Monday, August 25, 2008

The Olympics: A Review

I have always had a creeping intuition (the devil that sits on my left shoulder, or maybe it's the one that's lodged in my bellybutton; I think the OCD devil sits on the left shoulder -- anyway, I forget, there are so many of them) that something is wrong with the Olympics, or that something was BECOMING wrong with them. Now, don't misunderstand. I love the Olympics. So much so that, not being a TV owner myself, I have had to wrangle forced TV sittings out of certain best friends during these last couple of weeks (their generosity should not go unnoted).

But here's the thing: I don't watch other sports. At all. But there is something about the Olympics that goes beyond the merely sportly. The Olympics is myth: Olympia! Gymnastic feats! Wrestling three-headed dogs! Breaking down the gates of Hades with your discus and javelin power tools! The Olympics is not about courts and scoreboards and whether the female volleyball players' tankinis are actually just bikinis. It's about pure and simple might; domination. Outrun that guy. Jump higher. Pull a ridiculous extra fly stroke out of nowhere and beat your opponent by a millisecond. It's about the simple feats that the human body (the BEAUTIFUL human body, O Lord) can accomplish without brand name gear in bare feet with bleeding sockets and foaming mouth. So, now, when I see badminton become a part of the Olympics, let alone basketball (excuse me, but don't they have enough TV coverage already for chrissake?) the chagrin starts to set in. My purist's event has a dirty strain in it and it's called organized sports. 

Now, my friend Laura has a boyfriend named John who is full of chagrin. And what I'm about to post here, well, these are not my words, but sadly, the words I want to have written but couldn't put into terms concise and biting enough for my taste and so, twice sadly, left them unwritten. Here's John on the Olympics:

"The Rules: only those sports that measure strength or endurance or both are allowed. The use of simple mechanical devices is okay (bicycle, rowing shell). Any sports that simulate warfare are acceptable (boxing, taikwondo). No sports that are too cool (like snowboarding, moto-cross, demolition derby or whatever they had in Turino). No ball sports.

Tennis. No. Didn't we just have Wimbeldon? What the hell is the Olympics for?

Table tennis: Obviously no, unless the players are too drunk to drive legally. Then it's okay.

Volleyball: Only if they play the top gun soundtrack on repeat. Otherwise, no.

Diving: Only if the contest is about how high you can jump from and survive.

Equestrian: The horse deserves a medal, too, if not more so.

Field hockey: Only if they're hot and wear plaid skirts. And that includes the men. All field hockey players wear skirts. No sweating allowed. Attractiveness counts. Otherwise, no.
Waterpolo: No. too . . . weird.

Basketball: No. Kobe Bryant gets enough attention.

Synchronized swimming: Come on. Let's be realistic about this.

Sailing: The boats should be equipped with cannons.

Trampoline: See 'Diving', but in reverse.

Softball: No. Can you imagine someone working his ass off to become a male Olympic softball player? Sounds like a Will Ferrell / Ben Stiller movie. (It's a women-only event, but I like the image. Still a ball sport, so not allowed).

Badminton: Absolutely not. I don't care how much the Chinese love the sport. Even if the shuttlecock or whatever isn't precisely a ball, it's close enough.

Canoeing: Only the events that don't go downstream. Why not dump them out the back of a plane? Flat water events only.

Handball: Are you kidding? Is it restricted to six-year olds? No.

Baseball: No way. We always lose anyway. Embarrassing."

A man after my own heart. Thanks, John. You said it exactly.