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I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I don't heart the Olympics

There, I said it. For some reason, it's not acceptable to call the Olympics a colossal waste of time and money. At least, that used to be the case. This year, people are opening up about their Olympics dislike. Stories abound about poor ratings and idiot jocks. Amen. The same standard of hatred applied to every other sport finally comes to the Olympics.

I was ahead of the curve on this, by the way. Here's a column I wrote about the 2004 Olympics that also applies to the 2006 edition. (I made a few edits to make the column read better. Hope the purists don't mind.)


I have been sitting at my keyboard for a while now trying to think of a way to begin my column on the Olympics. Because you have to write about the Olympics this week, don't you? It's the biggest pop culture news of the month.

Here's my problem: I don't like the Olympics. It's a reflection of my long-standing prejudice against boring sports events. I can't stomach NASCAR, I can't watch baseball during the regular season, and I snore through the Olympic games. So no matter how considerable the star charisma of Yelena Isinbayeva, I won't be enjoying the pulse-pounding excitement of the pole vault this summer.

My disdain for the Olympics doesn't come guilt-free. Like a lot of people, I feel an innate obligation to spend two weeks watching a bunch of people I don't know playing sports I don't like for awards I don't care about. There's no logical reason why I should feel this obligation. This is a meaningless sports event, and like all meaningless sports events, you have no reason to watch if you aren't being entertained.

But the Olympics isn't about entertainment. The Olympics is about The Nations Of The World Setting Aside Their Differences In The Spirit of Sportsmanship. Watching the Olympics makes you a better person because the athletes are amateurs who take performance-enhancing drugs for the glory of the game, not for something unsavory like money.

Ugh. With all due respect for the hard work they put in, I just don't like watching amateur athletes. I'm an amateur athlete, and I messed up my ankle for a month the last time I played basketball. I like professionals. (I put college football and basketball players in this category because they get a ton of free stuff for being jocks. That makes them underpaid, not amateurs.) I agree that watching the National Football League probably won't make me a better person, but I don't want to be a better person. I want something to do while I drink beer and eat pretzels on Sunday afternoons in the fall.

There are two types of sports fans. There are fans who see sport as a metaphor for real life, and there are fans who aren't idiots. The former group take the Olympics way too seriously.
These people insist that a gold medal weightlifting match between the United States and France has some larger sociopolitical significance, when in fact the only significance is that the telecast is preventing you from watching "Last Comic Standing."

Olympics-as-metaphor people often cite the 1936 games in Berlin, when Jesse Owens won four gold medals to the chagrin of Adolf Hitler. But this example only proves how meaningless the Olympics really are. While it was nice that a black man could stick it to the Nazi leader in his own house, it's not as if Hitler changed his whole "master race" theory just because Owens proved him wrong. If you want to stop a psycho dictator, send an army, not a track star.

Sports are the opposite of real life. Sports are based on order, a rigid set of rules and the idea that the best and brightest always come out ahead. Sports make sense. Does that sound like real life to you? Real life is messy, chaotic and makes no sense whatsoever. If life were a sport, it would be the XFL.

Have fun watching the Olympics this month. As for me, I believe that swimming is something you do at your friend's cabin, not watch on prime time television.

5 Comments:

Blogger Krista said...

You and Erin are a match made in Olympic-Hatin' Heaven!

6:24 PM  
Blogger road apples said...

amatuers???? i seem to remember america's dream team - definetoy not amatuers. anybody who trains for four years for an event that last two minutes is NOT an amatuer unless you mean they don't get personal monetary rewards until AFTER they "retire". i'm just saying.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

I love this post more than life itself.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Jim Collar said...

You have to give them some credit for taking 14-year-olds off the smoker's corner to choreograph the opening ceremony.

"Dude, let's have a guy with a mohawk in a naked suit prance around for awhile, and then, like, we'll have a car do donuts on the stage."

"Awesome!"

After catching four minutes of cross country skiing on NBC Sunday, PBA bowling on ESPN was about as exciting as March madness.

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Cheddar said...

Hey, watching that skier wipe out was money. Plus she's hot.

12:10 PM  

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