To be honest, the Olympics were always kind of stupid, but back in say, 1988 when I first became aware they existed, we didn’t know any better. Most Americans only had 3 or 4 channels to choose from and the non-Olympics channels made no effort to compete with ABC or NBC or whoever was televising them back then. So if you were going to watch TV for those two weeks, you were likely watching people running in circles or some unknown college kids trying to beat some communists at basketball. And there was no internet or netflix or much of anything else to offer any alternative for a bored kid who didn’t want to go play outside in the hot summer heat.
The Olympics were also more political back then. Not that it was really a good thing, but it did tend to generate more interest. As a young boy I first became aware of the fact that there was an East Germany by watching some suspiciously muscular women bobsledding in Calgary (it was also when I became aware that bobsledding was a competitive sport and that there was a city in Canada named Calgary). So my introduction to the existence of something called the Cold War was directly related to the fact that I spent four out of the fifty-two weeks in 1988 watching the Olympics on television. There seemed to be some kind of extra significance to Team USA having more metals than Team USSR (who by the way didn’t even seem to know how to spell their own country’s initials. CCCP? What the hell was that?)
Of course a year later my third grade teacher was trying to convince me that a wall in Germany separating East from West being torn down was the most important thing to ever happen. So by the time 1992 came around, the USA was really just beating the hell out of everyone in Barcelona and the “Unified Team” as the old USSR was calling itself, just seemed kind of pathetic. The Olympics, despite being more heavily promoted than ever, were starting to lose their luster.
As the 2016 Summer Olympics open in Brazil, I’ve come to loathe the games. I’m going to use an old blog cliche and make a list of my problems with them:
- Corruption. Governments basically have to bribe a bunch of European assholes who control where the games are. Then they have to steal money and property from their citizens to build a bunch of venues that will be completely useless after the two weeks are up. Most citizens in the Western world are starting to catch onto this racket and don’t want the Olympics to be held anywhere near them. I predict more and more we will see these games “awarded” to third world countries where the governments are less responsive to the wills of their peoples.
- The sports are stupid. The only sports that could survive on their own as spectator sports are basketball, soccer, and golf. But the Olympics are not the premier venue for these sports so who even really cares about whether some second tier NBA stars making up Team USA wins the gold? And beyond these few exceptions, why are we supposed to care about running, ping pong, swimming, ribbon twirling, etc. for these two weeks every four years when we don’t care about them at any other time? The answer is we really shouldn’t. It’s stupid.
- The Opening Ceremonies. As I write this NBC has spent the last few hours showing groups of people walking into a stadium in silly costumes holding the flags of their countries. There’s a little map in the corner of the screen showing where each of these places is located on the globe. This is the most inefficient geography lesson ever. As for entertainment value, I give it 0 stars.
- Human Interest Stories. I’m supposed to care that Johnny can run really fast because his dad who taught him to love running died recently. Or some girl fled some horrible Asian or African country to move to America and learn how to dive into a pool. Whatever. Call me a cynical asshole but this stuff is just not interesting to me. I guess this is supposed to appeal to women so they’ll watch the Olympics. NBC takes for granted that men will just watch it because men like sports. Well sure, men like baseball, football, basketball, and hockey being played by the best the world has to offer. That’s why we have the MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL. Most men played these sports as children and like seeing them played at the highest level. Do men really like watching sports they barely knew existed until the Olympics tries to shove them down our throats? Badminton? Canoe Slalom? Trampoline? Water Polo? Give me a freaking break.
- Rooting for your country. Why the hell do I care whether some little girl from California does gymnastics better than some little girl from Russia or China or Romania. I’m supposed to get some sense of pride from that? That’s just pathetic. I admit it’s silly if I’m a Mets fan and I get some satisfaction when they beat the Yankees or Phillies. But following a baseball team day in and day out for years is a real emotional investment. When they finally win the World Series you’ve kind of earned the right to celebrate. Tuning into the Olympics and watching a sport you haven’t watched in four years like gymnastics or swimming, where you know Team USA is favored to win, and then getting all excited when they “bring home the gold?” That’s as dumb as it gets.
- Swimmers are the “greatest Olympians of all time.” Michael Phelps wins 20 gold medals every Olympics because there are 20 separate swimming races. This makes him the best ever at the Olympics because he has the most gold medals. Such fucking nonsense. Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer of all time. To compare him in any way to someone who shoots guns or plays golf or throws a shot put makes no sense. One sport has nothing to do with the other. If they figured out 20 different ways to throw a discus, it wouldn’t surprise me if the same guy won all 20 discus events. Maybe you could make the circle he stands in bigger or smaller. Make him hold the discus a little differently. Use a slightly bigger or smaller discus. Would this guy then be the “greatest Olympian”? I guess so. Why not? Who the fuck cares?
So I could probably find more things that make the Olympics suck, but I’ll end it here because it’s late and I need to get some sleep. At least there are some hot pole vaulters.