Wednesday, August 27, 2008

2008 Summer Olympics: Let the Games End

The Olympics are officially over. I may be in the minority on this, but the Summer Games just didn’t do it for me. Yes, I watched a few events (swimming, track and field, basketball) and was mildly entertained. But for the most part, I usually changed the channel after 3-5 minutes. Everything was fine until I decided to express my opinion out loud to a few friends and strangers.

“Wow! The Olympics are really BORING!” You should’ve seen the looks I received. It was like I was burning the American flag. Could I be more un-patriotic? But I didn’t apologize. Besides a few side stories, the Olympics were actually pretty boring.

The Four Year Hiatus

The Olympics don’t really have an excuse either. They have four years to prepare for the games. Just imagine if the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Championship, etc. was played every four years. What would that mean? For starters, people would go crazy for it. Also, the New York Yankees could only attempt to buy a championship twice a decade. Even if you compare it to TV shows, it’s the same thing. When the Sopranos smugly took a year long hiatus, viewers expected perfection (and rightfully so) when it returned. What if it was a four year wait? Imagine if the next episode of Lost wasn’t until 2012. You’d lose your mind in anticipation. And when it arrived, it would be an incredible moment.

International Real World

Most people know the Olympics are every four years. But it’s not advertised until a month before the games begin. My idea to promote the Olympics is actually pretty basic. Why not have a reality show (an International Real World if you will) that follows the athletes (from around the world) as they train for the huge event? Just put them in a house together, and we can see how they train, what they eat, who hooks up with who, etc.

So when the games begin, we actually know more than just who Michael Phelps is. And if you want to spice things up, the show could mix in reality stars from The Hills, and other crappy shows that people watch. At least we’d know who some of the key players were, and there would be some added drama.

The following people are mad at me right now because they love the Olympics:

#1 WOMEN

Women love the Olympics because they can finally see sports on TV that they used to play. Women have to deal with men and their love of baseball, basketball, and football their whole lives. But every four years, women get a chance to brag about sports they know. Women can watch swimming, track and field, and gymnastics and live vicariously through their own athletic heroes. The tides finally turn as women even get to explain the rules to the men.

Women also love the Oprah-Winfrey type stories. You know those stories. It goes something like this. Athlete A has promised her mailman a gold medal because he only has one leg. And then there’s a ten minute cry-session about their relationship. A beautiful human interest story; women love that.

Women also love the Olympics because everybody wins in the end. It doesn’t matter who gets the most medals because, in the end, everybody’s a winner just for being there.

#2 PEOPLE WHO HAVE ATTENDED THE OLYMPICS

These people have a special tie to the games. You’ll notice that many people from ATL love the Olympics because they were a part of them just 12 years ago. Watching the Olympics on TV brings back those great memories. The Olympics are a lot like soccer and hockey in that respect—boring on TV, but lots of fun in person.

#3 NON-TRADITONAL ATHLETES

People that run iron-mans, triathlons, and marathons get to see the best at their craft perform in the Olympics. These are arguably the best athletes in the world and the Summer Games is a great forum for them to show off.

As far as some of the other sports, America is very narrow-minded. Growing up, your choices are mainly basketball, baseball, or football. Yes, there are other sports, but most kids don’t grow up and say they want to be a handball player when they grow up.

The Olympics gives these people a chance to be recognized. Since I couldn’t think of a better euphemism, these are called the “reject sports.” These include ping-pong, trampoline jumping, artistic gymnastics (doing flips with a hula-hoop), archery, handball, badminton, shooting, and canoeing.

How do you fall into one of these sports? Usually, their childhood went something like this: After missing your 20th lay-up, the coach comes over, pats you on the back, and gently suggests that you try the trampoline (“It bounces up and down…that could be fun for you.”) You can’t throw a football…“How about ping-pong?” You keep striking out in baseball…“Badminton is really fun…why don’t you try that?

These athletes resent the rejection, but soon learn that they are truly gifted in an underappreciated sport. You can taunt them because their sport involves a shuttlecock, or their game is usually played in someone’s basements, (ping-pong.) but they’ll kick your ass at the drop of a hat and prove they’re amazing athletes.

The Olympics provides almost all of the “reject sports.” Every four years, the non-traditional athletes have something to root for. These people are finally recognized for their trampoline jumping ability, talent with a hula-hoop, or wicked good ping-pong skills.

#4 "REAL" AMERICANS

The Olympics is another venue where Americans can prove its dominance over the rest of the world. Forget about our ailing economy, pitiful administration, weak health care system, and the never-ending war in Iraq—we still got the athletes! And the Olympics give us a chance to prove it. Now chug your beer, slam the horn on your pickup truck, and fire off a few rounds of your shotgun. U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!

Why are the Olympics so Boring?

There’s no real winner. The Olympics is like “little league” for the greatest athletes. As long as you try your best and have fun, that’s all that matters. That’s great when you’re 9 years-old, but come on. I want to see a clear winner and a clear loser. If I asked you what country won the Olympics, you wouldn’t have a response. Is it the country with the most medals? Most golds? Best flag? There’s no winner.

And what is riding on the games? NOTHING! When the U.S softball team lost to Japan, what happened? A few women cried?! There are no stakes!

Here are a few ideas to make the games more exciting:

Gambling

There needs to be more riding on the games then just a gold medal. So to solve this problem, a basic bet needs to be arranged amongst all of the countries involved. For example, each country could bet a territory or region. “If we lose this event, Italy will gain control over Montana.” “And if we win it?” The U.S. will take over a small village in Italy.” That would be awesome; I love small villages in Italy!

If that’s too intense, there’s other ways to incorporate gambling into the mix. Even in the Super Bowl, the Governors of each region will wager their hometown’s traditional food (Super Bowl XXIX: New England’s clam chowder vs. New York’s fresh bagels.) Why can’t the Olympics do the same? The US could wager its homemade apple pie for China’s famous dumplings. Imagine the deliciousness and excitement.

Props

Why not use props in certain events? Maybe drop a snapping turtle into the pool. Perhaps a bear is chasing people on the track. Or a gymnast must do a triple flip over a crater of lava. This might seem absurd, but if Michael Phelps was swimming and there was a shark on his tale, everyone in the world would tune in for it. “If he wins this event, it will be a record 8th gold.” “And if he doesn’t?” “He’ll be eaten by that shark.” I’d be glued to my seat.

Cheerleaders

What happened to cheerleaders? Imagine if the best looking women in the WORLD were at the summer games? The entertainment value, and amount of (male) viewers would go through the roof. Just because these women are beautiful, doesn’t mean they’re not great athletes. They should get their opportunities to shine as well.

What the hell is a sport?

This brings me to the confusing “what is a sport?” debate. Ping-Pong and Handball are Olympics sports but car racing and golf (both widely popular and supported) are not. So what’s a sport? I pulled some relevant dialogue from one of my favorite movies, Big, to see if that would help.

Josh: I’m much better at video hockey.
Paul: That’s not a sport.
Josh: It requires hand and eye coordination.
Paul: It’s not a sport if you don’t sweat.
Josh: What about golf? It’s a sport and you don’t sweat.
Paul: It’s not a sport if you let a machine do all the work.
Josh: What about car racing?
Paul: Shut up, Baskin.

If you want to have a never-ending conversation, continue this discussion with your friends. You’ll realize that there’s no way to define a sport, and you’ll soon hate each other for it. I don’t know what a sport is, but if the Olympics included these events, I’d watch ‘em:

In the first Olympiad, there was actually a tug-of-war. Let me repeat that: a TUG-OF-WAR. How cool is that! Unfortunately, it was allegedly removed from competition because athletes were complaining of rope burn.

Other great sports that should be included in the Olympics are:

Capture the Flag: I still remember playing at my camp for color war. They split the entire camp in two and we had a vicious battle. I was 9 years-old and vividly recall competing against teenagers. I also remember skinning my knee. Even though it bled profusely, and I cried my eyes out, I eventually retuned to action. I became a man that day and I remember thinking: Capture the Flag is the best!

Dodge Ball: People have many different beliefs, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: Dodge Ball is awesome! Whether you’re a kid or an adult, dodge ball is one of the most action-packed, intense, enjoyable sports of all-time. When your gym teacher or camp counselor announced the sport of the day was Dodge Ball, everybody cheered (well, except for the geeky kid who was about to get destroyed.) Great sport!

Kickball: This is clearly a sport. I still remember my days in elementary school as one of the best kickers in the game. It elevated me to top popularity (though it has since declined steadily.) I deserved a chance to earn a gold medal for my kickball skills.

Tag: How idiotic would it be if this was an Olympic event. Imagine people training their whole lives for such a simple game. It would be fun seeing athletes take such a stupid game so seriously.

Elimination Newcomb: Created at Camp Tel Noar in the summer of 1995, elimination newcomb soon became one of the most popular sports in camp history. Newcomb was like volleyball, but instead of hitting the ball in the air, you could catch it and throw it back. “Elimination-style” meant that if you dropped a ball or threw it in the net, you would be “eliminated.” The last one remaining would usually receive candy (such as the green Slimer goo which was popular circa 1995.) The Olympic version would be the same, but instead of candy, the winner would get a medal.

Fly’s up (500): Remember the game where someone would throw/kick a ball high into the air, and then 10-20 people would try to catch it? It was like a Hail Mary in football over and over again. Usually, someone would make a sick catch after it deflected off of fingers, arms and even heads. There would be 3-5 injuries/game. Kids would get carried off in pain, but they usually came back for more. I would definitely tune in for this. Make it an Olympic event!

Frisbee Games: Frisbee Golf or Ultimate Frisbee takes a lot of skill and athleticism. Let’s get these competitors recognized. The petition starts now: Frisbee Games for the 2012 Olympics!

Other games that just barely missed the cut: Golf, billiards, air hockey, beer pong, flip cup, whiffle ball, and sandcastle building.

The One Big Story: Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps needs to be congratulated for earning 8 gold medals and bypassing Mark Spitz as the greatest swimmer of all-time. At first I felt bad for Spitz, but then I realized he has something that Phelps will NEVER have…a really cool 70’s moustache.

Phelps was the only athlete I followed throughout the games. He was so successful that even I tuned in. Why? The Tiger Woods Rule. When one athlete is so dominant in a sport (especially if it’s individual) you can’t help but root for him/her. You want to see history. Phelps now fits into the elite category of Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, and Air Bud.

See you in London in 2012

I hope the International Olympic Committee reads my post and considers my suggestions on how to improve the games. Four summers from now, if we see cheerleaders rooting on the U.S in a game of Dodge Ball for the right to take over Barcelona, you’ll know they read The Corner.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Am very surprised that you put Michael Phillips, oh I mean Phelps in the same category as woods and Feds? Swimming is barely a sport to begin with, there is no creativity and reaction, phelps can basically win by memorizing his strokes. Plus there is no competition in the sport of swimming. Most kids don't go into swimming because there is no money and it offers nothing material in return in the long run. Imagine if all the great athletes in other sports spent 8 hours a day and went into swimming- phelps would have much more competition and might not even win 1 gold. Tim Duncan and Chad Johnson were both junior champions in swimming. Just based on math and statistics, Phelps is only dominant in a sport that only a small percentage of people try to excel in.

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