Yet, even in my cynical approach to sports, I still have a soft spot for the Olympics. I believe some of that was forged in my childhood, when we all sat down together and watched the Olympics non-stop. My parents loved them too - even my mother, who usually was as ambivalent to sports as a person could get. (Except John Elway. For some reason, which I never understood, she loved John Elway.) Anything that caused that to happen in our house was going to get my stamp of approval. I'm sure it didn't hurt that my first major Olympic memory was the 1984 Los Angeles games when we won everything due to the Communist boycott.
You know how you may have a restaurant you really like, but you only get to go once a year or maybe every other year? Maybe its a place you go on vacation, so it is REALLY special? It could be that if you were able to go to that restaurant all the time, it wouldn't be that special anymore. I think that also has something to do with my draw to the Olympics. The sports that make up the Olympic roster are ones that I really enjoy AND don't get to see that often. You aren't saturated with the non-stop presence of them, unlike football or baseball. So they remain special. I love watching swimming, diving, gymnastics, track and field, volleyball, and rowing. I don't know if I would watch those sports if they were on all the time, but I like watching them every four years. The same goes for the winter games. Bobsledding, skiing, figure skating, speed skating. Those are fun things to enjoy, partly because they are rare. Even the more accessible sports - tennis, soccer, basketball - find a new meaning in the Olympics. I barely watched any basketball this past season - NBA or NCAA. But I will watch Olympic basketball.
One final reason I have loved the Summer Olympics is that they usually fall during the summer. (That may seem obvious, but we have also had games that ran during September, which is just stupid.) As a student, that timing is perfect. You are off from school, usually having trouble filling the time. Out of nowhere, BAM, non-stop Olympics. It is awesome. Just about any time of day, you can find some kind of Olympics on tv. Now, with all the iPhone apps and web coverage, a person could watch coverage all day. [NOTE: Some of this coverage is boxing. I hate boxing. I used to watch it as a kid. That was before two things happened. First, the USA started to suck at boxing. That makes it less fun to watch. Second, I realized that boxing is a disgusting sport. So CNBC is basically a useless station.]
As you can see, I love the Olympics. Here are the ten things I am most excited to see during this Olympics. (Spoiler alert - not all of them have to do with sports.)
- Opening Ceremony - I know this happened last night. All day, I was excited for it to start. I actually was counting down the hours. Personally, I loved the London opening. I heard a lot of people say it wasn't as good as Beijing. For some reason, I don't remember much about theirs. But I thought London did a GREAT job. Maybe I just appreciated the story-telling. It was brilliant how they transformed the stadium like they did. The rising smokestacks were very cool. And the forging elements, complete with the map of London on the floor of the stadium, were just incredible. Their tributes to literature and music were fun - even though their exclusion of Coldplay, Adele, and U2 (YES I KNOW THEY AREN'T PART OF THE UK!!! But they are on the same islands, for pete's sake) was annoying. I thought the parade of nations was great. It was much faster than usual and the background music (which did include Adele and U2, but not Coldplay or Mumford and Sons) was super. My favorite was the lighting of the torch. I thought the incorporation of every country in the creation of the giant torch was brilliant - and it mimicked the storyline of building and forging. I loved it. Well worth the wait.
- Oscar Pistorius Running - For those of you who don't know who that is, he is a sprinter from South Africa. I've actually been following his story since the beginning. The dude is fast - one of the fastest sprinters in South Africa. But he has been refused inclusion for two straight Olympics. Actually, he has competed . . . in the Paralympics. He had both of his legs partially amputated as a child. So he runs with these bladed appendages. There has been a big fight over if he can compete because his artificial legs gave him an advantage. US legend Michael Johnson even went on record saying he thought Pistorius shouldn't be allowed. My thought is HE HAS NO LEGS!!!! What kind of advantage can POSSIBLY make up for having NO LEGS?!?! He isn't going to win. But I want to see him finally run in the Olympics. What an amazing story.
- Men's 100 Meter Finals - Talk about running! This is stacking up to be the most incredible 100 meters race I can remember. You have Usain Bolt, who has looked like he is running on fast forward for years. But he has lost to his own countryman several times this year, including the qualifiers. Plus, there is the gaggle of US sprinters and several others. Just how fast can a man run? I remember when Ben Johnson ran the 9.78 100 meter with the steroid needle hanging out of his butt. I thought that we probably had hit the point where it was impossible to run any faster. Bolt ran a 9.58 in Beijing. What will happen in a field THIS competitive? Will they run so fast they break out of their Matrix slumber? (That was for the three of you who saw that short story on Animatrix.)
- London - One of the alternating best and most annoying things about NBC's coverage of the Olympics is the human interest stories. Sure, we hardly ever get to see these sports, so let's cut away to see Mary Carillo talking to some Ethiopian athlete's third grade teacher. But I do love the insight into the host country. Combine that with the fact that London is my ultimate dream vacation spot. I love London - like an illogical love of London. I've never been there. But I would rather visit there than New York City, Hawaii, the Caribbean. I've been to Washington DC, Los Angeles, Montreal, Sydney, Philadelphia, and Dallas. But none of them were as high on my list as London. I love history, I love Shakespeare, I love several UK bands (I KNOW U2 ISN'T FROM THE UK!!!), I love Harry Potter, I love Sherlock Holmes. There is so much from London that I love. At one point, Heather and I had discussed going to London for these Olympics - before Med School made that impossible. I think I would have exploded.
- Women's Gymnastics - I have always loved gymnastics. They are fun to watch. The fact that my wife is a major gymnastics fan, which she passed on to our daughter only serves to intensify my love for the sport. If you don't believe that we are that attached to this sport, think of this. We went to the Women's Gymnastics Olympic Trials in 2000 on our honeymoon. That's important.
- Michael Phelps - I like Phelps. I know he can be arrogant and make bad decisions. But he is an awesome swimmer. I want to see him become the most decorated Olympian of all time. Plus, the drama from swimming is unmatchable. I still can't believe Phelps won that one match in Beijing. You know the one I'm talking about. (That's another great thing about the Olympics.)
- Ryan Seacrest - One thing I noticed last night is that his hair looks like he has completely replicated Bruno Mars' pompadour. At what point does this guy have to clone himself to do all of his jobs? I'm excited for that. Cloning yourself never ends well in movies. What kind of evil could multiple Ryan Seacrests propagate? I'm on board to find out.
- Basketball - I have generally abandoned the NBA. But even I have to admit that it is stinking cool to see our all-star team playing together like you do in the Olympics. I also get a kick out of seeing NBA players playing for other countries - like the Gasol brothers in Spain and Ronnie Turiaf for France. It will be fun to watch.
- NBC Olympics LIVE - With each Olympics, NBC learns a little better how to handle the new technology. I remember the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when Heather and I would get online to find all the gymnastics scores twelve hours before they were broadcast. NBC has been under fire for years about delaying sports until prime time. BUT, this year you can watch just about everything live. They have a website and an iPhone/iPad app where you can watch any sport as they are happening. Plus, they have sports running all day on NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, and three different NBC Sports channels. It is almost overwhelming. Do I want to watch cycling, fencing, tennis, soccer, handball, boxing (not boxing), or beach volleyball? Or do I go online and watch something I've never seen before?
- Tennis - The tennis matches are at Wimbledon. Do you realize how cool that is?!? Wimbledon only happens once a year and is just incredible to watch. I have always loved Wimbledon. It is another one of those special events, made more special by their limited access. BUT, for one time only, we get to see it TWICE in a year. Awesome. Plus, all of the big name tennis stars are playing - but for their own country and not just themselves. That is one thing I do like with the professionals being involved. These stars make tens of millions of dollars a year. But there still is something special enough involved in playing for their country that they will give up their offseason to play. Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, the basketball men and women. It is cool to see them so invested in something like a gold medal that brings no financial gain.
I hope to be writing a few of these articles as the Olympics go on. So just look for the fancy new Olympics identifier disc at the top.