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#pounditFriday, June 21, 2024

Viewer’s guide to reading about watching the Olympics

I must make a confession. (Yes, I understand I do not have my lawyer or rabbi present.) I enjoy watching the Olympics, even though events are tape-delayed by eight hours and I have to be subjected to hokey montages hell-bent on inspiring good, old-fashioned jingoism. In fact, to coincide with the spirit of the Olympic games’ broadcast, this column, which probably should have come about a week-and-a-half ago, is tape delayed. Though, I’m sure my loyal readership — all three of you — probably doesn’t mind too much.

While my own personal Olympic ambitions were dashed at some point shortly after my conception, I can honestly say I am an unabashed fan of the Games. Everything from rooting on the poor schlub representing a tiny enclave once unsuccessfully invaded by the United States — take your pick — or getting my daily dose of patter from NBC, Network of Bob Costas. By the way, speaking of Costas, the man looks as if he never ages, leading me to believe he is some otherworldly life form or simply a very erudite robot.

Time was, you had to 86 an archduke or set off a World War to inspire some degree of nationalistic tendencies in the world. It turns out the magic of the biannual sports competition known as the Olympics has been able to harness this further, albeit leading to spouts of fisticuffs brought on by the results of synchronized swimming and archery competitions.

What makes the Olympics so great from a journalistic standpoint, is that there is so much fodder on which to opine. Sure, the stories of overcoming adversity are wonderful in their own way. But, I’m more concerned with the mundane, the minutiae that keeps my laptop fat and happy. Ticking off the countries marching in to the Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremonies is almost like a history lesson. Most of them either fall into the category of a country that was attacked by the United States, sanctioned by the U.S., or has served as an outsourced destination for most of our country’s call-centers and textile factories. For crying out loud, there was even a huge flap about how the U.S. uniforms were made in China. I wonder if they are making apple pie there now, too?

The practice of throwing athletes out of the Olympics is pretty much as old as Pierre de Coubertin himself. Here’s assuming that Pierre never had the privilege of typing out 140 characters of ignominy for the world to see. As quickly as you could say Michel Morganella and Voula Papachristou (as if such a task was possible at any speed), the pair was ejected for sending out xenophobic dispatches that had some believing it was 1896 all over again.

Certainly there have been some doping cases. Usually, one would expect this to happen in sports where speed or strength are required staples. Well, add to the list walking. Alex Schwazer, an Olympic speed walker, was tossed out of the Games for using performance-enhancing substances. Perhaps one of the few sports that is endorsed by the American Association of Retired Persons, race walking is apparently more grueling than once thought. Without the use of these illicit supplements, perhaps Alex would have been reduced to a leisurely pace. Nevertheless, Schwazer can be added to the list of sport’s greatest schmoes, schnorers, schmendriks, and schlubs.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is U.S. judoka Nick Delpopolo, whose last name cannot be spelled without the word ‘dope’. He was given the heave-ho from London for using performance-detracting drugs. Before leaving for the Olympics, Nick allegedly ate a brownie laced with marijuana, something that no doubt contributed to Bob Marley abandoning any Olympic aspirations. If only athletes today would take a cue from John Belushi, who purportedly won a decathlon gold medal by logging a lot of miles and downing Little Chocolate Donuts. Either that, or perhaps WADA needs to develop tougher guidelines by which to warn athletes of potentially injurious pastries and other baked goods.

Of course, not all the Olympic stories have been negative ones. There was plenty of talk in the run-up to the Opening Ceremonies about who would light the famous Olympic cauldron, the symbol of the event. Some said David Beckham. Others perhaps were hoping for Susan Boyle or Piers Morgan. A few misguided prognosticators — ones no doubt partaking in brownies baked by the Delpopolo family — hypothesized that it would be Stewie, the baby from “Family Guy” who, for some reason, possesses a devious English accent and a head shaped like a prolate spheroid.

Alas, the flame was lit by seven nondescript British athletes in a piece of outstanding symbolism meant to throw more people for a loop than did the inclusion of Rowan Atkinson, seeing how the year is curiously no longer 1994. For my money, I would have been satisfied if they gave the task to the remaining members of Simply Red, but they didn’t listen to my advice about staying away from a flash mob wearing top hats, either.

By now I’ve lost hope in badminton. The sport of kings has been reduced to rubble after teams at the Olympics conspired to throw games to help seeding. This would normally be would where I would make some kind of crass joke about a shuttlecock, but I’m just too depressed at the moment.

Wrestling is always fun to watch, but once I found out the Olympic freestyle variety outlaws folding chairs and rogue referees, I lost interest.

Track and field has always been a love of mine, too. Questions of drug tests and gender aside, here are some of the greatest competing for athletic supremacy. Usain Bolt is an amazing specimen. I tried to think of what I could do in 9.63 seconds but then got tired and had to take a nap. Also for those who do not know, the hammer throw is not as simple a practice as picking one up at Home Depot and hurling it across the parking lot: People could get hurt or give you dirty looks.

In a few days, millions will be faced with Olympic withdrawal symptoms. No more pixies capering around on a 4-inch wide beam, no more swimmers threshing through the chlorine without the use of floaties. Beach volleyball will return to its mundane ritual of being played during the day. We will all have to go back to spelling “center” with the ‘e’ before the ‘r.’

And, the worst part of it all, will be having to watch events live as they happen. Well, fear not, the next Olympics are only about two years away. Three, if you’re watching them on NBC.


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