Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Games of the Whatever Olympiad

It's that time again. Commercials turn inspirational, most networks give up entirely on counter-programming, and America cares deeply about sports it then forgets about for the next four years. Yes, the Olympics are on. Beijing was undoubtedly a controversial choice as host, but that didn't stop me from watching thousands of men banging drums in military-like simultaneity Friday evening, or from staying up until midnight last night in order to watch really, really strong short men perform incredible feats (otherwise knows as the men's team gymnastics final). Before the Olympics are over I'll watch diving, synchronized swimming, table tennis, badminton, pole vaulting, and various other events. Then I'll forget about both the events and competitors immediately. What's my fascination?

It's not patriotism. I love my country as much as the next guy, but I certainly don't watch little girls in Spandex and makeup balancing on a beam out of national pride. I don't watch because I care who gets the most medals, either. In fact, a victory or two for, say, Cyprus would be fine by me. Since I'm not a regular fan of pretty much all of these sports there's nothing at stake for me in who wins and who loses.

NBC understands the viewers aren't fans of the particular events, in that the audience is continually primed with backstories on the contestants. Sometimes this leads me to care about the outcome, like the other night when the French swimmer was racing against the Spanish woman who stole her boyfriend. In general, though, I don't watch because of personality either. I don't know who these people are, and I won't think about any of them tomorrow.

I'm not the kind of person who loves watching sports so much I'll tune in to whatever is on TV. I do like baseball, but I never watch until the post-season, when things are at stake, and even then if I don't care about the teams I don't bother. I watch the Superbowl, but always in a bar or at a party, where the game isn't really the point. Tennis is the only sport I care about, and ironically it's an Olympic event I usually ignore. Because the participants are in the middle of the hard-court season that leads up to the US Open, some top players don't come, and some don't give it their all. Love of sport doesn't attract me to the games either, then.

I think I watch out of respect for the athletes. I think about what it must be like to be the best woman weightlifter in the world. I'd spend my days worrying about my caloric intake, sweating alone in a gym in front of a mirror, grunting for hours and hours. I'd have the satisfaction of knowing that I was the best, that all the work and obsession had paid off, but I'd mainly live my life in obscurity. Then, for two weeks every four years, the world would watch me. My dedication would be recognized, if only for a fleeting moment. I watch the Olympics so that athletes like that have a fan, albeit a temporary one.


Anonymous said...

I watch it so I don't seem like a sociaphobe when my friends talk about it. And to respect the athletes, of course.

tunsie said...

sweetheart,my only problem,while I know the time zone difference very well because i talk very frequently 2 that part of the world.why is it that the popular sports r aired in the middle of the nite or early in the morning.they showed the opening during prime time. i luv u el.basketball.basketball.basketball