What up, fools?!?! It’s that time! Time for an epic Olympic notebook unloading!
Not the most timely first edition this year, as I’m waiting nine full days into the games to get to this. So we’ll race through some of the things I jotted down 6–9 days ago that aren’t exactly fresh.
- Opening Ceremonies. Watching these things with kids is kind of the best. Because Olympics opening ceremonies are always wacky, and lend themselves to tons of questions. Suffice it to say that our girls were pretty flummoxed by the Rio opening. Wasn’t a damn thing wrong with Gisele’s appearance, though. And whatever song she was bouncing along to when she was in the crowd might be the greatest song ever.
- How many of you had “The Girl From Ipanema” stuck in your head for the first 3–4 days of the games? I did.
I approve of countries hosting the Olympics where the local spelling of United States puts our team in the first fifth of the alphabet for the parade of nations.
We missed a good chunk of the first weekend of the games when we were down in Bloomington. On Sunday, we took a walk along Lake Monroe and spent some time skipping rocks with the kids. Well, one thing lead to another, and soon my buddy and I were contemplating the possibility of rock skipping being an Olympic sport. Would you arrive with a sack of rocks and throw in rounds? Or skip as many as you could in a given time? Or would you have to search for good skippers before you could throw them? Could there be a two-man competition where one person searched out the skippers while another did the actual skipping? Would there be different competitions for different sizes of rocks? Are you scored on number of skips, distance, aesthetic quality of the overall skip, or a combination of all? As you can imagine we did a lot of mock announcing as we tried to blow our elbows out by attempting to skip to the opposite shore. Good times.
Lilly King! What a badass! If you’re going to talk the talk, you best be able to back it up. And she did so in spades. At only 19! I looked back at my notes and I covered King when she was a high school junior. She finished second in the breaststroke finals. She still managed to break the state record. When she was a senior, she famously was the only swimmer not from Carmel high school to win an individual event. That Carmel team was later named the greatest girls high school swim team of all time by a national swimming magazine. A couple girls from that team were expected to be on this year’s Olympic team. One narrowly missed out – by hundredths of seconds in two races – while another broke her hand a week before the US trials and didn’t even make finals in her events. But it was King from that Indiana high school class of 2015 who made it to Rio, and stamped her name all over the swim meet.
Russia is a wounded, unpredictable country right now. The world is a more dangerous place because of the way Vladimir Putin has steered his nation. But I’ll give him this: he’s made rooting against the Russians in sporting events fun again! When the Russians are drug-cheating, warmongers we all win! It’s like the 80s all over! I enjoyed the Russian swimmers getting soundly booed by the Brazilian fans.
How did Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten not die, or end up paralyzed, in her horrific accident?
Each Olympics I get sucked into watching a sport I’ve not watched often before. This games it’s been rugby. I’ve tried to watch rugby a few times in the past but could never figure the game out. Rugby 7s makes the game a lot easier to comprehend. Seven vs. seven, seven minute halves, one minute for halftime. The game flies. And the announcers did a great job explaining the rules. Loved every match I watched. Shame they crammed the tournament into the first week and it’s already over.
I also watched a lot of field hockey, too. It’s a good sport as well. But I must admit I prefer the women’s game. I’ll leave it at that.
“Ragazzi! Si, io sono Marco Polo. Sono qui!”
Beach volleyball never, ever sucks. Men or women, I will always watch if a match is on. I miss my rec volleyball days. I wish I still had my t-shirt from when my team won a 4-on–4 tournament back in 2001 or so. I think if I tried to play today, my back, glutes, and hamstrings would all explode the first time I tried to block someone. Getting old sucks, kids.
Every time Ryan Seacrest appears on my screen I get pissed off. He almost ruined the Rogue One trailer by introducing it. I accidentally came across the replay of his late night show one morning. He was wearing suede boots that I swear my wife has, too. Come on, man.
The Michael Phelps experience has been pretty solid. I had to kind of laugh at how much the expectations were being managed for him this year. “Well, he didn’t swim for a couple years. He’s 31. I don’t know if he’s still got it.” And then he ends up being the same dominant force he’s always been. What else can you say at this point? He’s clearly the greatest swimmer ever, by any measure, and a top five Olympian of all time. He’s been a lot of fun to watch over the past 16 years.
At least we’ll have Katie Ledecky for a few more games. Phelps did incredible things, and was way more versatile than Ledecky is. But he never destroyed a field the way she did in the 800 free final.
The whole swim meet was a lot of fun. Since our girls have done three summers of swim team, they took a much bigger interest in it compared to the London games. M especially wanted to watch every race and asked me about the history of certain swimmers or races. They picked a good year to get interested. There didn’t seem to be as many tight, heart-stopping races as in past Olympics, but the US still dominated. That’s a good lesson for them: the US should always win.
The only downside of the swimming coverage the girls did not appreciate Rowdy Gaines nearly as much as I do. C would make fun of him, "He was literally yelling ‘WATCH HOW SHE STRETCHES OUT AT THE FINISH HERE’. Why does he have to yell like that?” Because he’s awesome, that’s why.
With the girls starting school on Thursday, we bumped bedtimes back last week. So the girls missed both Simone Manuel winning the first gold medal for an African-American, woman swimmer in the 100 free, and then her emotional reaction. I loved both her surprise in the pool, and then the moment when her teammates greeted her back in the staging room. That was the best, and most emotional, moment of the games for me.
I think Nathan Adrian was my favorite US swimmer other than King. That dude just looks like he’s out there having a great time, is thrilled to be a part of every race, appreciates the guys he’s swimming with and against, and enjoys talking to Michelle Tafoya after each race.
Speaking of Michelle Tafoya, I’m generally a fan. But she asked a lot of lazy questions. I know it’s hard to grab a bunch of gassed swimmers, who aren’t always excited to talk to you, for a week straight. But the “How does it feel…”, “What does it mean…” and, “I mean…” constructions she used so often to launch her queries drove me nuts.
Big fan of gymnastics being in the afternoon in Brazil. Which means NBC chops it up to lead its prime time coverage, and then close it out. Live swimming was generally from 8:30–10:00 last week, with gymnastics bookending it. I assume live track in that same slot this week. One night the second gymnastics slot didn’t start until 10:52 eastern. I’m totally down with that.
Not that I’m hating on gymnastics. At least not this year’s US women’s team, who are obviously all badasses. Especially Simone Biles and Aly Raisman. But I just don’t dig on gymnastics, that’s all.
I’ve watched parts of three of the US men’s basketball team’s games. These games have sucked to watch. I don’t know if it’s just a bad mix of players, not enough time together before the games, or an indictment of the current NBA game. But it’s just not fun to watch. A lot of standing around while Kyrie Irving pounds the ball. Way too many chucked 3’s. Almost no ball or player movement. Terrible defense. They are so much more talented than every other team, but those other teams are truly teams. They move the ball beautifully. They hustle. They try to play D. If/when the US loses, how quickly will Coach K fake some kind of illness so he doesn’t get blamed for the loss?
I love the irony of Walmart using Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” for a back to school commercial. Ironic because, as many of you know, it was only 20-some years ago that Walmart took t-shirts that said someday a woman might be president off their shelves because they didn’t fit the family image Walmart believed in. Which is utterly ridiculous no matter what your political perspective is. But in the ’20-teens, they’re down with using a song that makes everyone over 40 immediately think of Tawny Kitaen frolicking on a Jaguar.
I keep saying we need to freaking invade Jamaica since they’re kicking our asses on the track. Despite that, I love pretty much every Jamaican sprinter. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is just a delight to watch. She has the best smile. A little shy, slightly disbelieving of what she’s accomplished, but as warm and friendly as you could ever find.
I watched the mixed doubles tennis final Sunday because A) it was a dreary, rainy day here and B) the two men on the American teams were from Kansas City and Carmel, IN. I had some interest. Rajeev Ram, from Carmel, was playing with Venus Williams. During the match they flashed the comparative career highlights from Venus’ career vs. Serena’s. The one that blew me away was Venus was only ranked #1 in the world for 19 weeks in her entire career. Sure, Serena was always a little better than her. And there was Maria Sharapova, among others, who were good when Serena wasn’t on top. But just 19 weeks?!?! I figured she was #1 a lot long than that.
Ans Botha doesn’t get the gas face.
Say what? Ans Botha is the 74-year-old, great-grandma who coaches South Africa’s Wayde Van Niekerk, who destroyed Michael Johnson’s 17-year-old world record in the 400 Sunday. That was an absolute stunner of a result. And for you late 80s hip-hop fans, you should remember 3rd Base’s legendary track “The Gas Face,” in which the group threw shade at all the folks they did not like. Including then prime minister and president of Apartheid era South Africa P.W. Botha. Late ‘80s hip-hop videos were the best.
Speaking of the best, Usain Bolt is just the best. In every way. Why couldn’t he be American?
That was week one. Hopefully week two is as interesting, fun, and entertaining.