Thursday, August 07, 2008

Who Cares If the Parallel Bars Are Uneven?

The Olympics haven’t even started yet, but I’m already tired of them.

I’m tired of being told that wrestlers, weight-lifters, and synchronized swimmers are among our nation’s best and brightest and I’m tired of hearing how proud we should be of our young athletes. Why should we be proud of them? What does their skill prove? What about the rare young person who can actually read a book with comprehension and insight, or write an email that successfully communicates an original idea, or speak articulately about science or literature or history? That’s who I’m proud of.

I’m tired of cute news segments about what a wonderful accomplishment it was for a repressive country like China to build a world-class sporting venue. And I’m tired of watching poor, deluded Chinese citizens airing their justifiable grievances to American news media under the impression that our inept and indifferent reporters will make the world take notice. That won’t happen unless the entire populace of an oppressed province fucks Paris Hilton and it’s captured on video.

I’m tired of mawkish “background” stories about young people with a “dream.” I don’t see why anyone should be celebrated for spending his or her youth working toward being the world’s best at putting the shot or running hurdles or going back and forth in a pool.

I’m tired of the assumption that I give a shit if an American kid can spike a volleyball better than a Brazilian kid can.

I’m tired of George W. Bush’s preparations to go to China, and I’m tired of seeing old footage promo-ing how he waves goodbye as he boards a plane, and I’m really tired of him spending my hard-earned money on a grand-scale photo op.

I’m tired of jokes about eating dog meat. Just once I’d like to hear a joke about eating some good old-fashioned American fare like squirrel or possum or, in a pinch, other humans.

I’m tired of schedules being rammed down my throat by the media so I won’t miss any of the action. I’ve got a newsflash for a really enterprising reporter: I’ll probably miss all of the action. Voluntarily. I can’t think of anything duller than watching people row or ride a bicycle or jump for distance and/or height. Oh, wait a minute. I’m wrong. There is something duller: watching the president wave.

I’m tired of seeing interviews with former Olympic athletes. Unless they’ve recently opened a restaurant within driving distance from my house.

I’m tired of hearing “spokespersons” complain about sports that are recognized by the International Olympics Committee but not part of the competition schedule. There’s no fucking way that bridge and chess are sports, OK? And, really: Underwater orienteering? Roller-skating? Dance sport? I think that running with an egg balanced on a spoon in the athlete’s mouth might be fun to watch, and I’d probably tune in for boxing with kangaroos. But, frankly, as far as I’m concerned, TV already has far too many sports and far too little Jeopardy.

I’m tired of speculation about which competitors are cheating. Nobody says or does anything about the lying, thieving, murdering governments that the athletes represent, so why should anyone be bothered when the zeitgeist manifests itself in a musclebound teenager who merely uses steroids?

And, lastly, I’m already tired of complaining about how tired I am of the Olympics. I guess I’ll just go back to being tired of the endless presidential election.


PhillyChief said...

Remember a few Olympics ago NBC did some sort of ppv thing so you could watch everything? If you don't, that's probably because it was a major flop. Nobody cares unless there's an American about to win a gold medal.

I used to fence. Fencing is in the Olympics. People might know that now because in the last 8 years some black American kids have been winning in saber so now you see it. Well, you see them and their saber bouts. There's two other weapons, foil and epee´. We don't have any medal challengers for those, so you won't see any of that. I'm sure there are dozens of sports we won't see since there aren't any Americans likely to get a gold medal in them.

What you have to hope for Ex is Americans sucking. The more sports we suck at, the less they'll show.

Personally, I think Ninja Warrior is way better than the Olympics. Let's see some of them do this shit! In fact, they have had Olympic medalists compete. None have earned the title Ninja Warrior!

monique said...

Awesome post. I feel pretty much the same way. I like some of the sports, though, but I dislike the emphasis put on "the dream" over the reality. The reality is just how much freakin' work and training and effort it takes on the part of a human being to become a swimmer/sprinter that can meet or break a world record. It takes money. It takes sponsorship, it takes a country that cares more about its image than its people to throw a wad of cash at a minority of super-fit individuals and brag to the world about it. (And it takes drugs, but nobody's supposed to know about that part.)

The Special Olympics are far more special than the able-bodied, in my mind, and get next to no coverage. Now those kids have dream stories. Those kids are an inspiration. They're overcoming the real challenges - not just ability ones, but perceptions as well.

Sarge said...


I find most sports to be a vitrious ceramic container of fecal matter, always have.

In the seventies I remember the big whoop about the "raised fist salute" and there was one other thing that confirmed my indifference.

There was a boxing match, Turkish ref, boxers were East German and a Brit.

The Brit went around the German, pounded him like a rented mule, literally knocked him on his ass three times, and the German never even threw a punch that connected.

At the end of the bout, the ref helps the German up for the third time, and Lo! The German had won the bout!

I knew a young man who had actually qualified for the equestrian events at about the same timebut he didn't make the team mainly because he wasn't quite socially up to the rest of the team.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you wrote this post. Now I won't have to do it.

I love sports, actually, and I enjoy watching the competitions. But, I hate the tear-jerker stories. All they do is fill time so that the network doesn't have to show an event in which a) an American isn't competing, or b) the competing American sucks so badly that he or she will be lucky to finish before the Closing Ceremony.

Monique's comment about the money involved is right on target. Very few Olympic athletes come from lower or middle class families. I'm not denigrating their skills and their discipline. They've worked hard to get where they are. Still, there's no avoiding the fact that the vast majority of them are among the privileged few that have the financial resources to chase their dreams. Good for them. There's no reason their dream has to be yours and there's no reason you should be made to feel un-American if you don't give a damn about them and their dreams.

Anonymous said...

So an American, a Chinese, George Bush, and an atheist walk into a bar and order a round of fried human-fingers...

C. L. Hanson said...

You know how much I hate to be an elitist, but...

I think the problem is watching television at all. Seriously. I have so much more confidence in humanity sticking with the Internet and staying far from the idiot box. I was unfortunately compelled today to listen to some "news" about the various candidates' energy policies (having been stuck at the airport with the airport news network blaring at the gate), thinking "gaaah!!! I can't believe the majority of people are using this as their primary source of information about the world!" Even the half-illiterate comments on the Internet are more intelligent than that -- any kind of discussion requiring feedback encourages more critical thinking and accountability...

Lifeguard said...

I actually really like sports, because I think they're one of the last really spontaneous things you can watch on TV. Competition. No canned laughter, no sign telling you "APPLAUSE." You watch the action unfold in real time. If you understand what you're watching it can also be a little intellectually stimulating, especially when accompanied by beer and wings.

Problem is the Olympics (a) contain sports many people don't care about (throwing spears and heavy frisbees for instance), (b) is more about nationalism and "we rock because one of our citizens can skate better than yours can" than it is about sports, and (c) like many forms of athletic competition, is being ruined by people who cheat.

I've been done with the Olympics for years now. I don't care how fast some people can ski or how high some people can jump.

The only thing I LIKE to watch is the latest incarnation of the Dream Team get beat by foreign teams that actually understand that basketball is a team sport best played by a combination of good defense, passing, and off the ball movement.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we should invent a new set of games - the Atheolympics. Events could include verbal jousting, metaphysical fencing, a pentathlon (you'd have to debunk Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and one other "speciality" faith, like Shinto or Raelism), running circles around theists, wrestling with apologetics, maybe some kind of endurance test (like arguing with Rhology)... Now that I would watch.

Incidentally, one of the best ways to overcome tiredness is brisk exercise. Have you considered taking up pole-vaulting?

Anonymous said...


I'm just going to throw this out there, but if something gets more intellectually stimulating with the accompaniment of wings and beer... chances are it's not actually all that intellectual.

Please understand that I'm not knocking sports or beer. I love them both.

The whole nationalism thing is ridiculous. I mean, having the best trampoline-jumpers in the world is a way better indicator of a nation's success than little things like health care, economics, employment, education, etc.

(((Billy))) said...

I love the games themselves (especially some of the weird ones (like fencing)), and I enjoy the opening ceremony (though the winter Olympics in France a a few years ago was just weird). One problem is, the network (which payed (I think) the GNP of central Africa (not the Central African Republic (or whatever it is now), but all of Central Africa) for the rights to broadcast, think that people won't watch unless there is a 'compelling narrative' for every athlete. These 'compelling narratives' get real old, real fast. Just show the damn sports (even the pseudo-sports) and remove the storytelling.

Good post. Not sure I agree with all of it, but good.

PhillyChief said...

What's weird about fencing?

Alright, I'll give you that what you see on tv is weird because they don't show epee´. The other weapons have silly rules about when you can strike. What the hell is that? Epee´doesn't have that shit. The whole body is a target and you can be hit at any time. Always vulnerable, yet always able to strike. That's reality, baby! You strike when your opponent is vulnerable yet do so in a way that doesn't leave you defenseless and you defend against attacks in ways to set up counter attacks. It's beautiful, and a physical manifestation of verbal battles we engage in every day online.

Christians generally would be examples of foil and saber fencing - they have ridiculous rules like no cursing, capitalizing "god", and comment moderation. That's crap.

Ordinary Girl said...

That last line was what I was waiting for. Yes, the elections get to me. Especially the minutiae of what each candidate is wearing and how they shake hands and how they wave. By the time a real news story comes around I'm so sick of it that I don't even want to pay attention. Think it's on purpose?

The Exterminator said...

What you have to hope for Ex is Americans sucking. The more sports we suck at, the less they'll show.
If they had a Team Honesty event, we'd never have to watch the Olympics at all.

It takes money. It takes sponsorship, it takes a country that cares more about its image than its people to throw a wad of cash at a minority of super-fit individuals and brag to the world about it.
Very good point. I failed to mention the huge amount of money spent trying to prove that our guys are the best in the world at flipping a ball into a receptacle.

I find most sports to be a vitrious ceramic container of fecal matter ....
That's a very nicely dropped phrase.

I'm not denigrating their skills and their discipline.
OK, then I will. While not denying the enormous personal effort involved in one's getting into the Guinness Book of World Records, I think our society should be focusing on far more important matters than whether or not so-and-so's dismount hurt her final score. Our media-induced worship of sports figures is just another example of the hypnotic Bread-and-Circuses mentality that's bringing America down.

davo: ... and the bartender says to George Bush, "Hey, did you know you have a banana in your ear?" And the atheist says ...

You're right about TV. But I wouldn't necessarily compare it unfavorably to the Internet. If you're primarily visiting Web sites where the comments are merely half-illiterate, you're an anomaly. Shit, we're all anomalies here. But what about the millions of blogs and "news" pages that talk incessantly about TV and TV stars? Or, worse, Web sites devoted to everything said and done by a specific TV star? Is it more stupid to watch TV or to discuss it as if it were something worth discussing?

Well, I think you're wrong about the Olympics featuring many sports that people don't care about. What people are you referring to? You're making the mistake of imposing your own subjective taste on the rest of the world. How American of you.

On the other hand, you're right about the Olympics being nationalistic. You've pinpointed, in just one word, one of my main objections to the entire enterprise.

You anticipated -- and killed -- a post I was going to make about the Atheist Olympics. Some of the events I'm looking forward to are: Freestyle Ranting; Fundy Jumping; Speed Mockery; the Uneven Logical Abilities; Synchronized Separation; and the most excruciating challenge of all, in which freethinkers must refute all religionist claims thrown at them, the Gagathon.

davo, again:
Wouldn't it be refreshing if religious zealots could settle their disputes by simply jumping on trampolines?

Philly, again:
What's weird about fencing?
It's a fact I don't often mention (or mention at all, for that matter), but I took fencing 100 years ago when I was a junior in college. My form was pathetic, probably the worst in the school. However, because I was so fucking aggressive and didn't actually break any rules, I came in third in our tournament. (It may have helped that my motivation for taking the class was to be prepared in case I ever was offered the opportunity to play Hamlet.)

Anyway, given that both you and I have fencing in common, it may well be a weird sport. If Evo has ever fenced, I'd take that fact as conclusive.

The Exterminator said...

Your comment snuck in while I was writing mine, but I wanted to respond immediately. My answer to your excellent question is a resounding YES. As I said above, America is all about Bread and Circuses. And waving. And wearing the proper decorations. And waving. And shaking hands. And ... did I mention waving?

(((Billy))) The Atheist said...

Philly: I thought ya'll meant barbed wire fencing. Keeps out the fundies, y'know.

Anonymous said...

Ex, my hero! I may faint from pure agreement.

And you and Yunshui's Atheolympics suggestions made my laugh muscles hurt, even though they are well trained and tough.

But listen, that (((Billy))) identity? I read on my blog that he doesn't exist, so you can't really believe what he says about actually liking the Olympics. If someone like him really did exist, he'd probably be deranged. Probably thinks the NFL is a real sport. Probably likes bocce. Odd sort of fellow.

Anonymous said...

I can understand your frustration but there are other things that vast amounts of money and effort are spent on for only a few peoples benefit.

personally I'm ambivalent when it come to the olympics, I'll watch a bit of it now and again, but don't go out of my way to see any particular sports.

here in Australia about the only thing we are good at is swimming, so guess what is on 24/7?

lifeguard "we rock because one of our citizens can skate better than yours can"
No, Australia rocks because our skater was the only one left standing.

The Atheolmpics sound great, I'm trying to decide which event to start training for, any suggestions?

The Exterminator said...

Good post. Not sure I agree with all of it, but good.
Well, I feel the same way about your comment, particularly the sentence I quoted here.

Just to set the record straight: We call that pointy stuff "Bob wire" where I live. Only keeps out the fundies named Robert. So no need to worry about Schuller, but I'm not sure about Pat Bobsboy.

Bocce? Does anybody play that any more? The last I heard of it was in an old Rosemary Clooney song -- the lyric to which you're probably ancient enough to remember: "You bocce me, I'll bocce you."

Given your countrymen's skill at swimming, my suggestion for your sport in the Atheolympics is Christianity-Doesn't-Hold-Water Polo. But you might want to try Kanga-Woo Boxing.

Anonymous said...

() claims to play bocce, but since I've conclusively proven he doesn't exist it's obvious that he doesn't play bocce.

Anonymous said...

I almost forgot. At the Olympics this year not-playing-bocce is getting a tryout as a possible Olympic sport.

The Exterminator said...

I'm planning on watching as much not-bocce as possible.

heather said...

Well, yes, everything about the Olympics is crap, but.......

When you see the awesome things that some of the athletes can do, it's pure pleasure.

Gymnastics. Sprinting. Archery. Diving. All beautiful.

The Exterminator said...

When you see the awesome things that some of the athletes can do, it's pure pleasure.
Pleasure for you, maybe. I've never been a big fan of The Guinness Book of World Records or Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Ordinary Girl said...

I'm not so sure I could ever enjoy watching the Olympics again.

PhillyChief said...

Yes, well that's a mixed bag. If the girls want to compete, then so be it. I had friends in high school that were on the wrestling team and they did some crazy things in order to reach the necessary weight to compete.

Her rant reads like some nerd who never competed seriously in sports not getting sports. Yeah, she said she plays but as Ex would say, I'm not convinced.

heather said...


I can hardly believe it's possible for a human to watch people do effortless cartwheels and backflips and not feel their spirits soar.

What the fuck is bocce? Is that some obscure (meaning I don't get it) joke or a real sport?