Baffoe: The Olympics—I Don’t Get It
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By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Oh joy, the Olympics begin tonight… if you don’t count that they began on July 25th.
Some credentials on my end—I attended the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta as a 14-year-old on a family vacation. Overall, it was a very beneficial experience. Seeing an Olympiad is not something most people can say they’ve done, and my family bonded and has cherished memories forever and all that jazz.
I got to take in the American South for the first time and experience a culture steeped in passive but prevalent racism. I got to visit CNN headquarters and put on my own pretend newscast that likely was better than half of CNN’s current programming. I got to check out the World of Coca-Cola and sample Coke products from around the world that made me literally vomit. I posed for photos where just a few hours later a pipe bomb that killed a woman and wounded 111 others went off.
And then there were the Games themselves. You cannot begin to gauge the excitement a teenage boy feels when made to wake up in the early morning to go watch Equestrian in 177 degree Georgia sun. Especially a fair-skinned Ginger kid.
I saw a Lithuanian basketball game and sat next to a fat, incredibly foul-smelling woman at the track events—or as the Olympics officially call them, “Athletics.” I remember coming home to the house we were staying at down there and watching SportsCenter and hearing Keith Olbermann utter maybe the best line ever on that program—“On to the Women’s Uneven Bars… I’ve been to some of those.”
So, because of my Olympics experience I feel I’m worthy of expressing the following:
The Olympics are neither interesting nor entertaining to me.
Once every two years I am told that I need to get excited for two weeks about “sports” that I and seemingly 99% of the rest of society don’t care about 99% percent of the time. What’s so great about them that’s still relevant today? Seriously, I have yet to get a good answer.
First of all, the Olympics are run by one of the more corrupt organizations known to man. To expect good to come from the IOC would be the first mistake any slow person who’s a fan of this crap could make.
Now, the IOC’s corruption doesn’t exactly bleed into the competition itself. But it is a bit disconcerting when you’re being sold the gravitas and “purity of sport” garbage, and all the while the thing is being run like Shawshank Prison.
The athletes do cheat their balls off, too (and some of the females have them to prove so). The Olympic spirit isn’t who has the best chemically enhanced people, is it?
And who falls in love with something every four years and then ignores it for the other 3.99 years (besides most of the people who vote in this country)? “I don’t care about field hockey most of the time, but holy cats, if you slap ‘USA’ on somebody and just call it ‘Hockey’ in order to grab a few extra viewers who can’t deviate between ice and grass, well then field hockey the hell out me!”
The public is told that the Games are important, that they matter. People believe this without questioning it. People are stupid.
The Olympics change nothing–wars don’t end, economies don’t skyrocket, starving bellies aren’t filled. Regular pro sports don’t solve anything either, but the difference with them is they don’t really pretend to. Well, unless Jim Gray is involved.
At least when Bud Selig made his pointless game matter, albeit in the worst way possible, he actually unfortunately made it matter.
A common mantra is that the Olympics are good for the world. How? Grudges aren’t mended. Debts aren’t wiped away (they’re created, but more on that later). Politicians don’t care about the Olympics, trust me, unless they’re getting their pockets lined or horribly botching a Presidential PR tour.
And Olympic coverage has gone from dumb to disgusting. Every athlete is some hero overcoming some tremendous odds to do what they’re doing now. Every one. Guess what? I don’t care. If you concern yourself with the personal background stories of Olympians, you probably concern yourself with the Twilight cheating scandal. Get that superficial bull off my TV. Rid the events of the awful, sappy pathos. Stop trying to make me cry.
Also, please stop tape-delaying crap and pretending I don’t know what happened already. And you, Olympic superloserfan, if you walk around telling everyone, “Don’t tell me what happened in the Olympics! I don’t want it ruined when I watch later!”—I will go out of my way to ruin it for your annoying ass then. What will be delicious is the saturation of social media in society, coupled with every network competing with NBC, and hardcore Olympic watcher turds trying to avoid hearing results before they air on TV.
And the whole cutting away from one event to the next got old really quick. I’m not a damn hummingbird.
One of my biggest complaints with the Games is the jingoism it not so subtly promotes. While phrases like “Go World” and faux claims of unity among all the participating countries are smattered across it all, actual claims of national superiority are condoned and actually encouraged, especially in America. And, really, what’s more proof of a country’s superiority to others than one of its citizens swimming fastest? Really, being the richest, most powerful nation in the world–do we really need to rally around a gymnastics team? Seriously?
Gymnastics, by the way, is not a sport. A competition, yes, but not a sport. Nothing that is scored completely subjectively (that means “by judges”) is a sport. And rhythmic gymnastics? That’s dancing, not athletics. Same with synchronized swimming. This is not what the Ancient Greeks had in mind. What kind of superiority do these events prove?
And trampoline? Trampoline?! It’s like the Olympic Committee met and asked, “How can we court the stoner on the couch demographic more without incorporating unicorns or monkeys doing people stuff?” Trampoline.
By now comes the inevitable “You don’t root for America, so you are a bad person” accusations. Not caring about something one’s country is involved in is not the equivalent of being against one’s country. I could say you’re a bad American for not going balls to the wall for the Paralympics then, couldn’t I? Are handicapped Americans competing against the world any less American, less important? Oh, but TV doesn’t make a big deal out of the Paralympics and have spectacularly unnecessary, money-pissing Opening and Closing Ceremonies, right?
Yes, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies are a fustercluck of stupid. What the hell does all that artsy crap have to do with the Games? Nothing, that’s what. But they’ll never go away. Why? Because the Games is now all about aesthetics, aesthetics, aesthetics. Everything has to be pretty and visually stimulating and colorful and have little kids singing and dancing for no apparent reason and indigenous peoples running around and light shows and mood music and k.d. lang singing a song with extremely sexual overtones but trying to pass it off as something else, I guess, and giant animals and something between a vision quest and the bedroom detox scene in Trainspotting.
International sport has been turned into interpretive theatre (see also: football halftime shows). And that’s what the Olympiad is now–theatre, and not in a good way. Actual competition is secondary.
Besides all this, the Olympics are antiquated. With the professional leagues around the world, but particularly in America, why are the Olympics still necessary? Professionals are the best in the world at their craft, not amateurs. So why care about amateurs in fringe sports? Give me the pros any day of the week. Some of these Olympic “sports” actually have pro leagues/tours. There’s professional gymnastics–isn’t that theoretically better than the amateur version?
Oh, they “want it more” than the pros, right?
And some events now have professionals, which then tarnishes the romantic aspect of the Games and becomes one big hypocrisy. The 1992 Dream Team was really cool and new at the time. Now having NBA fantasy teams take the court against frightened foreigners just isn’t that sexy anymore.
I don’t get it. It just seems that in the advanced society we now live in, it no longer really matters whose citizens run the fastest or jump the highest.
Then there’s the negative financial impact the Olympics have on host cities. No city has ever made money or broke even on hosting the Games. Ever. Hell, they can even cripple a city.
What puzzles me the most about it all, though, is not knowing what the end game is here. What do the Olympics accomplish? Team USA is “my team,” I guess, like the Bears or Bulls, but I know who the guys on the Bears and Bulls are—well, the Bulls are a bad example right now. I don’t know really any Olympians outside of the hoopsters other than LoLo Jones because she’s hot and her virginity has been deemed newsworthy.
I have no emotional attachment to these athletes, so whether they win or lose, I just can’t conjure up any happiness or disappointment for them or for “my team.” It’s like taking pride in Joey Chestnut eating more hot dogs than Kobayashi. Yay?
There’s a running medal count, but the country with the most medals at the end doesn’t “win” something. There’s no overall prize. It just seems to boil down to the vague “representing their country” thing and forcing pride out of people.
Wouldn’t it be great if Americans put as much time and energy and concern into some other things for just two weeks instead of this dumb pageantry? Sports are a great and needed distraction from the hard facts of real life, but two weeks of pretending everything everywhere is just peachy keen is insulting.
Maybe we could put money toward schools and infrastructure in Chicago instead of trying to lure an economic catastrophe here or winning the gold medal in shooting each other or obesity. Think what could get accomplished. Just two weeks every two years. I would take pride in that.
But no, we just gots to have us some canoeing, don’t we?
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.