Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Some thougths on the 2008 Olympics

I think it's awesome that people are getting into the Olympics. I've seen people be utterly engrossed in Michael Phelps' races all over the Indianapolis area, and just loud cheers going off whenever the US gets a gold. I'm surprised how many bar patrons seem to have a working knowledge over who is swimming what event and what they're prospects are and even names like Natalie Coughlin, Aaron Piersol and Ryan Lochte are even familiar to many bar patrons. For someone who doesn't get all the hype about watching football, it's kind of refreshing to be able to avoid talking about football at this time of year.

At the same time, how many of these people are even remotely aware that Michael Phelps did some insanely incredible stuff four years ago. There are some cool sports that are present in the olympics and it's unfortunate that we will likely forget in the following four years. When sportscasters on NBC want to emphasize the pressure on a given athlete, they tell us, "This is someone's only chance in four years" but that's sort of up to us.

The two main sports I've participated in as a spectator, skiing and track, are things I enjoy watching way more than a conventional sport like football and I follow both of them every year, it's not particularly hard to do so and these sports don't get less exciting in the off years.

Case in point: Most people remember Bode Miller as the skier who screwed up big time in the Olympics and created an embarrassment of himself and of our country. Most people are probably unaware that the year after the Olympics, Bode Miller won the overall world cup which basically made him the best overall skier in the world and the most decorated skier in US history. Was it his fault or ours that no one was watchin? Does it make his comeback any less sweet?A second thought I had was does the U.S. need to win anything and everything for us to feel good about ourselves? In the stuff that actually matters, we are kind of #1: we control the UN, we have military and political clout, not to mention the fact that so much of the rest of the world has to go to us whenever they want to borrow money and put up with reruns of Friends on tv, etc.

That's why I wonder why we have to win so many medals to validate that. I'm happy for anyone who wins a medal, and but I don't think we as a country neccessarily need that for our pride so much as some other countries do. If being the first country to have their own democratic constitution and our free elections doesn't instill you with a sense of national pride, is the fact that beaux greer of louisiana can throw a stick farther than Russia's best javelin thrower going to make that much of a difference?

That's why I can be happy if some underrepresented country, that doesn't have much going for it, can upset the American or Russian or Chinese favorites and win a medal. We're naturally drawn to underdogs as sports fans, and in this case, the US is definitely not the underdogs (except against China).

I think the sports commentators are trying too hard to make us seem like we are underdogs with introductions like "Lolo Jones is trying to be the first American hurdler to win a gold medal since 1988, as if the entire US Olympic contigent has been a dissapointment for the last four olympics because they failed to win the 100 meter hurdles. The bottom line, however, is that as patriots we might root for the United States but this is in contradiction to our natural tendency as sports viewers to root for the underdog.

Even worse is the idea that our Olympic team is failing to perform becasue it's unable to win medals in events like Tae Kwan Do or Judo, which aren't even our events. I can understand losing baseball because that's a sport invented by America, but why are we all of a sudden losing sleep over Judo? As far as I'm concerned, 100 medals is enough for the U.S. It will be a sad day when we treat table tennis as more than a summer camp activity and funnel US tax dollars into a national training center because we need to make up in the olympic medal count.

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