A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
I promised myself I wouldn’t write about the Olympics. I’ve already done it — many times. I’ve been cruel and I’ve been kind, and once I was even hipster indifferent. You see, for a guy who actually remembers Cassius Clay kicking the crap out of Zbigniew Pietrzykowski (yeah, I did have to look up his name) in Rome, there’ve been a lot of Gold Medals under the bridge, and enthusiasm is not an infinite commodity.
The problem is the Olympics have become complicated.
Back in the day, every four years a bunch of kids would get together to play games. Eventually, one of them would run, jump, throw, skip, swim, sail, hop, bounce or roll further or faster than everybody else, and they’d get a medal. The band played the national anthem, everybody smiled, gave each other a “good sport” pat on the ass and went home. The Americans always won, the Soviets and the East Germans always cheated, countries like France and Japan always hung in there for Bronze, and everybody else had a helluva good time. It was simple, straightforward and you didn’t need an IBM supercomputer to figure out when your particular guy or girl was going for gold.
It’s Rio 2016 — and I have no idea what’s happening. I’ve been watching now and again, and nobody seems to be winning anything. They always have to do it again tomorrow or Wednesday or next week. Plus, every time I turn the TV on, Michael Phelps and his fat little kid show up. That guy is the Kim Kardashian of chlorinated water sports, and, BTW, I’m no expert, but I don’t think water actually comes in that colour. Meanwhile, in another part of la floresta, they’re playing golf. Golf? What does “Faster, Higher, Stronger” have to do with golf? Why not make chess an Olympic event and get it over with?
There are 39 different sports in Rio, and each one of them has several events, and each one of those has qualifying heats, quarter-finals, semi-finals, round robins, square sparrows — God Almighty! This is insanity! Table Tennis, little old rainy-day table tennis has 4 events? Badminton has five? Fencing has ten? Diving has eight? Eight? How many different ways can you jump in the water? But for sheer WTF madness. there’s Shooting. You remember shooting: point the gun at the target and pull the trigger. Believe it or not, Shooting has 15 events. Fifteen? I have no clue what these people are shooting at, but they’re doing it 15 different ways. Annie Oakley wasn’t that good.
At first glance, Rio 2016 has it all: beautiful young people, tons of money, incredible drugs — all set on the glorious beaches of South America. It’s a telenovela waiting to happen, but there are too many characters — too many storylines — too many side stories that don’t mean anything and just too damn much stuff to keep track of.
So go in peace, Rio Olympics. I’ll get the medal count when you’re over.