Monday, August 11, 2008

Liking the Olympics

After putting the boys to bed on Friday, I grabbed the remote and started looking for something to watch. The Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics were on, but it was not my first choice.

But between innings of the Brewer game, I gave the Olympics a chance. Glad I did - I'm really getting into them, much more than I thought.

As a boy, the Olympics were a huge thing. First one I remember were the '84 Games in Los Angeles, with Carl Lewis stealing the show on the track and Mark Breland leading the boxing team. Always liked the Olympics, from track and field to basketball to volleyball to, gulp, swimming.

Beating the Soviet Union and East Germany on the field and in the medal count was huge in those Cold War times.

But they haven't been that interesting to me in recent years. I still watch, and follow the stories, but the Olympics have seemed to lack the enormity they used to carry. The Brewers are better and we're paying attention to baseball in August, NFL preseason games are underway (right now I'm watching Aaron Rodgers rather than Kerri Walsh and Misty May), and the Badgers start play in a couple weeks.

That said, the Opening Ceremonies the Chinese put on were spectacular, worthy of the money paid for a Broadway or Vegas show. The U.S.-China basketball game carried as much electricity as any basketball game I've watched recently. And last night, I found myself sitting up in bed cheering as the U.S. men's swimming relay team as they rallied late to upset the French and keep Michael Phelps' pursuit of eight gold medals alive.

(Two funny points on that: afterward Phelps and Jason Lezak tried to give each other high fives but missed -- twice, much like the faux "swimmers' high five" Erik Olson and I used to exchange after a few beers; and did you see how Garrett Weber-Gale ducked under Phelps' arm and in front of his better-known teammate after the win while both were celebrating? Smart guy, he knows where the camera is headed.)

Yes, I'll still be watching the Brewers and whatever NFL preseason game is on in the next two weeks. And no, I will absolutely not watch gymnastics.

But I've got Olympic fever again.

(Rodgers out, Brian Brohm in -- back to Kerri and Misty. For good.)


Mr.Man said...

I honestly can't believe that beach volleyball is an Olympic sport. Seriously, if this is an Olympic sport, then 2 on 2 half court basketball should be two. It's the same concept-- scaled down, recreational versions of real sports. And two on two half court basketball would be far more entertaining in my book.

Furthermore, why broadcast this crap in primetime? Because May-Trainor and Walsh are running around in bathing suits? If I wanted to look at half naked women sprawling around in sand, I'd watch one of those faux documentaries on the making of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Excuse me, I have to go start a petition for street luge to become an Olympic sport.

Matt said...

Regardless of whether you think beach volleyball is a legitimate sport, it is popular. In fact, it was one of the hardest tickets to get at Athens in 2004.

That's a big reason why it's in the Olympics. It is clear that in order for the Olympics to keep some level of relevancy to the world (note that I didn't mention the USA), they have to change over time. That is precisely why we don't have naked men today battling it out in pankration.

Whether we like it or not here in the states, sports such as beach volleyball and BMX riding have a much broader appeal world-wide than softball, for instance. As such, softball will be eliminated starting next Olympics (along with baseball).

I'm not saying I agree with the choices but often we take a very US-centric view of the games. If you try and look at it from a world view, that view can be different, sometimes dramatically.

I may be one of the few American males that actually enjoy the Olympics and will watch them every night. Not that it replaces football as my favorite, but it does have its place for me. It exposes me to something different, and for that I can appreciate them.

Scott Tappa said...

What in the hell is pankration? Sounds like something you and Toohey invented one night on Mills Street.

Scott Tappa said...

Also, I've long been a big volleyball, our family has always been involved in the sport. The beach version of the sport is easier for me to accept as an Olympic event than some of the so-called extreme sports, which seem to be more prevalent in the winter games.

Matt said...

Taps - you're just jealous you didn't come up with pankration first.

Another question I have about the Olympics: I don't understand why people complain so much about them when the only exposure we really have to many of the sports is two weeks every two years? It also seems to be those that complain about them don't watch them anyway.

I'd rather watch the Olympics than poker, which seems to be on every damn night.

Mr.Man said...

I admit that beach volleyball is popular (even if the reasons for its popularity remain dubious). But I don't agree with pure popularity guiding things, and neither does the Olympic committee, obviously. Otherwise target shooting and the javelin would have been out years ago.

And I didn't mean to complain about the Olympics generally. I definitely enjoy them, especially the swimming and the track and field events. It's just that beach volleyball, with its piped in rock music and swimsuits seems so, well, cheesy. I feel like the Olympics should be classier than that. Maybe I'm just getting old.

Scott Tappa said...

Completely agree about the piped-in music and AVP tour-like atmosphere. There should be some more dignity to the events.

And why are rifling and some of those other super-minor 'sports' still in the Olympics? Not advocating replacing them with X games crap, but why aren't they on the block?