18 August 2008

Olympic Musings

So, since I've not been doing much else recently, while I search out new jobs on the internet I have been religiously watching the 2008 Olympic Games. They have been interesting this year. Here's some of the things of note I liked: Archery: Always a fun one for me, but they didn't show any of it on television, so I've been relegated to checking out the online recaps. They should reconsider that for 2012. Badminton: Wow, what a dumb sport. Think tennis played with mini-racquets and a ball flanked by netting. Whoever came up with it as slightly deranged, in my opinion. Baseball: Go Team USA! As an avid baseball fan, I have enjoyed watching the action late at night. Unfortunately, as recently as today, some of the other teams haven't been very sportsman-like. China, for one, decided it would be fun to hit a bunch of our players with pitches to the head and getting generally pissed off as we beat them 9-1. I'm also sad that baseball won't be in 2012 Olympics in London - the Europeans decided it wasn't "relevant." Yeah, 'cuz CRICKET is totally relevant. Basketball: I know for some people, watching the "Redeem Team" is just so damn awesome, but seriously, if I wanted to watch Kobe Bryant, I'd just tune in to the evening news. Still, the fact that Team USA is beating every other country by double digits in every game is nice. Beach Volleyball: Well, this is one sport that is on just about every night right now, and is actually interesting enough to pay attention to. USA's May and Walsh in the womens' circuit and Rogers and Dalhausser in the mens' circuit have been exceptional (sans the little blowout to Liberia by the guys). Both teams should take gold, and I'll be surprised if they don't. Boxing: Brain damage sanctioned by the world. Canoe/Kayaking: Really? This is actually one of the sports? Haven't even seen any of it yet. Cycling: Not nearly as cool as the track and field events, so I typically don't pay attention to it. Diving: Well, despite the fact that the USA kinda sucked compared to China's divers, diving is at least interesting. Especially after I learned that the judges don't get the benefit of instant replay or slow-motion video. They take the dive - as is on first look - and make their determination of the points awarded. I know I couldn't tell a good dive from a bad dive, except the amount of splash at the end. Guo Jingjing of China was phenomenal in her final five dives in her career. Equestrian: If there's one thing I would take out of the Olympics if I could, this would be it. Who in their right mind thought that horsemanship had any place in the games? I mean, the whole thing looks like a glorified dog show, not a sport! Fencing: While I'm always of the mindset that those suits have to be incredibly uncomfortable, fencing isn't all that bad. Sure, it doesn't look a thing like in the movies, where the main characters are parlaying and blocking and lunging over chairs and through ladders and whatever, but the pure simplicity of trying to stab your opponent as quickly as possible and move on to the next one hearkens back to the ancient Spartans or Romans. Field Hockey: I saw this one for the first time last night, and I thought it was lacrosse at first. Frankly that sport would scare this shit out of me to be watching it, playing it, or simply sitting in the stands anywhere near the goals. I mean, that little white rubbery ball they use has to be capable of transforming into the harbinger of death when it gets whacked in the general direction of someone's head! Gymnastics: A staple of the Games, gymnastics is the one thing everyone in the family can agree on watching on TV. Who doesn't like watching people try not to fail? I mean, gymnastics is not about trying to see who does the best, it's about seeing who makes the fewest hops after a reverse double somersault with a twist dismount off the balance beam! Handball: A little bit soccer, a little bit hockey, a little bit Ultimate Frisbee, handball is a sport I would like to try playing sometime. You think Mesa has a team handball program? Judo: Haven't seen this on TV this year either, but karate was always fun for me growing up and getting my black belt, so this can't be bad. Modern Pentathlon: I think this comes on later in the Games. Rowing: This might be a favorite for Ivy Leaguers with their men's double sculls and such, but for the average American, rowing is akin to watching the Weather Channel all day: really boring. Sailing: See Rowing. Shooting: Target shooting isn't the most exciting on television, but target shooting is quite fun when you're behind the scope! Soccer: Frankly, like basketball, I don't believe this should be in the Olympics, especially since the World Cup is already an all-world tournament for soccer, but as a soccer fan myself, I really don't mind. Soccer is at least a sport that really can bring together the world (or completely tear is apart when Lithuania upsets Germany and riot goodness ensues)! Softball: Softball is always way too underrated in my opinion. No one pays attention to them during the 47 months between Olympic Games, and when they do play, they always get ousted on TV by rowing, fencing, or some of the other, stranger, parts of the Games. Either way, Team USA is kicking ass and taking names, and I salute them for being amazing, even if they get overlooked sometimes by others. Swimming. Two words: Michael Phelps. What more needs to be said? I mean, if the 1/100th second gold medal for #6 wasn't awesome enough, maybe the phrase "winningest Olympian ever in a single Games" does it for you. Synchronized Swimming: Who Who Who Who cares cares cares cares???? Table Tennis: Otherwise known to Americans as ping-pong, this sport is overtly dominated by China, and while America basically doesn't even matter here, it's been fun watching China destroy every other team. Tennis: Like soccer, this sport already has several world tournaments, and it probably shouldn't be a part of the Games, but c'est la vie, it's another chance to watch a sport that is fun to play, and when the hot weather cools down here, I'll be out hitting balls around at my local courts. Track and Field: The best part of any Olympics, in my honest opinion. The javelin, shot put, races, discus, marathon, high jump, pole vault, long jump, etc are staples of the ancient games. Watching them is like watching history. Plus, anyone who can run 26+ miles in a marathon deserves a huge round of applause. Trampoline: Okay, come on, after watching that, who can honestly say they wouldn't love to have five minutes bouncing around on that super-springy piece of equipment? Dude, who cares about the athletes there, I'm daydreaming about bring able to play on the trampoline! Triathlon: Once more a staple of the Games, but I haven't seen it yet, so it's stil something to look forward to. Volleyball: Frankly, I like volleyball, but they have entirely too many people on the court. Six people makes it hard to follow and get behind players. Limit it to four and then we'll talk. Water Polo: Um, yeah. No one likes regular polo - why would anyone pay attention to it in the water? Weightlifting: Okay, I have a lot of respect for those people who can lift 175 kilograms at a time, because after doing some weightlifting in school, it is certainly difficult, but bad things can happen. Case in point: some guy was trying to lift entirely too much weight, overexerted himself, and ended up dislocating his elbow. I checked out the video and pictures of it, and OUCH! His elbow bent entirely the wrong way. I mean, just thinking about it makes me cringe. Wrestling: Never been a huge fan to begin with, but some of my friends enjoy the sport, so I'm sure it can't be all bad. Opening Ceremonies: Despite the recent news of trickery as the Chinese used computer simulated fireworks for the viewers on TV, and the faking of the little girl who wasn't "cute enough" to sing at the opening, the ceremony was VERY cool, perhaps the best I've ever seen. The end where the Chinese athlete ran around the top of the stadium suspended by wires to light the giant torch was particularly astonishing, as were the uses of digital imagery throughout. I can only hope London does as good in four years. China: Despite concerns of smog in Beijing, political turmoil with regards to Tibet, fakery in the Opening Ceremonies, journalistic censorship, and conspiracy theories about the Chinese athletes, I think these Games have gone rather smoothly. It will obviously remain to be seen whether more information comes in after the journalists come back from the news censoring they face while overseas, but there haven't been any terrorist attacks (knock on wood), no really bad stories, and lots of victories for Americans. The only really heinous thing I have heard is the death of the women's volleyball coach's family member in an apparent mugging. ----------------------------------------------- The Olympic Games only come once every four years, and it gives us a chance to take pride in our countries alongside the rest of the world, at a time when nationalism and patriotism for Americans seems to often be at a premium. I think it is important to soak it all in as much as possible, and to cheer on Team USA in each sport. I mock some of the sports above, but those athletes train hard to get to this point, and all of them are worthy of admiration. Good luck to them all! GO USA!

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