I’m going to come right out and say it: I couldn’t care less that the Summer Olympics are beginning some time in the next couple of weeks (I’m not sure when). I know I’m the only person in America who feels this way but I can’t make myself give a hoot about the uneven bars. And I even feel vaguely guilty about the four-year phenomenon of fawning over athletes whose wellbeing we will promptly discard until it once again becomes time for them to be better at some weird swim stroke than the Germans.
Believe me, I respect the incredible skills of these athletes, and I respect them as people. I also understand that the press enhances the impact and drama of the Olympic games by telling the back-stories of the struggle and work ethic of these athletes. I just wish such graphics-laden sports journalism wasn’t being forced down my throat when I would rather be watching 30 Rock or The Office.
I always wonder what the lives of these athletes are like in between the Olympics – particularly those who compete in sports that our society has deemed less interesting than baseball, football and basketball. I imagine them spending their time in training facilities somewhere in the mountains of Utah, winning lesser competitions and focusing on their tryouts for the Olympic team. Do they ever sit at home, after their workouts, watching TV and wondering why the guy playing golf is making tens of millions and they look forward to a career as assistant pole vault coach at a large state university?
The geopolitical aspects of the games give me the same vaguely guilty feeling. Why do we care about the difficulties many Africans must grapple with in their daily lives only when they go on to become world-class marathon runners? Why is China, and the rest of the world, concerned about its appalling pollution only as long as international tourists are in Beijing and it affects the performance of elite athletes?
So the games will come and go, and I’ll end up watching them, and getting weepy over the victory or defeat of some teenage gymnast who spent their entire life training on the balance beam under a domineering eastern European coach when they would rather have been going to the movies and drinking milkshakes with their friends. I won’t think too much about what a weird existence that must be. Nor should you, so long as we beat the, um, Russians or something. Let the games begin!
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