I'm not sure exactly when it started. I remember loving them at one point. My parents absolutely adore them, so the love affair probably sprouted in my childhood. Back then the Berlin Wall stood tall and Soviet Russia was a very real threat. We were not long removed from school children hiding under desks to avoid nuclear holocaust. Rooting for the U.S. bordered on a moral duty. I can recall checking the morning's papers to see the medal count.
But at some point it all became too much. Too much gross nationalism; too much overhyped hoopla; too much doping; too much controversy; too much rewarding hosting duties to cities clearly incapable of the job; too much displacing poor people so that relatively rich people can participate in a sport; just too much. I see people on FB who post constantly about the plight of the poor in this country and who have been on humanitarian missions expressing glee and delight in the Olympics. I'm not sure you can be a moral crusader and enjoy an event that resulted in thousands of poor people losing their homes and livelihoods. I'm not saying you can't enjoy the Olympics, and I'm not saying you can be a moral crusader for the poor. Just that you can't do both.
And take this line from a story on the Olympics in Slate.com:
Everyone knows that the Olympics, as broadcast on NBC and its sister channels, are less an athletic spectacle than a biennial soap opera in lycra and spandex.Not so much a sports spectacular than a soap opera.* That kind of describes my feelings. Anyway, that It probably didn't help that for the last couple Olympics I've been bone tired raising triplets.
But this year something is different.
This year I'm sitting on the couch with the kids watching gymnastics and swimming. I'm looking forward to watching diving. Diving. Which while really cool and a feat that certainly takes lots of strength and control, barely qualifies as a sport.**
These things are all true. Except for that last opinion about what constitutes a sport, I'm not even sure you can argue them. So what changed?
Maybe its because I'm 40 now. Perspective and all that. Maybe its because I've got kids. Maybe its something else? A return to roots I abandoned as I formed by own identity?
Kids do weird things to you. And sometimes the universe drops things in your lap that can't really be explained and you just have to roll with them.
*Personally, I think NBC should probably do something like ESPN does with RedZone. Divide the screen into six small ones, each featuring a different event. When an especially notable event or participant comes up, it could emphasize that box by giving it half a screen.
** I'm not convinced something that relies entirely on a judge's eye for scores counts as a sport. Making award winning gin is really hard and takes lots of practice too, for instance. If "winning" comes down to the eye of the beholder, its art, not sport. That isn't to take away anything from the divers or gymnasts. Gymnasts especially are probably the strongest, most athletic people on the planet. They compete in an athletic event, but I'm not sure they are doing sport. Maybe. But take to the comments section to tell me why I'm wrong.