The Olympics start Friday.
What do you think about that?
I really don’t know if I should be excited or annoyed on indifferent. In theory, the Olympics are the biggest sporting event in the world. It happens only every four years, all the countries in the world participate, thousands of athletes have a chance to become household names and strike it rich and patriotism rings supreme. That’s in theory, though. In reality, It’s a thousands of athletes no one knows, playing a bunch of sports no one cares about, testing positive for more banned substances than cyclists in the Tour de France, on a tape delay broadcast which everyone already knows the results to.
I want to get into the Olympics, I really do. But I don’t think I will. As a kid, I loved watching the Games. I got caught up in all the country pride hype and “root, root, root for U-S-A!” Now, not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be all USA but I probably won’t follow it like I did as a yout. That makes me kind of sad. But it will be too hard to watch the events when I can just pull up ESPN.com or some other website and know that Michael Phelps won seven gold medals (yeah, I don’t think he’ll get eight because in three relays, someone is going to screw up). It’s just not the same any more, and that’s a shame.
As strange as some of the events are and as unknown as the athletes are, it’s the Internet that has become the downfall of the Olympics. The events have always be strange to us (generalizing, obviously, since a lot of the games aren’t that strange either) as have the athletes. But ironically, because of the Internet and sports news stations, we know the athletes more now and yet watch the Games less.
Besides the time difference (I think live broadcast are set for midnight to 4 a.m.) and the Internet, the Games have a less important feel than they used. The Olympics have always been about country pride. In the 30’s it was the Allies, and especially Jesse Owens, against Nazi Germany. Then, for several decades, it was the Cold War. USA and the free world vs. the Soviet Union and communism. That was when the Games were at their best. Everything the two power nations did was a competition; space, technology, weapons and especially athletic competition. No one wanted to appear to be the weak country. Hell, the Cold War was so important, USA and USSR both refused to participate in the games when they were hosted in the other country. When the Cold War ended, so did much of that competitive spirit. Of course, for the athletes, they still want to win but it isn’t the same national pressure or spotlight on them. And as for the fans, all the “us vs. them” attitude is gone. America used to be the world leader, the country all other countries looked up to. They wanted to see us beat the Commies because they couldn’t.
Now, if anything, those same countries want to see the USA lose and the “us vs. them” attitude is reversed. America as become the “them.” While that may be the attitude other countries have, Americans do not. We think we’re the best and are going to win. We don’t have anything to prove so that national support isn’t what it used to be.
The one exception is in basketball. I think those guys and the fans feel a sense of “do it for your country.” It is the sport USA used to dominate and we feel we still should dominate. I’m not saying the other athletes don’t have a “do it for my country” attitude, but it’s different in basketball. This is our sport and the rest of the world shouldn’t be able to play with us.
When competition of the Olympic Games kicks off on Saturday, I probably won’t be watching. I’ll read about it and watch the highlights but more than likely I will not go out of my way to watch it.