This weekend I felt like I was suffering from the male counterpart to post-partum depression. I wanted to nap at all times, no matter how much sleep I got the night before. I was listless and had a total lack of motivation. Not good. Looking back, I think two things triggered it. Other than having a kid, of course. First, Saturday night I was sitting on the couch, holding a sleeping baby, while watching the late night Cheers episodes on TV Land. Sounds like good times, right? While I was sitting there, I realized how much different my life was now than whenever I first watched those episodes (Diane era). I couldn’t even drive back then! Now not only can I drive, I can buy beer, vote, I’m married, own a house, have the freedom to quit my job and do what I really want to do, plus have a kid. Scary. The second thing was the various mentions of the 1984 LA Olympics this weekend. Someone said, “That was two decades ago.” Damn. The ‘84 summer games were one of the pivotal points of my youth. The games were in stylish LA, rigged thanks to the Soviet bloc boycott so the US was guaranteed to dominate, and came at the perfect age for me to eat up all the hype, glamour, and jingoism that goes with the Olympics. 20 freaking years ago. I’m very old.
I’ve had discussions with a couple people over the past week that can’t get down with the Olympics. Arguments ranged from just not being interested in events that are no longer truly amateur, to disgust with the drug and scoring scandals, to people just being too busy to watch events that are 12 hours old. As I’ve been a slave to the TV for the past week, here are some arguments in favor of the Olympics.
1) There’s nothing like the patriotism that goes along with sporting events. It’s much more fun than patriotism that’s related to politics, war, etc. The consequences are less severe, and the rewards often greater.
2) Tim Daggett. The guy is incredible. If you don’t know who he is, he’s the 1984 gymnast who provides the male half of the commentary for gymnastics. Dude is so critical it’s actually fun to listen to. The other two announcers can praise a performer and Daggett will respond with a “Well….” Then break down in great detail how an athlete’s feet were too far apart on the landing. I bet he would make people cry if he was a coach.
3) The US-Australia rivalry in the pool. Always terrific drama, and as I said last week, it seemed much more good natured this year.
4) The Iraqi soccer team. The feel good event of the summer. The added drama of President Bush trying to hitch his wagon to their success, and much of the team publicly saying no thank you. Political intrigue!
5) Pretty much all Swedish, female athletes.
6) Seeing players who were marginal US college players light up NBA stars.
7) Michael Phelps. What the post-modern Olympics are all about. Performing at the highest level, staying humble, and thinking of team and country first. I don’t know enough about the history of swimming to place his performance, but at a minimum, he’s put himself in the argument for greatest single Olympic performance. He can do even better in Beijing and become the greatest swimmer of all time. What’s sick is he’ll only be 27 for the 2012 games. You could be looking at the greatest Olympian ever.
8) Beach volleyball. If only I had been born in Southern California. Karch Kiraly’s dry humor as analyst has made an already enjoyable sport even more fun to watch.
9) Lauryn Williams. She faded to finish second in the women’s 100 meter final, but she is a hope for the future. She lacks the look of the traditional sprinter, being short and fairly squat. But she’s got speed, and she’s got charisma. Great reaction at the end of the final Saturday. She crosses the finish line and says, “Shit!” She stops, stares at the screen, then realizes that she’s won the silver and starts celebrating. In her post-race interview, after thanking all the requisite people, and discussing her family situation (her father is under treatment for leukemia), the interviewer went through a list of all the things that had been lined up against her before the race. “Don’t forget I’m only 20! That’s the most important thing. Gotta represent for the juniors!”
10) Deena Kaster. The US runner took the Bronze in the women’s marathon by running a brilliant race, rising from 18th place all the way to third over one of the most brutal marathon courses ever devised. She blew by several far more famous runners in the final five miles as she seemed to gain strength with each stride. An incredible, inspiring performance. Sadly, the final finisher, from Mongolia, who was basically walking at the end, still beat my marathon time by an hour. Also worth noting, silver medalist Catherine Ndereba of Kenya won Chicago the year I ran it. So I can say I raced an Olympian, I suppose.
We were watching the trampoline event Friday night when S. had the comment of the games so far. “Is Slam Ball in the Olympics this year, too?” How did trampoline become an event and why did all of the men look like they were about 40? Are they kind of like the high school seniors who pick the easiest sport possible to go out for during spring semester so they can get their letter before graduation?
Another solid comment by the wife came in reference to Russian gymnast Svetlana Khorkina. First, she wondered aloud if people ever called her Svetty. Then, “What if she married someone who’s last name was Balls?” Now that E! is again showing Saturday Night Live reruns, the spirit of Alec Baldwin is clearly in the house (We caught a Baldwin-hosted episode Saturday).
And all that is just after week one. Who knows what kind of hijinx the next week will hold??? Be prepared for my essay laying out my expectations for the US team at each Olympics.