Life in the Slow Lane

August 11, 2008

Olympics imminently watchable

Filed under: Sports — pauljlane @ 1:24 pm
Yes, Michael Phelps, there is a lot to cheer about during the Olympics.

Yes, Michael Phelps, there is a lot to cheer about during the Olympics.

As I write this Monday afternoon, I have on the television an archery match between South Korea and Italy. The sport is exactly how’d you picture it: a bunch of guys standing around with bows and arrows, taking turns flinging them toward the target.
There’s so little action that the players aren’t even getting the polo shirts sweaty, yet I look up for the entire 10-minute segment it was on.
So, too, did I intently take in the women’s gymnastics competition that was shown Sunday night. I had to rely on the announcers to tell me when they screwed up (it all looked fine to me) and I’d never seen some of those skills performed before, but it felt like I was a lifelong fan.
There’s just something about the Olympics that is inherently amazing for sports fans. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s that the combination of national pride being on the line and the rarity of the sports (every four years) makes for a shaken-up pop can of excitement, ready to explode all over your kitchen.
I just got pumped up about a Colombian guy lifting weights – lifting weights! It’s five seconds of throwing a barbell over your head followed by five minutes of commentary, but it’s amazing – because it’s the Olympics.
The announcers, for their part, do a great job of adding drama to these sports. They’re occasionally over the top in hyping the situation, but it’s not to the level of being annoying like on many regular season NBA telecasts or midseason baseball games. While it must be hard to find experts on each of the sports, the work in finding those people is worth it, because while you know in lifting weights that if you drop it you lose, the errors in equestrian or other sports are much more subtle.
Sometimes it’s not the sport itself that captivates, but the feats performed by the athletes during those sports. Water polo is kind of boring when you break it down, as you watch the swimmers tread water and pass it back and forth, then spend 30 seconds doing a lap to the other goal. But can you even imagine the endurance it takes to be able to compete for an entire game? I’ve gotten winded just typing a blog post of this length, and they’re swimming as fast as they can for an hour or more while trying to fling a ball as hard as possible.
I also think there’s something about an Olympic gold metal that’s, well, majestic. Not even the Stanley Cup seems to be as ultimate a prize as a gold medal, again, probably because they’re only available once every four years. Even when the athlete isn’t from the United States, seeing them raise their arms and cry when they win, well, that could make any room a bit dusty.
The funny thing is many of these sports are televised at least at one other time each year (usually the world championships) but I won’t give it four seconds of my attention. So that begs the question, are these sports that good and I just not give them a fair chance, or is it the fact that now is the Olympics that’s most important?
Although I’d lean toward the latter, I can’t say for sure. What I do know is I can’t wait until they show the next volleyball match.

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