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What I Like About The Olympics

I'm sometimes accused of wallowing in the bad parts on television. And while that's mostly true, the ongoing Olympics coverage on NBC has a lot of great aspects, so I'm just going to mention the things I like.

Opening Ceremonies: I'm a big fan of irrelevant opening ceremonies and these were as garish as anyone could hope for. I didn't watch them myself, but I gather that they had eighty-foot-high glowing jellyfish, which naturally signify something very important. While trying to find out what was actually in the opening ceremonies, I found that the Olympic Web site claims that the opening ceremonies were "shrouded in secrecy and steeped in tradition," which makes them sound more like the initiation into the Illuminati. Which may also include Djakapurra the Songman and his magic dust, for all I know.

The Olympics Theme Song: About twenty years ago, I had a Decathlon game for my IBM PC. By today's standards, it would be considered ridiculously low-tech and boring, since it had hardly any blood in the graphics. But its music was surprisingly well-rendered, and hearing the majestic Olympic Theme always fills me with the kind of inexplicable nostalgia that makes me wish I still had a 5.25-inch disk drive so I could play Ultima II.

Lies, Lies, Lies: You might call me a cynic, and you wouldn't be the first, but I don't believe three billion people are watching this on television. But the Olympics are all about overblown claims, and if NBC wants to pretend that almost half the world's population is tuned in, more power to them.

The International Broadcast Center: Bob Costas would just be a nattering nabob of America-centrism if he weren't in the International Broadcast Center. Heck, put me in an "international broadcast center" and I could be a journalist, too. I think I'm going to rename my cubicle the "International Paperwork Center" just for the added productivity. Did I mention that the swimming events take place in the "International Aquatic Center"? Feel free to extend this joke at your leisure.

Swimmer Ian Thorpe's Nickname: "The Thorpedo." Classy.

Tape Delay: As far as I'm concerned, the Olympics don't happen until they appear on my television. Those with a mysterious attraction to "facts" might tell you that they're delayed fifteen hours, and some might even claim that they're edited and shined up on their way to being broadcast in the United States. But those people are confused. The Olympics are not about athletic endeavor; they're about glossy television. And the glossier and sillier it is, the better.

Commentary, Part 1: "Now watch for the bird. See that black blur? That's a three-foot bat from a tree nearby. It's a long story."

World Records: I'd like to think that someday, I'll be telling my grandchildren that I saw one of the greatest athletic performances ever. In reality, of course, I'm not going to remember two weeks from now who won the 56kg Weightlifting category, regardless of how exciting it was to watch Halil Mutlu lifting three times his own body weight.

The Incidental Music: "Hey! The music behind that triathlete profile is from the "Matrix" soundtrack! Is kung fu part of this event?"

The Names of the U.S. Women Swimmers: Lindsay, Brooke, Maddy, Misty, Kristy, Erin, Megan, Gabrielle, Kaitlin, Courtney, Jenny, and Ashley. I realize they're not only ravishing beauties but also incredible athletes, and any one of them could no doubt beat me up. But that doesn't change the fact that one of the top athletes in the world is named "Kaitlin."

The Commentary, Part 2: "This is aerodynamics. Physics. Kinesiology. And hard work."

Your Local News: Just when I was getting in a mood to make fun of the journalistic standards at work at the Olympics, there's just enough of a reminder from the local newsies to remind me of how much worse it could be. It's as though The Daily Show included thirty seconds of some traveling stand-up comic hack to make Jon Stewart even funnier.

Five-hour Programs: Watching an evening of Olympic fun requires an absurd investment in time. Keeping up with the whole two weeks would be a formidable accomplishment. I bet the real athletes (you know, the ones who spend fifteen hours a day at their demanding tasks) are going to read this and be outraged, but let's face it: that much television takes discipline. And corn chips. And maybe some Coke.

Obscure Sports: I look forward to watching world-class Table Tennis, Fencing, and Handball. No, really. Has it come to this? Can I not honestly express my admiration for Beach Volleyballers without being suspected of being sarcastic? Well, this time I mean it: when the Badminton events get their twenty minutes of television time, I will be glued to my television set. Rhythmic Gymnastics and Synchronized Swimming are on their own, however.

Gymnastics Lingo: "He knows the art of sticking!"


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