Farewell Olympics

So because I’m a sheep lacking any level of originality (which makes it curious that I’m writing a blog that I hope people will read), I am required by law to do my recap of the Porno Olympics (sorry, the XXX Olympiad).  If you hate the Olympics, then you are a terrorist, a communist, un-American, and really just a horrible person in general.

Now, a little back story.  When I was growing up my parents loved the Olympics.  Not together of course, they got divorced in 1980.  Hmmm…U.S. boycott of the Olympics in Moscow and my parents get divorced.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Anyway, my mom’s line was, “I get the TV for the 2 weeks of the Olympics” (actually it was 4 weeks, because she loved the Winter Olympics too…but we’ll get to that for a brief second later).  Naturally, this was the worst thing in the history of everything.  My mother wants the TV for 4 weeks every 4 years?!?  This is pure crap!  Mind you, this was in the days before cable had quality television on during the summer, so it’s not like we were missing anything.  There was probably a rerun of ALF that was being pre-empted by the Olympics and I was not happy.

So naturally, as this is happening, I revolted.  Up until about 1996 the Olympics were the worst thing around, although I do have vague recollections of certain things (Mary Lou Retton, Ben Johnson being stripped of his gold medal, obviously the Dream Team, my mom drooling over the male gymnasts and swimmers, which naturally made me want to puke).  But as you grow older, your parents’ tastes tend to influence yours later in life.  So as I was growing up the Olympics fell in with things like the Beatles, Bonnie Raitt and Boston (the band) that I hated at the time but wound up liking after the fact (sorry Mom, you’re never getting me to like Neil Diamond).

Along about 1996 I was full in on the Olympics.  Now, it helped that I had a massive crush on pretty much all of the (legal) members of the Magnificent Seven, aka the first American women’s gymnastics team to win the team all-around gold medal.  Since then I’ve acted a bit disinterested at the idea of the Olympics, but every time they come around I wind up spending a ridiculous amount of time watching them.  And since it’s every four years and the Detroit Tigers are in the process of stealing my soul, I participated somewhat heavily in the quadrennial competition to figure out just how much better the U.S. is than every other country on earth.

(Since we all know that sporting dominance is far more important than economic situation or the test scores of our children.)

Now, a little something must be said about the Winter Olympics.  In 1992, the IOC, arguably the most corrupt organization on the face of the planet (aside from maybe FIFA), decided that in an attempt to stay relevant more than every four years, they’d beginning holding the Olympics every 2 years, with the Summer Games coming in 1992, 1996, 2000, etc., and the Winter Games coming in 1994, 1998, 2002, etc.  Let’s ignore the fact that the Winter Olympics is basically a bunch of rich kids competing for medals in their weekend endeavors combined with a kick-ass hockey tournament.  What made this shitty is instead of being able to say, “The Olympics only come around every 4 years,” now you’ve got to stumble when you start saying that and say, “Oh, well, every 2 years I guess.”  Trust me, if you’ve ever heard Pat Caputo try to explain this, you’d wish for instant death.

What I’m trying to say is that aside from the hockey, the Winter Olympics suck and we won’t be discussing it any further.

Now that we’ve gone through a 5-paragraph intro, here are some random thoughts about the Games.

Gabby Douglas/Serena Williams

If you ever begin to think that the race card is gone (which a lot of people do now that we’ve got a black president), one needs only look at the treatment Gabby Douglas received after she became the first black gymnast to win the all-around gold to see that we’ve got a long fucking way to go.  First, you have Bob Costas discussing the probability of young black girls watching Gabby Douglas and deciding they’d like to try gymnastics, immediately followed by NBC going to a promo of a monkey doing gymnastics.  I mean, holy shit NBC.  I can’t even come up with a joke or a comparison to Nazi Germany, all I can say is, “Holy Shit.”

And by the way Bob, pretty much every girl under the age of 10 wants to do gymnastics – white, black, Asian, Indian, Native-American…whoever else I’m missing.  The problem is most of them can’t afford it, a problem which is especially problematic in the black population (to pretend that poverty isn’t a bigger problem for blacks than it is for other populations would be pandering and insulting to everyone, so I’m proving how superior I am by saying as much).  It’s not that black girls didn’t have a role model to look up to to play the game, it’s that their family typically can’t afford it.  Which leads me to the fact that it was revealed that Douglas’s mother had declared bankruptcy.  To her mother’s credit, she basically said, “Yep, it happened, gymnastics ain’t cheap, I was paying for my daughter to live out her dream.”  But how many other parents made tremendous sacrifices in order to send their children to these Olympics, and how many stories did we hear about white people going bankrupt?

And then they talked about her hair!  Her fucking hair!  Apparently it wasn’t up to snuff for some idiotic people who felt she wasn’t representing black women properly.  These idiots would look at the chalk on her hands and say she’s trying to be white.  Really?  Her fucking hair?  People are morons.

Then you’ve got Serena Williams.  Now, I’m not a fan, and there are people who suggested that her recent performance may not have merited a spot in the Olympics, but she responded by kicking the shit out of everyone.  Her performance should be up there with Michael Phelps in ’08 and the only Dream Team (’92).  I turned on the Gold Medal match and I thought Maria Sharapova was going to cry she was getting beaten so badly.  And what did everyone talk about after her win?  The fact that she Crip walked as a celebration.  Dear God she’s tainted the holy grounds of Wimbledon!  What ever will we do?

Look, I’m not one to play the race card, but I find it interesting that you have a couple of black women/girls having extremely memorable performances on an international stage, and we “inadvertently” run a commercial of a monkey doing gymnastics, bitch about their hair or how they celebrate and point out that her family endured financial hardships to send them to the Olympics.  Seriously people, shut the fuck up.

Michael Phelps

I’ll be honest.  I thought Michael Phelps was a douchebag.  I still might think that.  And I say this in the context of thinking that all big name athletes are douchebags and/or assholes.  It’s just sort of natural.  We live in a society that canonizes athletes, and from the moment it becomes apparent that they’re “special”, people fawn all over them and give them everything they want.  A certain douchebagginess is somewhat natural.

(By the way, if f-bomb can make it into the dictionary, I expect to see douchebagginess in there next year.)

But then there was a 60 Minutes piece where Phelps discussed his training regimen after the ’08 Olympics, where Phelps dominated and set pretty much every record known to man.  During that interview, Phelps revealed that he had been hanging out with some friends watching The Hangover, and decided on a whim, “Let’s go to Vegas.”  And they did.  Mind you, this isn’t incredibly uncommon.  Plenty of people have just decided, “We’re going to Vegas.”  Phelps is hardly unique.  And the interviewer (I think it was Scott Pelley, so fuck that guy) said, “Did you feel guilty?”  For what?!?  Phelps owes no one anything.  He doesn’t want to go to London, he doesn’t have to.  He wants to smoke weed, fine.  He wants to go an kick everyone’s ass in the pool, by all means, have at it.

And then he hears people talk about a rivalry with Ryan Lochte going into the games.  How does Phelps respond?  He goes and thrashes Lochte, winning four more golds and two more silvers.  He lost to Lochte once, in an event where Phelps still holds the world record.  Also, Lochte has diamond teeth.  No one looks good with diamond teeth.

Phelps says he’s done, but he’s got a mother who wants a free trip to Rio in 2016 (ungrateful bitch).  If he goes, I won’t bet against him.  If he doesn’t, he’s got nothing to feel guilty for.

Handball/Trampoline

I won’t lie, I found these two sports absolutely mesmerizing.  If handball were to found a league in the U.S. (which it should, because it’s one of 3 sports we aren’t dominating), I would buy season tickets to the Detroit franchise.  Of course, I say that about an MLS team in Detroit, and I’m not exactly a soccer fan…I digress.  Seriously fascinating.  It’s like a mix of hockey, basketball and awesome.

And trampoline?!?  Holy shit what an amazingly simple concept.  Hey, remember how everyone loved the trampoline when you were a kid?  Well, we’re going to turn it into an Olympic sport, so you’ll be jumping 30 feet in the air and doing triple flips and whatever kind of shit you can pull off.  But you gotta stick the landing.  How that happens I have absolutely no idea.  It looks like they’ve got glue on their feet.  I’ve never seen a sport where I said, “I need a taller TV.”  If I see “World Trampoline Championships” on my TV guide and there’s not a Detroit or Michigan State team playing, I’m tuning in.

True story: a week or so ago I was invited on a boat trip with my friends.  I almost told them I was going to be late because the women’s gold medal trampoline final was taking place.  If they’d ever watched trampoline, they would’ve understood.

NBC

Of course, you can’t talk about this year’s Olympics without bitching about NBC’s coverage…the live streaming issues, focusing on American athletes, editing their prime time coverage.  And yes, there’s things to complain about (probably could’ve done without spoiling Missy Franklin’s race), but in the grand scheme of things, they got things right.

Wait, what?

I have a coworker who doesn’t have cable, so she absolutely loved the fact that the Olympics were on.  Every day she’d come in with something new to discuss.  By the way, she’s highly annoying.  And that’s coming from me, who’s highly annoying.  Also, outside of work, she’s fairly stupid.  And one of the things she pointed out was that she didn’t care about the non-Americans.  Well then.

Now, NBC isn’t stupid.  Storylines like Usain Bolt and Andy Murray?  NBC’s going to treat them as if they were American, because they’ll bring in viewers.  Everything’s about eyeballs.  But aside from that?  The simple fact is that a lot of this country is really stupid.  They want to see the Americans, and they don’t care if the Russian gymnast fell on her face and eliminated any suspense in the team all-around final.

There are two things to keep in mind: NBC is in the business of making money, and the IOC doesn’t get pushed around (especially by the Americans).  People seem to forget that the 1996 Olympics, played in the Eastern time zone, was largely run on tape delay.  That’s because the IOC determines what gets played when, and they have to consider hundreds of countries (ok, Europe, China, Japan, Russia and Australia…whatever) in determining when the events get played.  The women’s gymnastics final results were given on SportsCenter before NBC went on the air in 1996.  Some of this is just necessity.

The Olympics are generally a loss leader for the network.  But the Olympics performed so well above expectations in terms of ratings that NBC was able to charge more and actually make money on the games.  You can call NBC stupid all you want, but they’re idiots with a shit ton of money.  Nothing is going to change in Rio, which is only an hour ahead of us.  If there are events you want to watch live, find them online (I did it with 3 events: the 100m and 200m finals and the end of the women’s soccer semifinal).

Look, I’ve got ideas how to make things better.  Determine who won the medal count by weighting the sports equally (there are 34 medals awarded in swimming and 2 in basketball).  Or give out a weighted score (5 points for gold, 3 for silver, 1 for bronze).  Let Brazzers sponsor the Olympic village and sell subscriptions for those 2 weeks (I really want to know who Hope Solo is banging).  But for the most part the Olympics are a 2-week spectacle that edits into a really compelling reality TV show.

And I can’t wait for the spinoff: Real Housewives of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team.

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