Friday, August 15, 2008

The Olympics

I like the Olympics. I'm still idealistic enough to think they're a little more than just another athletic event, which I wouldn't usually care a whit about. I'm a sucker for the parade of nations. And the theme music can still give me goosebumps. I am a sap.

The first one I have any memory of is 1968 (Bob Beamon!), and by 1972 I watched them avidly (Dave Wottle! Mark Spitz!). My sister Brenda and I still tell the story of our parents taking us on vacation during the '72 Games--which would've been swell, except their idea of vacation was renting a house on the northern California coast with no television. Which still would've been swell except, you know, the Olympics were on! So while our parents were downstairs enjoying their silent coastal solitude, Brenda and I were crouched in a loft with a pair of binoculars, taking turns watching the Games on TV through the window of another house fifty yards away.

I've been enjoying this year's Olympics well enough, though NBC's programming choices puzzle and annoy me. How many hours of beach volleyball quarterfinal eliminations do they think we want to see? I'm not yet convinced it's even a sport. I keep expecting to see a bonfire and beer keg at courtside. The coverage is also awfully heavy on gymnastics and swimming. Michael Phelps is an amazing athlete, but as he stocks his pantry with gold medals I keep thinking about the poor schlub from Ukraine swimming three lanes away whose single bronze medal will be the highlight of his life and who deserves to go home justifiably proud of being one of the best in the world, but you know all anyone will ever ask is what it's like to lose to the great Phelps. I guess this just wasn't his decade to try a swimming career.

My main disappointment in the TV coverage has been not seeing the less popular events that only percolate up to public attention every four years. Would it kill the network to show us 20 minutes of badminton, judo, or trampoline (yes! It's an event!)? Fortunately, we have the Internet, and in contrast to NBC's television coverage, its online coverage is comprehensive and excellent. Although I ought to be working, I just watched 15 minutes of archery eliminations online, with no commercials or commentary--just two guys taking turns shooting arrows at their targets. It was terrific.

My girls and I like archery. They got interested in it as counselors at Girl Scout camp, where they had to be trained and certified to run the archery range. They've got their own bows and it looked like so much fun I got one as well (in my August 11 post, you can see it lying on top of my desk). We're not good or fancy--we don't belong to a club or have all the counterweights and doo-dads dangling off our modest equipment--but it's a nice thing to do together once in a while. Sometimes when I'm home working in the middle of the day, I'll go out back and shoot a couple of flights just to breathe fresh air and blow off some steam. I find it very meditative. And it's fun to see how the real Olympic archers do it.

Now back to work, for as long I can resist the online allure of obscure athletic competition.


ronnie said...

That's odd. I left a long comment here that has disappeared!

I don't think anything about my post declaring that I love archery and was pretty good at it triggered Brian's moderation finger, so I'll have to put it down to "technical glitch".

Anyway, to reiterate: I love archery and was pretty good at it. (Got the highest marks in my class when we took it in phys ed.) If we hadn't lived at the end of the world, it would doubtless have been a competative sport for me. I used to go to the range a few times a month in University and while working in St. John's, but there's no range here, and living in the elbow-to-elbow conditions of downtown don't lend themselves to popping into the backyard to shoot off a few arrows and have an errant one pierce the neighbour.

Brian Fies said...

Sorry, Ronnie, we don't allow that kind of talk 'round here....

Nah, I didn't moderate you, the original post never showed. I hate it when that happens. As for neighbors, we used to have a lot more before we started shooting off errant arrows in the backyard.

Dann said...

We were just discussing the many non-covered events at work the other day. We have lots of folks that are interested in the shooting sports [archery as well as with firesticks] and that coverage has been minimal.

I suggested that perhaps some of the lesser cable channels [i.e. the Outdoors Channel for shooting sports] could piggyback with the major network to get more coverage of those minor sports.

A big part of the expense is getting all the electronics and support personnel in place.

Fencing is another sport that I'd like to see more of.

But I've got to defend beach volleyball. It is as tough a sport as there is out there.

The bikinis don't hurt anything, too. [grin]