Tonight marks the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Thousands of spectacularly talented athletes, outfitted in uniforms resembling packets of mustard and ketchup, the witches of the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, or those guys with the matching blazers on Glee, will march into the stadium. The gathered throngs will then solemnly witness the lighting of the Olympic flame, which, God willing, will turn out to be Nazi Germany's most lasting contribution to world culture.
It'll make for great television, because that's what it was designed to do. But your humble narrator will be preoccupied with the Giants-Dodgers game. I think a lot of people feel this way.
Best of luck to all of the athletes and no disrespect intended for the millions who'll watch them. But the Olympics is a spectacle of sports people don't care to watch aimed at people who don't care to watch sports.
It manages to cut the baby squarely in half, alienating those with real
knowledge of the sport and whipping casual or non-fans into a frenzy
over athletes plucked from obscurity who will be cruelly displaced from
the spotlight as the nation's attention span for decathletes or middling hockey players wanes.
I can't speak for the Olympic experience in other nations -- perhaps they revel in watching the very best athletes regardless of origin, or perhaps their networks go heavy on badminton, fencing, or whatever sports their homegrown talent excels in. But here, the Olympics is a festival of overproduced set pieces. These are alienating; even hardcore baseball fans would be turned off if, between pitches, the broadcast broke away to profile the batter's struggle to reach the pinnacle of his sport from great poverty in the Dominican Republic; the pitcher's struggle to reach the pinnacle of his sport after falling down a grain silo at age 11 in Topeka; and the manager's struggle to reach the pinnacle of his sport after battling a Percocet addiction.
But this is how sports are force-fed to an audience with only the most fleeting appreciation of athletics, let alone the athletic events Americans can only be prodded into following every four years. You don't expect World Cup announcers to explain that players are forbidden from carrying the ball but the Olympics is presented on behalf of sports' Sunday drivers. One of my best friends was a Divsion-I track and cross-country runner in college; his fondest recollection of the Olympics was in 2000, watching a muted television while recovering from a serious appendix operation.
Perhaps with enough morphine, even Jim Gray can be tolerable.
In the end, the Olympics is essentially foisted upon us. Again, all the best to those who have trained so diligently. But I'll go with the pastime of my own choosing. I'm gonna watch the Giants play the Dodgers.
Unless my wife has other plans for us.
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