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Olympic Meddle

by J. Elvis Weinstein

I've been watching the Olympics sporadically over the past couple of weeks.

I'll be flipping by, and if there's some kind of eye-candy event on like the high-dive or the uneven parallel bars, I stop for a bit. Then one of two things will get me to flip away: one of those human interest stories about an athlete's journey of courage and commitment, or one of those Dominos "Bad Andy, Good Pizza" commercials - the latter of which I won't go into because my angry rantings about it make me seem crazy. I just don't have Olympic fever this time around.

Now I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon and blame it on NBC's mishandling of the coverage. Having been a writer on the canceled show "Freaks and Geeks", I'm now used to NBC mishandling things. It's simply that I can't relate to the Olympics on many levels.

When I was a kid, the Olympics were very exciting to me. Maybe it was because they happened every four years, that made it seem really important. If you have to wait so long for something it must be big. Now that I'm older, those four years pass with blinding speed leaving me more with an "Already? No not yet!" kind of feeling when the games begin.

Also, I have a hard time attaching any feeling of patriotism to the outcome of the events. The fact that a big fat guy from my country can throw a lead frisbee farther than a big fat guy from Bulgaria just doesn't inspire me to hop on the couch chanting "U-S-A, U-S-A!". In fact, I'm kind of rooting for the Bulgarian guy because his country may actually get a substantial morale boost from his win. The American guy would be lucky not to get bumped from his Today show interview by one of the "Survivor" castaways promoting their new line of bug repellent.

It's not that I don't have a tremendous amount of respect for our Olympians, I do. Although in some of the events I'm not always sure how much to have because I have no frame of reference for the sport. Sure we can all watch gymnastics and marvel at skills we normal people could never hope to achieve, but archery? I'm not convinced that if you gave me a bow, some arrows and a solid month, that I couldn't at least contend for bronze. Maybe I'm way off-base, I don't know. Sometimes it's hard to know how much better than the average guy these people are at their events. That's why I'm proposing a change for the 2004 games (I'm not sure where they're being held, Tulsa maybe). I propose that in every event, they add an average guy to the rotation. Some healthy, average, physically fit citizen thrown in there so we can all appreciate what we're witnessing. Sure those track stars are fast, but the first place guy and the thirtieth place guy are separated by like 2 seconds. If we saw "Bob Smith" trundling in a minute and a half later, I think we could appreciate everyone's effort a little more. Szymon Ziolkowski of Poland won this years Hammer Throw event with a throw of 80.02 meters. Is that good? Probably, but I'd be more convinced when I saw Ted Peterson of Des Moines could only heave it the length of a station wagon.

I'm not against the Olympics. I still think it's a lovely sentiment: The nations of the world uniting to compete on the athletic field instead of the battlefield (which is why I never understood the shooting competitions. Why even bring guns into it?). I do think the internet has taken some of the steam out of that noble idea. The world is a much smaller place now than it was a century ago. I have friends who've played video games head-to-head against nerds around the globe for years now, maybe even a better replacement for war. Injuries would be limited to minor bouts of carpal-tunnel and hemorrhoids.

The next winter Olympics are just a short two years away. Personally I think I could be one of those middle two guys on the bobsled. Sitting is already one of my specialties and I have two years to learn the finer points of leaning. U-S-A! U-S-A!