Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Quadrennial Sportsgasm

By Alan Caruba

This is for all the boys and girls, men and women, for whom sports plays little or no role in their lives. As a lad the only sports in which I engaged were those required by “gym class” which for me involved trying to avoid any activity that displayed my lack of interest and ineptitude.

At some point I developed an interest in billiards—pool shooting to be precise. I liked the whole hand-eye coordination thing, the sharp crack of the cue ball and the satisfying thump when the target ball fell into the pocket. I also enjoyed time spent at a local shooting range. Again it was the hand-eye coordination thing and the explosive sound of the gun or rifle firing off a round. Neither of these sports involved breaking a sweat.

I have never watched a complete baseball game on television, let alone ever been to a ballpark. When a student at the University of Miami, I attended a couple of the football games, but as an adult, televised football became a succession of long commercial breaks and short bursts of the game actually being played. I have never watched basketball. I do enjoy boxing and it is the only sport I will watch on television.

Suffice to say, the Olympic Games every four years are largely lost on me. NBC is promising to air 3,500 live hours of programming so sports enthusiasts can literally overdose on them though, presumably, they will select those sports of particular interest and watch them. They will also be watching 3,500 hours of non-stop commercials and everything you ever wanted to know—or not—about each contestant.

For anyone who engages in a favorite sport, I know it is good for you. It promotes both physical and mental health.

Olympic contestants, however, take their sport of choice to a level most people may admire for the discipline and hard work involved, but would never think to do themselves. For the more than two weeks of the contests, the games offer a look at feats of athleticism that are impressive and often astonishing.

The winners receive a gold medal, get their picture on a box of Wheaties, do advertising endorsements, and can sometimes get a gig on television providing commentary. The rest fade into obscurity.

For those who will be watching, let me say I am happy for the participants. I just won’t be watching most of them. I am not even likely to last long during the opening ceremonies with its succession of national teams marching in and around the arena. In the end, it is all just show business, glitzy and filled with symbolic displays of flags, music and dance.

It strikes me, too, that for all the talk of the collegiality of the games, they were hosted by the Nazis in 1936 and then cancelled because they started World War Two. In 1972 Palestinian terrorists killed members of the Israeli team for whom, once again, there will not be a moment of silence in their memory and in 1980 Jimmy Carter would not allow the U.S. team to participate when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

Allegedly the games transcend politics, but they tend to be more about “bringing home the gold” than world peace.

Mostly, I just want to offer some reassurance to all of you who did not much care for “gym class”, team sports, or any sport enough to spend the exorbitant price to attend in person and maybe buy a hotdog or some snack for ten times its cost anywhere else.

If sports are not at the center of your life you are not alone. Indeed, I suspect there are lots of us who will be content to get the highlights from the sports reporters on the 10 o’clock news. As if we cared.

© Alan Caruba, 2012


Pitch said...

I used to love sports of mostly every discernible description, but since the advent of (Show Me the Money) and Trillion dollar contracts to individuals that can’t even spell their own names, for the life of me, I cannot envision why any sane individual would travel to London (or for that matter waste precious time watching on TV) to be a part of this fraudulent spectacle of mostly drugged and doped up State sponsored participants; not to mention that the entire city of London appears more like it is prepared for World War 111 to commence at any moment with more English Troops deployed on the streets of London than all of Afghanistan with roving bands of anti-ballistic ground to air missiles deployed at the entrance of every popular Pub! This has all been a last minute gesture on the part of what’s left of the English government after the private security firm that had been paid a handsome fee to provide security declared there weren’t enough competent men left in England to handle the job and the military would need to be called in…by the way, it has not been announced if the Military has live ammo and the missiles are fully functional? My educated guess would be that the majority of troops have no live ammo and offer no real protection to anyone, including themselves. Remember the British Motto: “Political Correctness Trumps Everything Else!” And what a deplorable International scandal it would create if a group of Mad Dog Islamic terrorists were blown away while trying to murder and maim thousands of innocent victims. (Oops there I go again; they are no longer considered terrorists but merely poor disadvantaged visitors) The odds are at 6 to 5 today that a major catastrophic event will occur during this sham of so-called goodwill and sportsmanship…I personally would wager it is closer to 100% that all hell will somehow be unleashed on the unsuspecting sheep that venture forth in London.

James Enfield said...

Funnily enough, sport has always been a focal point for me; it's great fun, and a useful way to blow off steam. The trick was always to play like I had something to prove; for instance, the kids in gym class who thought they were big shots always withered when they saw someone actually step up and legitimately challenge them.
I follow several sport leagues, but the only Olympic events I will ever watch are the track and field ones; they are some of the few remaining truly competitive ones, and the races can be truly spectacular. The Olympic organizers are the deplorable part; as it is with most things, it's all about the money, and making sure they make nice with the totalitarians in the crowd. If they were to ignore the Arabs, they could actually do the right thing, e.g. giving the 11 murdered Israelis the respect they deserve.
All I can really say is, enjoy the Games if you do watch them, but honestly, if you don't watch even the track events, you might be missing out. There's just something about running that makes it the best sport in the world.

Alan Caruba said...

Pitch, we are in substantial agreement and earlier this week I wrote of the potential of a terrorist attack on the games.

Alan Caruba said...

James, to each his own...I was simply offering comfort to those for whom sports is a minor or non-existant interest.

LarryOldtimer said...

You and I are about the same in this regard. I rather loved shooting a weapon when I was a lad. My dad taught me how to fire a .22 rifle whan I was 6 years old.

Of course, I was reared in rural Iowa, and fishing was a lot of fun . . . and we got some good eating doing hunting and fishing way back then.

LarryOldtimer said...

But I did love to play snooker, and gambling games . . . and also those "board" games.

I simply wasn't at all good at any sports . . . I injured my knee badly when I was 6 years old, so playing music was a lot of fun for me . . . piano, guitar and the like.

Alan Caruba said...

Larry, I regard fishing as a form of meditation.

Lorilee said...

I doubt I will watch any of the Olympics. I am more interested in November and electing Conservatives!

Richard said...

And I live in England, where we have paid £9 billion for a two week ad for Macdonalds et. al., our capital city has had our roads handed to officials and others, thus bringing the capital to a standstill, and the BBC, well don't let's even go there!

Well said Alan, the games are ghastly!

Harry Dale Huffman said...

I tend to see connections that lead to a bigger picture of what is going on in the world (as you do, by the way), so this comment may seem off-topic. Pitch's description of the militarized streets of London, in preparation for the games, explains for me why Romney chose to give a serious answer, as someone who actually managed the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2003(?), to the question put to him in England on what he thought of the preparations and problems there. Romney was Monday-morning-quarterbacked/badmouthed by Charles Krauthammer et al. on Fox News for doing so. What Krauthammer & co. did NOT do, and should have, was mention the full, worrisome context, which Pitch has done here. So now I know Romney was addressing a legitimate level of concern (which you, Alan, have also done here in your blog) with his (should be) well-known expertise on the subject. And now I have a data point that tells me to trust Romney even over Krauthammer and Fox News. (So in my book, Romney is the first winner in the London Olympics, though the rest of the world no doubt think he just stuck his foot in it with his serious, yet positive, answer.)

As for the sports, and the athletes themselves, well, it's a way for many to get together in front of the TV, and for many more to feel put out or left out. For me, they are only worth watching for the truly exceptional performance that stands out from all the rest, even among the world's elite athletes. So I won't hang around to see much of it (especially without Jim McKay, whose own enthusiasm was the key to much of my enjoyment of past Olympics).

Rich Kozlovich said...


I have lost the desire to watch the "Olympiads" for a number of reasons. First, when I was young there was a national challenge attached that transcended sports. It was called the cold war. The fact of the matter was that the theme that Adolph Hitler pushed, “we will win because we are superior”, didn’t stop with the 1936 Olympiad.

When the cold war ended the enthusiasm for the games waned in the U.S. Secondly, I despise the corruption of the sports with enhancement drugs. Whether they neither should nor should not be allowed to use them argument is a non sequitur because the rules are clear. And they all clearly know the rules on this. Third, I despise the corruption of the judges and their system of judging. Fourth, it is impossible to become an Olympic athlete without huge cash flow from somewhere, a huge commitment of time from the athletes, their parents, and the coaches….and only a handful of all the tens of thousands of athletes in the world working to get there will ever make it. For most it ends early, but what about the ones that go all the way to the semi-finals and the final trials and then fail. Those are important years in future career decisions. All wasted! The last reason is because I find the Olympic committee and this whole commercial enterprise corrupt.

I had a cousin who was a gymnast in high school and was so good there was a lot of talk about her as a potential Olympian in the local newspapers. As a result she received a number of scholarship offers from universities which she turned down. She understood the time commitment knowing that to be a successful gymnast her education would suffer. She chose a good education. Smart girl!

I think the Olympics are an expensive waste of money to the host cities and long overdue to be suspended.

Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

For physical reasons, I suck at sports. I am not a couch potato.. I just can't do stuff that involves a lot of running or catching balls:

When I was a toddler, an accident rendered me bereft of depth perception (severe eye injury). I was also 'blessed' with flat feet that makes extensive running rather painful. Added on top of that, I matured very slowly. When I was 15 years old, I was trapped in a 12 year old's body (I didn't have to shave daily until I was 24 years old).

This didn't stop my parents (at the urging of the various school administrators) of signing me up for every sport possible. The results was years of pure hell on the mistaken belief that all handicaps could be overcome. It was important for my 'self esteem', or some other touchy-feely nonsense.

Frankly, if the Olympics disappeared from the earth, I wouldn't even notice it was gone.

Longstreet said...

During gym class I was sitting in the bleachers writing short stories and my first novel -- or -- I was in an empty classroom rehearsing my next speech for an oratorical contest. But -- during football season, I was up in the press booth as the "announcer" for the games.

I DID become a rodeo announcer for a while and a racetrack announcer for NASCAR stock car races for a while.

Sports was not my "thing." My head was never in it.

I loved to hunt. I was a decent enough marksman, altho I did have problems qualifying with the M-1 Garand in the Army. Being small of frame (126 pounds) , the M-1 was just too heavy for me. When someone finally figured it out and switched me to a 30 caliber carbine, I tore the targets up.

My wife, on the other hand is a great sports enthusiast. While she is watching "THE GAME" on TV, I'm in the office writing.

People are different ... period.

I couldn't care less for the Olympics. Altho, I WILL keep an eye and ear cocked toward London, for I fear a terrorist disaster is waiting in the wings.


SteveI46 said...

I, too, have lost interest in all "professional sports" (Little League baseball MAY be the last bastion of sport). Hunting and fishing are pleasant past times, with fishing taking the lead because I can nap without missing anything. If there is an "international incident" in London I'm interested to see who will spin it the hardest for their own advantage.

Alan Caruba said...

#Stevel46: It would appear that you and I are not along in our views about the Olympics and sports in general.

I hope there will be no "international incident" during the games, but I wouldn't bet against it quite yet.

Dan Myers said...

Well said Mr. Caruba! I feel sports is used primarily to make money and distract people from the problems in the world. Just think if all of the money spent on sports could be directed to solving some of the worlds problems.

LarryOldtimer said...

If at first,you can't succeded . . . try doing something else you can succeed at doing. Just a matter of having a talent.