My Take on the Olympics

August 25, 2004

The lapse between the previous entry and this one is probably the longest gap I've had between online entries. The reason has to do with the problems that my hosting provider unintentionally dumped on my site, which I only mention in case you blame my natural laziness. This leaves me with a backlog of topics to explore, some more interesting than others. I'm going to start with one of the less interesting: my thoughts on the Olympics.

Let's start with the pre-Olympic Michael Phelps hype. NBC practically assured us that he should win 8 gold medals. In retrospect, it was clearly just to sucker us into watching. It's now clear that Phelps chose to participate in events that he was less likely to win so that he could race Ian Thorpe head to head. NBC knew this, and they set up Phelps in the only possible scenario that could make him disappoint Joe American. Besides, who really cares if an athlete comes back with eight medals or four? Does eight medals make Phelps a better Olympic athelete than the three Kenyans who took medals in Steeplechase? Of course not. It's just that there's only one Steeplechase, and there are about four thousand swim events, as far as I can tell.

Clearly, the number of swims needs to be pared. I bet anything that I could stage an olympics, race the exact same swim a few days apart with different people, and no one would notice. And while we're cutting sports, trampoline and synchronized diving are this year's events that I don't remember seeing before, and which I hope never to see again. The winter Olympics is fortunate not to have this problem. Not too many people are making up faux sports that have to be played in snow or on ice.

The story of the women's gymnastics team is similar. NBC made out like they were supposed to be disappointed in the silver medal. NBC's just wrong on this. It looks to me like they are rightfully proud of their silver medal. More interesting than the event is the fact that they all look pretty much identical. I haven't heard anyone mention this, but is it possible that there's a factory cloning US Olympic gymnasts? How else can this be explained? All-around gold medalist Carly Patterson is suposedly from Baton Rouge, but I never heard of her before the Olympics. Surely I would have heard about a native Baton Rougean (is that the word?) who was a world class gymnist. I would have heard, unless that world class gymnist is a clone with a made up personal history and home town. I haven't even run into anyone who knows the Pattersons.

Let's move on to the disappointing men's basketball team. I think it might be dawning on the NBA types that basketball is a team sport. It's shocking enough to them all when the Pistons with no real stars beat the Lakers, with four hall of famers in a seven game series. It's worse yet that a team of NBA stars gets beat by the Puerto Rican national team. It doesn't matter that the US team isn't the group of all-NBA stars that it could be. It's a bunch of guys who don't pass, and don't shoot all that well. I'm personally glad to see them lose. Maybe we'll see the NBA teams start to do little things like pass and take jump shots one of these days.

The most annoying thing in all of the coverage is the medal count. Who cares what countries lead? The U.S. should have the most medals. No country shares our combination of size, population, and wealth. But I'm no more proud of a Californian winning another medal than I am of a South African or a Mexican, or a Russian. Sure, it's great for the individual, but I only see the locals as my home team. Fro example, LSU graduate Muna Lee runs in the 200m finals tonight, and Bennie Brazell runs the 400m hurdles the day after. It's too bad Bennie can't catch a football to save his life, but I guess he gives the LSU defensive backs someone good to try to cover in practice.

I seem to have digressed, but I really haven't. We all know that the Summer Olympics are just TV filler while we wait for football to start. First kickoff's Saturday.