek restaurant what he thought about the Olympics. He went off on about a five minute rant, the gist of which was:

    1) No sports that require judges - just ones where the winner can be objectively measured
    2) It should always be in Greece
    3) Everybody should be naked

    He didn't mention oiling up the competitors, but that might just have been an omission on his part. At any rate, it might be more interesting to watch.

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  3. DAY-umm, Jim! I just KNEW this was going to be fun read, as with any of your posts in the "Things that Chap My Ass About ..." genre. Will they let me in at the Olive Garden for some naked oiled power-lunching?

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  4. In the first Olympics of the modern era they gave out medals for poetry. Not sure if it was naked oiled-up full contact poetry, but... maybe that's the category that morphed into Badminton.

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  5. "Naked Luge"...flap, flap, flap...Jesus, Jim, I can hear that noise in my head and can't quite make the vision go away. Thanks bunches, sugar. Someday when I come to Alaska, and buy you as many drinks as you can stand, I'm going to get you for that one.

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  6. Ah Jim, you seem to be my doppleganger, although a different sex and more interested in power tools.

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  7. OMG!!! I have tears running down my cheeks and tears running down my leg! Too good! Thanks for making my day!

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  8. Nudity would be one way to stop all the silliness about high tech swimsuits, golf dimpled running costumes, etc.

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  9. I watch Dressage but then again I used to do Dressage. The phrase "horse ballet" always chapped my arse.
    In the Olympic pirating, would you have them drastically shorten the part where the ships do all that manoevering to get into grappling and boarding position? I've watched the America's Cup race from close to the course and, if you're not on the yachts that are racing, it's pretty damn boring. I want to go right to the swashbuckling bits.
    Great post. :)

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  10. I've come close enough to naked two-man luge, but I was a drunk college freshman, teenaged no less. The other person on the toboggan was a drunk college sophomore co-ed, also teenaged. But we digressed.

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  11. Dressage. Yes. My most comfortable saddle. My horse who was gelded last year at age 20. Now we're both beginning at the beginning, and learning what we both should have learned in our youth. And there is a military-history component to the sport; imagine George Patton watching what was left of the Spanish Riding School in 1945, while he was storming through Austria, with the power to turn those horses over to feed the starving civilians. He didn't.

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    1. My wife trained under a former member of the Spanish Riding school, I've seem them live. They are impressive.

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    2. Nick from the O.C.August 9, 2012 at 8:50 AM

      George Patton was an Olympian himself. Fencing. Placed 5th, IIRC.

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    3. I looked it up. Modern Pentathon team, 1912:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_pentathlon_at_the_1912_Summer_Olympics

      And yes, Patton was a great horseman and saved the Lippizaners with Colonel Alois Padjofsky, the head. A rather inaccurate Disney movie was made about it: Miracle of the White Stallions. The Margeurite Henry book of the same title was my childhood companion.

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  12. Rowing skulls with cannons mounted amidships. And real skulls, natch.

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    1. YARG! Now we be talkin'!

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  13. Jim- Thank you...you never fail to instruct, entertain, horrify, astound and make the noises in my head recede...
    NOW I have a suggestion for your Alternate Olympic Sports List. You know how we have theses things called elections every four years...?

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  14. When I consider how much time you spend with a chapped ass, I can only think that some olive oil might help.

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    1. Yeah, I think you're onto something here. ;-}

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  15. Heck, you had *me* at olive oil! I *love* Italian food! Oh wait....

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  16. We should just acknowledge the homo- eroticism factor and play all of the games naked.

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  17. Oil soaked naked wrestling - that's an event I'd gladly watch. And naked horsemen...why do you think they had such big thighs back then huh? Gotta keep the jewels from being pounded into powder.

    Yeah, I'd rather play sports than watch them. However there is something to be said about those divers and gymnasts now...

    Hey, did you catch during the beginning of the gymnastics last week an overly enthusiastic commentator, who obviously was new to woman's gymnastics, use the word "sexy", not once, but several times to describe the under legal age girls whirling around on the equipment? How much you wanna bet that guy got a little talking to during the next commercial break? As in, Dude, you gotta find a new adjective for the gymnasts - their like 15 years old! Jail Bait dude, tone it down!"

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  18. Brilliant. But... by rights I should not be a sports fan. Always the fat kid, uncoordinated, last one to be picked. I did excel at three things in sports: (1) I was a whiz at striking out in baseball/softball ***, (2) I had a wicked badminton serve and (3) I had an even wickeder volleyball serve -- I'd score 8 to 10 aces at a time before someone would return one and I would be rotated to any more harmless position.

    The big thing, though, was being a yearbook photographer in high school and college, and got to be on the sidelines shooting a lot of sporting events.

    And I've always been a huge fan of both summer and winter Olympics. And at the 1996 games in Atlanta, one of the tickets we got was for the last two events in the modern pentathlon. Riding a horse you've never been on before through a jumping course -- one of the horses had a terrific attitude and only one rider had a stronger will (grin) -- followed by the cross country run. This after shooting pistol, fencing and a swim. 1996 was the first time they did the whole thing in one day. That was cool.

    Dr. Phil

    *** to be fair, in college I was introduced to the Chicago game of 16" softball. Imagine a softball that was actually soft -- they are sortof square when the come new out of a box -- but is slow enough that you can STEER the bat and direct this slow moving ball to where no one is standing -- ye gads, even _I_ could get a hit! And the old guys in Chicago? We didn't have enough teams in the IM league, so some of the Chicago teams would come and play -- they were murder. (grin)

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  19. OK!! Rowing with battering rams, greek fire and cutlasses!! I love it!! Thanks for the imagination Jim.
    If I see another prepubescent teen jumping around I'm gonna puke . . .

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  20. I haven't been watching any of the Olympics. I didn’t have a clue what I was missing. Thanks for filling me in Jim!

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  21. I can easily get caught up in a game of sport if it happens to be on the television box when I'm in the room, but I wouldn't say I'm into sports (though, for various reasons, I will always have a spot in my heart for the Clippers).

    However, recent events caused me to re-evaluate my silent snickering at people who lose their minds and say, "We did it!" when talking about their favorite sporting clubs of choice.

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  22. "Drone Dodging or Grenade Juggling", heh, heh

    Wait! Shhhhh! Don't give em any ideas!

    bd

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  23. Sounds like SOMEONE's got a case of the MONDAYS!

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  24. Least I Could Do has a (possibly NSFW) take on Women's Beach Volleyball:

    http://www.leasticoulddo.com/comic/20120807

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  25. Golf and Skeet Shooting, downhill slalom and biathlon, hell, ski jump and skeet shooting. Now those would be sports I'd watch.

    And, naked lunge without a sled! A real man's sport.

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  26. I kind of agree about the Badminton. It's kind of like Olympic hopscotch: One of those kids' games that we played all the time, but made more interesting by inventing interesting new rules and hazards. 'Cuz even for kids, it was kinda boring, so why is it in the Olympics?

    I admit, however, that I love the cross-country and staduim jumping horse competitions. The dressage part I kind of regard as I do canine obedience: I admire those with the discipline and the skills to do it well, but it's not for me. I love jumping, though - both in the arena and out on the trail. Not that I've ever faced down jumps like the Olympians do, but I get a huge rush from cantering up some twisty, wooded trail on a good horse, hopping downed trees, ducking low branches, bending hard left around this tree and hard right around another one a half-stride later with only a second to collect yourself to jump that next log... fun. I admit it might be MORE fun if I got to hack at neighboring riders with a sword or shoot them with a paintball gun (DQ and a whipping if you hit the horse), but I don't think they have that. I would totally watch that, AND the Olympic Pirating competition. Maybe it could be a subset of Olympic Prating, like Olympic Buccanneering or something. Arrr.

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  27. To be fair, the Romneys' home sex video would have to be some kind of synchro event.

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  28. Olympic Pirating and tug of war over the alligator pit; I'm there for every loss of limb, er, um, event

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  29. I think the MesoAmerican Ballgame needs to be made into an Olympic event. Including the sacrifice to the Gods. Just imagine how much more interesting the Closing Ceremonies would be.

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  30. My husband about choked to death laughing at the image of a Japanese sumo wrestler vs say, one from Ethiopia. I'd watch the Pirating events myself, but I rather like the idea of badminton with dynamite. The equestrian events I can admire, because I know firsthand what is needed to stay on a horse flinging itself over jumps taller than I am. I do think the horse should get the medal though, he does most of the work.

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  31. GYMNASTIC HURDLING? AROUSED RING-TOSS AVOIDING?
    THANK YOU FOR A WEEK-ENDING LAUGHING ROAR!

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  32. Olympic sports shouldn't have an artistic component. It's an activity, not a sport, if it's based in art. I understand many of those events are complex, require years of training and conditioning... but it still doesn't make it a sport. I don't see oil painting or floral arranging as a sport and they're both artistic... or to keep to the theme, *nude slathering in olive oil* oil painting. Mind the rose thorns for nude flower arranging though...

    I'd seriously like to see medieval jousting in the Olympics. Big nasty mean horses with even bigger meaner jousters on them. Potential for injury... very high. Bring on the ratings!

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    1. There used to be gold medals for painting as well....

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  33. Hurrumph...not too much love for Badminton round these parts, it seems. Shame, as it is generally acknowledged to be the fastest and most physically demanding of all the racket sports when played at an elite level, as opposed to playing pat-a-cake in the garden with the grandchildren.

    Let's be fair... competing in pretty much any sport (even synchronised swimming) at an elite level constitutes a serious challenge to the average Joe.

    Badminton on an oiled-up court, with oiled-up players should last about as long as it takes for a racket to fly out of an oiled-up hand and kill some poor bastard. (Hopefully one of the "Badminton is for girlies" brigade!)

    ;)

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  34. Thanks, Jim. I'm going to start my new career immediately. I will be an official Olympic olive oiler. Bring on the naked men!

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  35. As a history major with a minor interest in sports history (as in, why does our American culture -- or *any* culture, for that matter -- get so involved in sports?), I'd like to shed some enlightenment on the olive oil issue.

    Ever been to Greece? Ever been naked in Greece? The place is notoriously hot/sunny, dry, and dusty. Athletes would oil up, go out and work up a sweat perfecting their skills -- and wrestlers in particular would get dirty as well as sweaty from rolling on the ground -- and then retreat to the bathing area.

    There, they would have all the sweaty, salty, gritty, grimy oil scraped off with a strigil -- think of it as a squeegee for your body, except without the flexible rubber component. Then, and only then, would they be permitted to finish the cleaning process by immersion in water. (Yeah, the job I'm thinking is low on the "what I want to be when I grow up list" for young Greek slaves is "athlete strigilist.")

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  36. No kidding - a former intelligence officer who likes Enemy of the State? Who woulda thunkit....

    Good movie btw, and Will smith didn't even spoil it by... well... playing Will Smith like he does in every movie.

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  37. frankly I think it beats the ever living hell out of naked men wrestling in olive oil

    Opinions differ!

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  38. I am the youngest of six and in our house - like countless others I guess - ABC's Wide World of Sports was either mandatory viewing or it certainly seemed that way. One weekend, when I was all of seven or eight, almost immediately after Jim McKay said, "the agony of defeat" line, I asked my brother Kelly (eight years my senior) if the ski jumper in that scene had been badly hurt in that fall.

    Kelly being more than just your average, run-of-the-mill teenage wise ass sat quietly for a couple of seconds as if he was actually giving his dopey little brother's question serious consideration. Then without actually making eye contact with me he answered it. "Of course not", said Kelly, "he does it every week."

    Thirty-seven years later it still is my favorite memory of Wide World of Sports.

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  39. He was hurt, but jumped again. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinko_Bogataj

    [retired ABC engineer]

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  40. One sport you might enjoy watching, Jim, is wheelchair rugby. It takes all the action and violent contact of regular rugby and adds in wheels and, in most games, a fairly substantial amount of blood.

    I spent many years involved in wheelchair sports and have a friend who is a quadriplegic as a result of a car accident. He does have very limited use of his arms and started playing rugby a number of years ago. Shortly after he and his wife had twin daughters, I asked him if he was concerned that he might get hurt playing, now that he was a husband and father. He looked at me, grinned impishly and said, "I'm a quad, what else can happen to me?" Good point.

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