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?
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.
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).
Oh right, my drunken sumo wrestling idea is stupid but synchronized swimming is a real sport.
Fine, how about this?