Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Olympic Overload

I love the Olympics.  Without fail I cry every time I watch them, even if I’m just watching for a few minutes.  There is always something that makes me tear up.  Be it a clutch victory, the American national anthem playing during a medal ceremony, or a spotlight story of an athlete who invariably has overcome some great personal obstacle to get there, I get a little moist in the eye region.  It’s just so wonderful. 

I will say one thing as advice for future Olympics- Bob Costas needs some back up.  Seeing him, no, worse, HEARING him talk multiple hours every day for weeks on end is just… monotonous.  Nothing against the guy, I’m sure I would feel the same about anyone on there yammering away night and day.  Maybe with the exception of Michael Phelps.  As long as he had his shirt off the entire time.  He could talk and talk and talk, even though every time he does he sounds less than enthusiastic.  But still.

I always find that I learn new tidbits when I watch the Olympics.  In my lifetime I have been a swimmer, track and field and cross country runner, and soccer player (yay AYSO!), so I know a fair bit about those sports.  But some of the sports, particularly some of these newfangled ones are so foreign to me, and I find myself frequently wikipediaing as I watch (side note: do you think that wikipedia will become a verb like google did?  Wikipediaing doesn’t flow quite as well as googling…).  For instance, one night I was listening to the results of the decathlon (yay Bryan Clay bringing the gold back to America!) and thought, “gee, I don’t know what all events are in the decathlon.”  So I looked it up.  Wikipediaed it, if you will.  As it turns out, the competition takes place over two days, and day one is 100 meters, long jump, shot put, high jump, and the 400 meters, while day two is the 110 hurdles, pole vault, discus, javelin, and 1500 meter run.  Then I was all, well, what is a pentathlon?  And what is the deal with this “modern” pentathlon?  Are they one and the same? 

Ohhhh no.  I come to find out that the old school pentathlon (think Greeks in togas) is not even remotely like the modern one.  Back in the day it consisted of a short food race (stadion), wrestling, long jump, javelin, and discus but NOW it’s all crazy with having epee fencing, pistol shooting, 200 meter swim, show jumping on horseback, and a 3km run.  Apparently it was started by a Baron dude who thought those exemplified the skills needed by a cavalry soldier.  How cool is that??

So I think my most random finding as I was searching was when I got to the bottom of the article about the modern pentathlon and it had links to “related articles.”  In this list you find the duathlon, triathlon, and all sorts of “lons”, but at the bottom there was a little sport called “Chess boxing.”  I thought to myself, Chess boxing?  What kind of craziness is that?? This must be a typo or someone writing some kind of crazy spoof article that snuck its way into Wikipedia. 

So I clicked on it, and lo and behold IT’S A REAL SPORT!  And it’s exactly how it sounds.  Chess.  And boxing.  In alternating rounds with 4 minutes of boxing then 2 minutes of speed chess, then a minute break, for up to 11 rounds.  A person wins either by checkmate, a knockout, or a call by the referee.  The best part about this all is that the motto of the sport (yes, sports have mottos, at least this one) is, “Fighting is done in the ring and wars are waged on the board.” There are no words to describe how intrigued I am by this sport.  Check out some videos online, or the official website it’s pretty awesome.

Another sport I learned about was the Double Mini Trampoline.  While watching the men’s 10 meter platform diving in which an Aussie busted out a gangsta dive in the last round and destroyed the Chinese dude, preventing the Chinese from sweeping the golds in diving (I think I was a little TOO excited about that.  And yes, I cried when I watched the Aussie cry when he realized he won gold), the commentators were saying how this one dude was plucked from the Double Mini Trampoline to be a diver.  I was watching in Seattle with my friend Lindsay and we both sat with that for a good 8 seconds and then both simultaneously said, “DOUBLE MINI TRAMPOLINE??”  And off to Youtube we went to find out about this new sport.  It’s basically like the vault in gymnastics mixed with a trampoline.  You run down the runway, jump on a trampoline and do some kind of acrobatics in the air, jump again and flip about, and then land on the other side.  You can check it out here.

A final sport I learned about recently, though not through watching the Olympics but rather through watching some dude attempt it on a lake in Seattle was Olympic Canoeing.  And it’s cool because it’s not some normal canoe, it’s actually really tough to just stay upright in it.  It’s really deep and the sides are steep, not so rounded, and you don’t sit, you “kneel” with one leg down and one up and paddle upright, but the way the boat is made, that alone is really tough to do.  I saw this dude trying to get into one of these canoes, and it was hilarious.  He spent more time in the lake than in the boat.  But the Olympians who do it seem to have a better grasp on staying upright than he.

Do you know what I want to know though?  How do you get to be a medal hander-outer?  All those dudes (they’re always dudes it seems) putting the medals around the victorious three- bronze, silver, gold.  You get to be on camera and you don’t even really have to DO anything.  AND, you literally get to rub elbows with Olympic athletes.  Just think if you could be the swimming medal hander outer and you got to shake Michael Phelps’ hand, maybe even give him a hug for good measure.  Oh to dream.

In any event, I watched faithfully each and every day that I could reasonably (and sometimes unreasonably) be near a TV.  And it seemed that a large number of my friends were also unreasonably hooked on the Olympics, staying up until all hours of the night watching, DVRing as they went so they could replay JUST ONE MORE TIME Phelps’ great butterfly race, or Nastia’s perfect beam routine.  It didn’t even matter that the Chinese government was less than awesome, the Games are just.  So.  Great. 

And now they are over.  And we must wait another four years for a reprieve from summer reruns and sticky August subways.  And heck, with them in London in 2012, I may even spring for a summer vacation in the UK.  You just never know.

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