Hello. My name is Chris and I’m an Olympiholic.
Last night I watched the Romanian women’s gymnastic team take on the Russian squad. I’m not from Romania. I still make ill-advised, dated Kremlin jokes about Russia. So why did I, a 25-year-old man of sound mind and body (*Author’s note: well, relatively sound mind, at least) spend time watching a group of 16-year-old girls swing on the various gym apparatuses in a Soviet Bloc showdown when I should have been sleeping?
And save all the responses of, “Because you’re a giant Pervert, man. That’s why.” Because I don’t want to hear it.
This wasn’t about me creeping on young, spandex-clad foreigners. (*Author’s note: I keep digging a deeper, pervier-sounding hole here) It wasn’t because I had an unrealized dream of competing for Olympic Gymnastic glory that had ended with me viciously pulling my 9-year-old groin trampolining my way through a Saturday morning class at the local YWCA, although that did happen.
No. It’s because I’ve got the itis.
The itis is a recurring, problematic addiction that only rears its insidious head every 4 years. This cyclical medical mystery is something that affects hundreds, potentially even thousands of otherwise normal people.
Do you find yourself watching badminton doubles at 2 in the morning? Staying up late just to catch some more white-water rafting slalom championships? Recording 7 hours of obscure competitions between countries that you only read about when touching on The Cold War in your 8th grade history class?
You’ve got the itis.
Do you catch yourself cheering wildly during an archery contest, as though you’re witnessing Robin Hood himself pull some arrow-on-arrow crime?
That’s the itis.
Since I’ve got the itis, I figure I might as well drag you, my 7 dedicated readers down the NBC-run rabbit hole with me into a land of Kazakhstani weight lifters, Norweigan table tennis champions and Ryan Seacrest puff pieces.
Here’s a few of my observations from the first few days of the games:
The Opening Ceremony
Directed by the famous British director, Danny Boyle, this bajillion-dollar production featured dancing, heavy doses of group percussion, and Kenneth Branagh dressed a little like Abraham Lincoln (*Author’s note: the Emancipation Proclamation one, not the Vampire Slayer one). While I was disappointed that a swarming horde of zombies didn’t invade the stadium, I thought it was a nice ceremony.
It had history, British pride, and the climactic moment in which David Beckham sawed off his own arm with a pocket knife after being trapped beneath an Olympic torch-boulder for 127 hours. Truthfully, I thought it was very nice. Did the Chinese probably crank more money, people, and slave-labor-hours into their production in ’08? Sure. Do I think the Chinese probably crank more money into everything? Yes.
Ryan Lochte & Michael Phelps
Beloved by women everywhere
for the fact that he is movie-star handsome and hangs out in 1080p in a speedo skimpy enough to make a European beachgoer blush because of his great swimming ability, Lochte was supposed to be one of the stars of this Olympic Games. He has ads, magazine covershoots, and more screen time on NBC than Brian Williams. In short, he was supposed to be the Michael Phelps of 2012.
So far Lochte has delivered the goods in only 1 race, bringing home the gold in the 400 Individual Medley. He relinquished a healthy lead in the 4×100 relay, getting swam down in the final 25 meters, and finished out of the medals in the 200 meter freestyle. To make matters worse, he lost both times to a French guy.
Michael Phelps was also supposed to be, well, the Michael Phelps of 2012. Which means he was supposed to be a little diminished. A little ground down. A little more Rocky 5 than Rocky 2. But not to the point where he. . .(GASP!) didn’t medal in an event.
Both guys still have what experts in Olympic coverage refer to as “the grip” of events left to swim. But, thus far, Phelps looks like Michael Jordan playing for the Wizards and Lochte looks like a mere mortal. Let’s hope both swimmers can turn things around and make their impending showdown in the 200 IM be the epic, dramatic battle that it initially appeared to be.
One of the big draws in the early stages of the Olympics this year was the gymnastic competitions. They were packed with drama, glitter, hair gel, and crazed parents living very, very vicariously through their children. And that’s just the men’s competition.
After watching a good chunk of the Men’s and Women’s team competition one thing has become abundantly clear to me: the Momagers/Dadagers of the US Men’s teams are way the F- crazier than the normally-borderline-psychotic Momagers/Dadagers of the US Women’s team.
Here’s Danell Leyva. A pretty phenomenal gymnast, by all accounts. And there, lurking in the background like the creepy guy who somehow manages to perv his way into Facebook pictures with the hot females taking “girls only” pics at the bar, is his father.
And here he is again, doing his world-class gymnastics thing. But there, in the background, lurking like some mustachioed vulture, waiting to swoop in on the cameras: Dad.
I’m not saying he shouldn’t be proud of his son. I’m just saying that he needs to dial it back a little bit. He’s getting more run on NBC than Tom Brokaw. They have more slow-mo replays– usually of him screaming like William Wallace on the battlefields of Braveheart — than they do of his son’s actual routine.
It’s a sad day when you make the 16-year-old girls’ parents pale in comparison to your antics.
Most Gut-Wrenching, Stomach-twisting, Brutally Painful Reminder of the Sad Truth to the Olympics?
There’s a moment in every Olympic competition where things take a quick, kick-in-the-crotch turn for the worst. When we’re reminded that someone has to be the loser in all of these events. That moment? Every single time NBC finds any athlete’s parents in the stands. The loser? Anyone watching 36 hours of Olympic coverage over a weekend. In more ways than one.
Once NBC finds a parent in the stands, it’s all over. They give them close-ups. Medium shots. They give them slow-motion replays, frame-by-frame analysis, 3-D shots and probably upload their pictures to Instagram just in case we missed it. Much like her son, Debbie Phelps, the onetime queen of Olympic camera-hoarding, has been replaced by a host of newer, less Subway-commercialized young talents.
Brace yourself, though, because I think the producers at NBC have just discovered where Missy Franklin’s parents are sitting at the swim meet.
I’ll be revisiting the Olympics frequently in the coming days. Because, frankly, there’s nothing else going on right now. And also? I’ve got that itis.