Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Well, the Olympics are over...

Unlike many an average red-blooded American male in his 40s, my life is not consumed by sports. I don’t have a man-cave devoted to entertaining my friends on game days, decorated (nay, festooned) with logos and posters and banners and framed jerseys, with a giant TV and a wet bar. I watch the occasional baseball game (Red Sox) and maybe catch one football game a season in addition to the Super Bowl, which I actually just watch for the commercials. I don’t do college ball, I don’t do NASCAR, and I don’t do hoops. I do, however, love hockey with a passion. It’s really the only sport I follow. 

Okay, maybe I fibbed a little. I have a shelf rack with McFarlane hockey figures, pucks, and a few other collectibles on it next to my desk, and a trio of signed hockey sticks in the corner. The jerseys are all in the spare closet…..

That said, I actually made an effort to watch the Olympics this year. In years past I’d watch a maximum of maybe 5 or six hours’ worth during the 2 weeks of any given Olympiad, mostly gymnastics. But this year, and I’m not sure why the urge came over me, I wanted to watch as much as I could. So the missus & me set the DVR to record every single second of coverage that NBC was offering …not the ancilliary stuff on MSNBC or Bravo or whatever side channels they were showing stuff on, but whatever they were showing on good old Channel 2 locally. And we sat together as a couple & had a great time watching things we ordinarily wouldn’t have otherwise.

                                       Somehow we missed badminton and ping pong. The horror...

Admittedly, some sports we just fast-forwarded through. No offense to the athletes who do those sports but I had at any given time 18 to 20 hours recorded at a whack. Some sports, I just can’t see why they are even in the Olympics, but that’s a blog for another day.

So, what did I see?

I saw Olympic records broken. I saw world records broken. 

I saw a guy from Khazakstan,who no one expected and had retired from competitive cycling, come out of nowhere to win a gold medal after six hours on his bike.

I saw veteran athletes end their careers and rookie kids start theirs.

I saw women compete for the first time from three countries, as this was the first Olympics where every nation had a woman on their team.

I saw a modest young man from Grenada win his country’s first gold medal, after having seen that same young man embrace and trade name bibs with a fellow runner from South Africa who also made history as the first double amputee to compete in the Games. Kirani James is a true gentleman and Oscar Pistorius is a shining example of inspirational perseverance to us all.

I saw a slender wisp of a fellow, born in Somalia but now living in England, with an infectious grin of wondrous delight after winning gold in the 10,000 meter run, embracing his American training partner and friend who won the silver right behind him. Later I saw Mo Farah also take gold in the 5,000 meter.

I saw a lot of athletes who, mere seconds before, had been trying their level best to beat the person next to them congratulating or embracing that same competitor.

I saw incredible moments like China’s Liu Xiang crashing to the ground with a ruptured Achilles tendon and then hobbling back out onto the track to symbolically finish his event, and then being helped off the track by fellow 110 meter hurdlers Andy Turner of Great Britain and Jackson Quinonez of Spain in a touching show of camaraderie and sportsmanship.

I saw another slender wisp of a fellow, from a village in Uganda, take the gold in the marathon, beating his own brother, who was running for Kenya.

I saw so many proud parents cheering their kids on, and seeing all those countless hours of practices and meets and training come to fruition.

I saw some athletes pout and glower and look suicidal and almost throw a fit over winning a silver medal, and I saw others ecstatic to get a bronze. Two perfect examples are divers Tom Daley of Britain and Pandalele Rinong of Malaysia. And I saw the anguish of athletes coming in fourth, just off the medals podium, especially after long-distance events.

I saw an 18-year old gymnast take it upon herself to give tribute to the murdered Israelis of the 1972 Munich Olympics when the politically-correct weenies from the IOC refused to do so. Thank you, Aly Raisman.

I saw, time and time and time again, jaded commentators from NBC Sports who may have won a gold medal 25 years ago, taking apart athletes’ performances instead of praising the efforts or telling us what they did right. I got so sick of hearing “There’s a two-tenths deduction” or “That’s a costly mistake” or “That’s not going to be good enough”. Look, we get it; you were an athlete once and you used to do this sport, but you just come off as a prick who is implying that you could have done it better. More than once my wife got so fed up with it that we turned the volume off so as to stop the prattling.

I saw Ryan Seacrest, EVERYWHERE. It’s not enough that we see him thrice a week on Idol for a quarter of the year and that he’s on four or five hours a day on at least two local radio stations, but now I have to see his perfect hair and impeccable monochrome suits interviewing people for that Human Interest angle. 

I saw the idiocy of the American Lamestream Media covering the absurd victim-mentality accusations of racism when a commercial featuring a smiling capuchin monkey mimicing the men’s gymnastics rings advertising a new NBC sitcom (A commercial, I might add that we had seen several random times previously during the broadcasts) after Gabby Douglas won a medal. You morons will stop at nothing to find a racist behind every tree and under every rock. Alleged Racism is the new McCarthy Communism of the 50s.

I saw the Olympics itself cry & whine over athletes' mentions of their sponsors or endorsers, only allowing what they approved. They made one athlete tape over a tattoo of a sports logo they didn't like. Surprise, surprise, IOC; these people have lives outside the Olympics every 4 years.
And finally, I saw the pride of a nation as England hosted the Games and did a good job of it despite initial concerns of safety after the security contractors botched it and hundreds of troops recently back from deployments in war zones had to be pressed into service. The opening & closing ceremonies were spectacular affairs ,though I’m still a bit confused at the tribute to the National Health Service, which provides somewhat mediocre care if I’m to believe the horror stories I read on the Daily Mail’s website, and really, the Queen could have at least smiled at the Opening Ceremony.

Team GB did rather well, fielding teams in some sports that they’d never before competed in, and bringing in a fine haul of medals of their own. The crowds were pretty good at most events despite what seemed like outrageous ticket prices, and for the events that took place alongside the beautiful & historic streets of London & the surrounding suburbs the crowds lining the streets were huge and festive.

I saw a lot of great stuff. I saw some not so great stuff. But best of all, my wife and I got to see something besides a-hole, scripted faux-reality TV or vacant-skull sitcoms. I miss it already.

I think Paul McCartney finally finished "Hey Jude" from the Opening Ceremony about 4 minutes ago.....

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