When I was a kid, I really looked forward to the Olympics. They only took place every four years, and the summer I was 4 years old, I had a chance to go to the Summer Games in Los Angeles. It was the first time I'd ever seen a Port-A-Potty and I remember seeing Greg Louganis dive. Other than that, all my memories are limited to Sam the Eagle Olympic mascot pins that my mother still has stashed away in a drawer.
Over the years, I loved the Opening Ceremonies and watching people from all the different countries come in waving their flags. Geography and international travel always appealed to me and this quadriennial event was my equivalent of the Thrilla in Manila. Nowadays, the Opening Ceremonies are essentially just an opportunity to ogle attractive people from around the world. During the Athens Games, my siblings and I agreed that Croatia had the hottest team. Way to go, Croatia!
Also, since the 1990s when the games switched off to every two years (one Winter, one Summer), it became somehow less exciting. I wonder if Halley's Comet came around every 10 years instead of every 76, would people be so stoked? Coincidentally, when Halley last appeared in 1986, I recall my dad driving our family out to the desert with our miniature telescope to check it out. To this day I remember the drive more than sighting the comet.
But I digress. For me, the 2008 Beijing Summer Games mark the nadir of my Olympic sport watching. However, I've squeezed in enough TV time (sorry, Facebook is really seductive!) to learn a few things.
1. I no longer know who has the hottest team because NBC seems to only show the competitors from the U.S. and China. There are enough prepubescent Chinese girls at my local JCC, I don't need to see them throwing themselves up into the air. Show me more of the Russians, they were always more artistic anyway.
2. As my British friend Simon pointed out, they only seem to show the competitions where American athletes have a good shot at medaling. The Ukrainians have been cleaning up in wrestling and New Zealand seems to dominate in sailing and rowing. Somehow, the only sports that get airplay in prime time are swimming, diving, a little running and a shit ton of gymnastics. And with a 12-hour time difference to the East Coast and frequent broadcasts of events from the night before, I think the broadcasters could come up with more diverse coverage.
3. Michael Phelps may be a god, but there's a pretty fucking awesome Hungarian guy who made him sweat. Laszlo Cseh is a 23-year-old native of Budapest who took silver medals in three of the races where Phelps won gold. And since many of those races came down to mere seconds, I think Cseh is worthy of some praise. Magyar Pride!
4. The Olympics are full of heroes, most of whom are unsung, underpaid and who come from underpriviliged backgrounds. Yeah, it's a bummer that Shawn Johnson's gym got flooded. But what about Henry Cejudo, a wrestler from Phoenix born to undocumented immigrants who won a gold in men's freestyle wrestling?
What about Cullen Jones from New Jersey who overcame a near drowning to become the third African-American to be on the American Olympic swim team and to win a medal in swimming? Jones also holds the distinction of being the first black person to hold or share a world record in swimming?
These athletes have incredible stories and stirring aspirations and they don't all come from the States. If the Olympics are all about international brotherhood, why can't we hear about the heroes from other countries on the morning news? Where is the heartfelt story about Tirunesh Dibaba, Ethiopia's gold medalist in the women's 10,000 m walk?
5. Jamaicans can run really fast. Which is a good thing because I hear their bobsled team sucks.