Friday, February 17, 2006

Where Did My Interest In the Olympics Go?

All my talk about my lack of interest in the Olympics got me to wondering why. There was a time when I couldn’t wait for the Olympics. Eric Heiden, the Miracle on Ice, Edwin Moses, Sally Decker, Daley Thompson, Mary Lou Retton – these athletes and the Olympic stories they helped to author enthralled me … I couldn’t get enough of them.

But now, I could care less about Michelle Kwam’s quest for a gold medal being thwarted, or the diva-like qualities that Johnny Weir displays, or that the U.S. can only seem to get medals in snow-boarding events. Why is this? These are probably events that I might normally be interested in? I did some thinking and came up with a handful of reasons why this may be.

1. There is no longer a U.S.S.R. I think this may be the grand-daddy of all reasons why I have lost my “Olympic Mojo.” Back in the day, there was one super-villain to our country’s Superman – and that was “the hammer and the sickle.” These two countries threatened boycotts on each other every four years, and the tension was so tight that you could cut it with a chainsaw. By the way, tension sells. When the overachieving U.S. hockey team surprised the world by knocking off the unbeatable Soviets in ice hockey, a nation stood together with enormous pride. Even people who couldn’t stand hockey watched in anticipation. Of course, when the Soviets beat the undefeated Americans in basketball in the early 1970’s the same happened the other way. Stories were created that not even the most creative writers could conjure. When the veil of Communism was lifted, so was this all-important aspect.

2. Instead of having the Olympics (both summer and winter) every 4 years, now they have split them, so in a sense, they are every two years. It is not as big of a deal anymore. In fact, one can easily get sick of the overabundance of advertisements and commercials, and since it is done every two years, one becomes numb to the Olympics.

3. Professional Athletes are now competing. I think some of the innocence was lost when they allowed this. Would some of the luster have been lost if the 1980 U.S. hockey team that won the gold consisted of professional athletes? I think so. Additionally, (at least with the U.S. basketball team) we have a collection of overpaid egomaniacs representing our country – I’m not saying that this isn’t a fair representation, but I don’t want to see these jerks playing for my country (although, I get a strange feeling of delight watching the team lose – is this wrong?).

4. Cable T.V. and the Internet. We can easily find the scores and highlights of games that have already taken place simply by clicking the mouse a few times. Heck, if there was a major upset that involved a U.S. person or team, there is no way we could get through an entire day without hearing about it. So, when NBC replays highlights of this at night, the surprise and shock value is lost. I will use the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team as a reference to this again. In 1980, when they beat the Soviets, it happened a few hours before it was ever televised. The shock value was secure. Additionally, there are so many other things on T.V. that can easily take us away from a boring figure skating event, but that wasn’t the case “in the old days.”

These are the four I came up with. I am sure there are more – please share your thoughts.


Rev. Smokin Steve said...

I can see your love has gone. Sally Decker??? I think you mean Mary.

It will never be the same again without the old USSR. I said before that compelling sports needs rivals. The US and USSR in various events made for amazing theater at times. It was up there with Ali-Frazier, Russell-Chamberlian, and Borg-McEnroe as matchups that when they happened you had to pay attention, especially with national pride at stake.

Now, in hockey, you have NHL players on all sides. Teammates during the season are on different teams. How can I expect someone to go hard after a puck if their Flyer teammate, and the leading goal scorer for the team, is going after it as well? Would you check Simon Gagne from Canada into the boards if you were a Flyer playing for USA? I don't think so. It's a crock.

I haven't watched one bit yet. I may watch once the hockey medals start. And people like Bode Miller, who act like he doesn't give a rats ass when a million others would love to be in his shoes, piss me off. The Olympic spirit died years ago. And it's a shame.

Reverse said...

There are too many preshows for the Olympics. In the 1980's no pregame hype. By the time any event actually happens, if they win or lose it's anticlimatic. Blame the Networks! Anyway check out HBO in a couple weeks for the definitive Olympic Games...

Jeff said...

My reasons:
1. It's the WINTER Olympics, which don't count except hockey anyway.

2. Seeing the IOC in action. It's like the UN, only corrupt. Host city selection is based on who bribes the most IOC officials (generally graft-rich appointees of third-world dictators) the most lavishly, with extra points given for sticking it to the US.

3. Attending the Atlanta Games. Events are great. But all the world's problems are magnified, not set aside. Those who think the US is a racist society should see the Japanese and Korean teams and fans clash. Numerous Arabs and Iranians have forfeited -- and been rewarded handsomely at home -- rather than face Israelis.

4. Screwball judges. Too many sports with subjective scoring, open to abusive judging. Just ask Roy Jones Jr.

5. Screwball sports. New sports added strictly for TV marketing appeal, not on athletic merit. How else do you explain Rhythmic Gymnastics and the rash of new X-Games-type sports this year?

6. US pro athletes. I loved our amateurs kicking other countries' pro asses. Sending our pros is a lose-lose: anticlimactic when we win, sad when we lose.

7. No Olympic nemesis. We don't hate Russia like we used to. China doesn't have world-class athletes in enough sports. Iran? Puh-leeze. And the French surrender in sports, too.

8. People Magazine-style TV coverage. It's bad enough to know the score 8+ hours before the game is televised. But you're conditioned to root for the sob story instead of the great athletic feat.