Not much has been going on the past few days. M turned 17 over the weekend. I read a terrific book in a single day. We went out on a boat with some friends. Ted Lasso returned. The Big 12 may be kaput.
Oh, and the Olympics started.
Thus it is time to bring back a time-honored recurring feature here on the blog: the Olympics Notebook!
Before we get to my observations and thoughts, a confession: I did not begin these games with my traditional strong interest. I’ve been loving the Olympics since 1980, and always get excited for them, especially the summer games. But with everything that’s going on in the world at the moment, I’m not convinced that having these games is the best idea. It feels like a super spreader event waiting to happen, a moment when the Delta and maybe the next variant will be shared over two weeks then taken back to all corners of the globe. No matter what athletic triumphs occur, might we look back in a year or two and think, “Yeah, that was a total disaster,”?
Hosting also seems like a lot to ask of the Japanese public, who will have to deal with whatever viral soup is left in their country when the athletes depart.
And the events, which are so often emotional and boisterous, come across as sterile without the stands filled with crowds of fans. Especially when a Japanese team or athlete does well and can only celebrate with their coaches/teammates. Those moments need stands filled with Japanese partisans roaring down their joyous approval.
Because of that, I totally skipped the opening ceremonies. That was the night I was reading a very good book which seemed like a better use of my time.
Fortunately I found my Olympic Spirit and have been watching a lot of coverage in the hours when we’ve been home and haven’t had guests over.
There was a clear A1 story for us US viewers…until Tuesday morning when the Simone Biles stuff hit. I’m never into gymnastics and doubted I would have watched much even if Biles had not dropped out. So no real change there, other than me trying to avoid what instantly became a political/value argument between people who likely have very little interest in gymnastics. Because it’s America in 2021 and that’s what we do: rush to diametrically opposed positions on any subject that comes up for debate.
Since I don’t follow gymnastics I wasn’t aware of the signs of strain she had been showing recently. I didn’t know when asked, just before the pandemic began, where she saw herself in 2021 she responded, “Retired.” I didn’t know about the physical injuries she had competed with. I didn’t remember she had taken an active role in the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal. I just assumed because I heard she won another national/world title every year or so that she was invincible and would roll to a bevy of golds in Tokyo. Even trying to dodge gymnastics coverage Tuesday, I still caught her vault runs that looked nothing like what the greatest gymnast ever should be doing. Something was clearly very wrong. I hope she’s ok.
The Other Shocker
OK, before that the clear story of the games for Americans was Lydia Jacoby’s upset win in the 100 breaststroke Monday night. Rowdy Gaines and Dan Hicks barely gave her any attention at the beginning of the race, instead focusing on defending Olympic champion Lilly King and the woman who had edged King out in the semifinal heat, South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker. Which made sense since the race was all about those two for the first 75 meters or so, until Jacoby eased by them and held on to win Gold.
It was a fabulous moment, made apparent by the utter shock from Gaines. He is never at a loss for words and was momentarily speechless. Jacoby’s reaction matched, as there was a flicker of disbelief when she saw the results before it registered.
That alone would have made it a great moment, one worth repeating. Then came the shot of students watching at Jacoby’s high school in Seward, Alaska. Kids jumping up and down in nervous excitement as she neared the finish, then losing their minds when she touched the wall. This was a genuine, in-the-moment reaction that felt even better because so few events are authentic anymore. I don’t think any of us who witnessed it live will ever forget.
Jeez, the US men kind of suck. We couldn’t get a 3×3 team qualified, and now our regular team, filled with NBA superstars, gives up a 14–0 run late and loses to France in their opening game. It’s almost like you can’t just throw a bunch of dudes together for a couple weeks and expect to win anymore. Thank goodness Iran was next on the schedule so we could pummel them appropriately and give the impression that all is well.
The world has definitely caught up with us, and when those other national teams stick together over time, there is no margin for error for Team USA. I say we need a clear alpha and build around him, instead of putting a Super Team out there and hoping talent carries the day.
It is a huge bummer we don’t have a men’s 3×3 team, because that sport is awesome! Fast-paced, you have to be able to play both ways, and you can never relax because a made layup can turn into a 2-pointer for your opponent if you don’t immediately pick up someone on D. Love the dueling end points of both score and clock. I’ve mostly watched the women’s side, and it seems to be a better game. The men’s game seems dominated by brutes who beat each other up physically where the women’s game, while certainly physical, is more free-flowing.
Good on the US women for taking the gold medal contest Wednesday morning (US time).
Also dope for Latvia to win the men’s gold medal on a 2-pointer.
Hey, Phil Dalhausser is still around!
Isn’t it crazy how even though it’s the first Olympics without Michael Phelps in 25 years, he’s still everywhere? Doing coverage for NBC. Central and part of at least two ad campaigns. Tough luck for people who were sick of the greatest Olympian of all time.
I always laugh when local NBC stations suddenly take great interest in the weather in the host Olympic city. Our affiliate often leads off the weather segments with the current conditions and forecast for Tokyo before they get to our weather. It helps that it’s been hot and boring here for a couple weeks.
They couldn’t find a softball diamond to play softball on? Surely somewhere in Tokyo there’s a decent one. The Japanese won the gold medal, for crying out loud! Looked both odd and disrespectful to play it on a baseball field where you had to slide on turf if there was a close play at second.
How the fuck is Great Britain beating the US and Australia in men’s swimming? In freestyle, no less. Madness.
Katie Ledecky seems like a pretty great person. She looked genuinely happy for Ariarne Titmus after losing to her in the 400 free. She seemed as excited for teammate Erica Sullivan winning the silver as she was for her own gold in the 1500.
Not a fan of bringing in Steve Kornacki to crunch Olympics numbers. It’s just not as weighty as figuring out how much of the vote is still out in suburban Philadelphia.
- I tried to link to a video that explains that reference, but I couldn’t get it to work in three different browsers so I gave up. ↩