Over the past several weeks, many of my friends and work colleagues have taken their potshots at the majority of sports of the Olympiad.
Granted, most of them have lived in California for most of their lives, where cold is 60 degrees. They might roll up for a three-day ski weekend or begrudgingly travel back to what was their childhood home in another state at the holidays. Whatever the root cause, they find anything having to do with ice that isn’t a LA Kings Game or the latest wallet-raping “… On Ice” show at Staples Center a foreign concept.
As a Chicago native, I’m no stranger to the elements. Some of the most perilous journeys of my life were on the cold streets downtown, battling wind tunnels, insane traffic and cab drivers, ice patches and those huge Gortex coats that bounced me around like a pinball. Hence, the battles at the table to get swoll. That’s my story …
I’m not saying that I fully understand fully how someone decides to push toward medaling in the luge or the biathlon or a number of the other sports that we witnessed in these games. It’s not my culture. That doesn’t mean I put it down or think anything less of the athletes or the sport. It’s just not my history.
Years ago, I worked to help launch and support the official World Cup site. It was just a new assignment, as soccer wasn’t on my list of pastimes. Again, I didn’t deride it. I don’t disrespect those who follow it. To other people and countless countries around the world (and many people in our own backyards), soccer is like a religion. I just pay homage to the American football gods. We’ve learned to live and let live.
Do the Finnish, Swedish or African countries care about the 3-4 defense or the glory of “The Naked Bootleg?” Nope. They train for their chance to demonstrate their nation’s pride and perform on the world stage.
Whether first or last, they came. They represented. And the world watched.
I listened to local and national hosts mock some of the events and wrap their air quotes around the word “athlete.”
I get it. Some of the sports aren’t familiar to our sporting landscape (not that there are mountains of snow in many of the participating countries). The participants don’t strip down to their shorts for the combine and roll up 40-yard dash times. And, some of the folks busting out the curling stones don’t look the part of a world-class athlete with washboard abs. (Some of them approached the form of world-class model, but that’s a tale for another time.)
Seriously, why is that a problem? In my world, the connection to the common man, regardless of his country of origin, is what we’re striving for here. Why the hell do you think we hear 900,000 human interest stories during the coverage?
Millions of people tuned in every night for something different. Perhaps they are immigrants who root for their homelands. Perhaps they waved the U.S. flag. Perhaps they were morbid souls seeking crashes, burn-outs and meltdowns. Perhaps they wanted the good human interest story (i.e., “get a good cry). Or maybe they just wanted to expand their knowledge of world-wide sporting events and gain an appreciation outside of the “Big 4 or Big 5″ of American sports.
If the connection to the people happens to come in the form of a dude in crazy pants tossing a stone in a curling competition, then so be it.
The Olympics can’t be everything to everybody. There are some sports/events that will just make you shrug your shoulders and move on.
I just don’t see why we have to trash it.
Now, as for the knuckleheads who spent three hours watching “The Bachelor” on Monday …