A Pleasant Surprise: Made in China
In 2008, Sarah and I had just rolled into little town just outside of Dallas called Oklahoma City. Our first summer was long and date nights in were commonplace even, though we could have taken the eight-month old anywhere. We were poor. Happy, but very poor. When I wanted my lady to know she was special, I’d pop in the King of Queens box set and preheat the oven for 425°, ’cause it we were going to get our Totino’s Pizza Rolls on!
Any who, we were in for a surprise that August and it came from an unusually surprising place, the Summer Olympics. Especially since my wife, although she tries, isn’t much of a sports fan. Even for me, a fanatical sports fan, the Olympics typically came and went with some fun story lines sprinkled in here and there, but rarely leaving behind any lasting memories. 1)I have not forgotten about the Dream Team and a couple of the women’s gymnastics teams, but all in all, the Olympics, as a whole, are pretty forgettable.
NBC was one of only three English-speaking channels our antennae picked up and they convinced us Michael Phelps was must-see TV that year. He was on a quest to track down Spitz’s Olympic medal record. So, we gave Kevin James and Leah Remini a few nights off and cozied up to watch Dan Hicks try and tell us why we should care about swimming. Somehow, we got hooked. We were hooked watching a sport we never cared about and may never care about again. We started learning the “villains” in the swimming world and who had a chance to chase Phelps down.2)Who could forget László Cseh from Hungary?! I admit, I did. I had to Google it, but it didn’t help my point. Seeing if Phelps could track down 8 Golds was pretty entertaining, but it was his third that delivered a moment we won’t ever forget.
His third was by far the toughest and most incredible finish. I’m going to leave the clip of the Men’s 4×100 Relay and spare you the play-by-play, but the emotions that finish delivered for us was unforgettable. Why is it even that big of a deal? I’m sure those guys are all nice dudes, but we were not heavily invested in their happiness. Sure, we could be excited because we are patriots, but at the end of the day, they’re just a few bums with chiseled abs swimming in a pool. As far as I can tell, it didn’t make a dent in the war on terror.
What made it so memorable and such an awesome memory is thinking about us losing our minds together in the living room. Genuinely in awe of what we just saw. Our son likely crying in terror as he scrambled his tiny memory to figure out what was going on. Turns out you don’t need any practice to know how to celebrate a sports victory. Sarah was a pro. Just having a small chance to replicate that euphoria is worth watching the Rio Olympics, reel to reel, but I don’t think we’ll need to. So, I thought I’d jot down a few notes that are helping me and the family get geared up for the next few weeks.
1. Pick one sport or event
Picking one sport isn’t a hard and fast number, but the Olympics is a time to dive into a world you have never been in. The life of Olympians and their families is truly other worldly. Whether it be fencing, gymnastics, or equestrian, the parents of these athletes have been dragging their butts out of bed at 4am for the past 10 years to become the best at something that promises to make them almost no money. It’s like the first episode of MTV True Life that makes you feel guilty about not going broke training your kids.
Plus, let’s face it, the Olympics are long. Three weeks from now, you are going to be flipping through channels, miffed to see beach volleyball and golf are still going on. I’d also recommend staying away from sports you are familiar with, i.e. golf and basketball. Learn the crazy rules, strategies, and athletes together.
[ Link to all Olympic sports and full event schedule ]
2. Watch something you never get to watch
I’m sure golf and basketball will be exciting, but you get to see those clowns every week. Not only is it difficult to find the other sports on TV outside of the Olympics, but you won’t want to watch them again. I remember after the 2008 Games, NBC and ESPN tried to start showing some of the national swimming tournaments and some college events. I even tried to watch some of it hoping to recapture some of the excitement. It was unbearable. You couldn’t pay me to care and I wanted to so badly. The exact same people doing the exact same thing, but what had been “a battle to represent your country” had suddenly just become regular old swimming.
3. Capture the Aura
For obvious reasons, the Olympics carry an aura around it. The sense of country is definitely part of it, but it is basically like playoffs on steroids. Although I can’t fathom why, most these athletes train their entire lives for a single moment or event. I am always blown away when a guy has spent months training for American Ninja Warrior and sells everything for his trip to Vegas…then slips on the first obstacle. It’s like that times a thousand. EVERYTHING hangs in the balance.
Think about what we see in our favorite sports when everything is on the line. Playoff baseball gives us double steals and safety squeezes. Playoff football gives us hail marries and rules changes. The World Cup makes give a crap about soccer. The Olympics deliver athletes doing anything to win. Most of the time it’s steroids, but sometimes it is something incredible, never to be done or seen again.
4. Survivor: Rio
I hope athletes come back with a clean bill of health…but many of them won’t. The Olympic Village is a breeding ground for new strands of syphilis and this year’s Olympics promises to deliver one of the most realistic seasons of Survivor to date. Even before Zika, experts knew the water was going to be an issue, the barracks are uninhabitable, and now the security contractor has been fired days before the opening ceremonies? Yikes! If that wasn’t enough, Rio simply can’t handle this many people, athletes are getting mugged, and some are receiving unbelievable roaming charges after playing Pokemon Go. Rio has Olympians competing for more than just their country. They are competing for electrical outlets to charge their phones and their lives!
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||I have not forgotten about the Dream Team and a couple of the women’s gymnastics teams, but all in all, the Olympics, as a whole, are pretty forgettable.|
|2.||↑||Who could forget László Cseh from Hungary?! I admit, I did. I had to Google it, but it didn’t help my point.|