Five rings of fooloshness: Olympics need help

Marcus Charter

What in the world is happening to the Olympic games? Many, many centuries ago, proud, naked Greek men took part in the first Olympic games. These men participated in sports that tested their endurance, strength, intestinal fortitude,and apparently their nonexistent levels of shame, as they competed against each other to prove who was the best of the best. These men were the first true athletes, the beginning of something beautiful that has blossomed into exciting Saturday and Sunday afternoons on the football field. These men represented everything that makes sports truly awesome. While things like a World Series pitching duel, a last-second Hail Mary or the way “Hoosiers” sends chills up your spine, all are things that would have made them smile. The upcoming Olympic games, on the other hand, would have made them do a triple lutz in their graves. Badminton, gymnastic trampoline, and table tennis are not exactly events that make my heart swell with national pride, but they are very real events that will go down in Sydney in about nine days. Maybe I am sentimental or a softy, but this current crop of crap is just not cutting it. Maybe somebody can explain to me why the International Olympic Committee insists on dumbing down the games. It seems like everything today needs to go the way of equality, and quite frankly, it stinks. I happen to like the fact that America produces the best athletes in the world and I really don’t feel like adding more sports so that countries that hardly exist can send a really great ping-pong player and grab some Olympic hardware. Good for the player, bad for the games. This is exactly why Wednesday night bowling leagues and bridge clubs were formed. They allow overweight, non-athletic, hairy-backed knuckle draggers to feel like they are still pretty good at something. This is fine and dandy when left in a small town bowling alley or a smoke-filled Moose lodge but not when these recreational activities are given national prominence. We have recently heard of some athletes who don’t even want to go to the Olympics. I remember when making the games could be the pinnacle of an athletic career. Now the length of an airplane trip takes precedence. I can understand the downer of a 24-hour plane trip, however, I also can understand why some athletes would rather stay home and see how “Big Brother” ends up than attend the games. American athletes have egos and pride and to have to share their stage with the world champion saucer stacker from Bosnia can drop them down a peg. Perhaps if the games reverted back to their old form we could have a complete games with the best possible athletes. I can vividly remember in 1996 as Michael Johnson streaked to a world record in the 200 meters in Atlanta. The sport of track and field had never witnessed such a heart wrenching moment. It was a great 19.32 seconds in Olympic and American history, and it was a moment that was fitting to have highlighted on a world stage. As the National Anthem played that night, Michael Johnson let tears of joy and national pride flow freely down his cheeks as he basked in his and our Olympic moment. America – 1, rest of the world – nil. Those moments are sadly becoming harder to come by. Staggering moments of human ability and desire are converging with idiotic new events to form one jumbled blob of Olympic bureaucracy. Lawn darts, croquet and “duck duck goose” will probably soon be shown in NBC promos. The IOC is ruled by wealthy people with power. I would be shocked to learn that any of its members are actually sports fans. The buck is what matters to them and if adding a new event means more money in their pile, they are darn sure going to add it. This irks me. I am a sports fan and this new approach to the worlds biggest sporting event is for the birds. I don’t quite understand the need to see stone skipping or the newspaper toss join the list of pathetic events, but I will not be shocked if events of that vein turn up eventually. I miss the old days. Mary Lou Retton’s perfect vaulting ten. Mark Spitz’s annihilation of the swimming field with numerous records, and the 1980 U.S. hockey team. These were defining moments, and they were moments that were truly Olympic. The Olympic games needs an overhaul and they need it quickly or the importance of them will fall by the wayside and reality television shows and Darva Conger will grab higher ratings. This isn’t right, and it shouldn’t happen. I guess if you really want to stretch we can find a bright side to this gloom. Everyone who reads this column has a shot at making an upcoming Olympic games. I’ve seen some of you supersonicly inhale one last cigarette before heading into a building, and those of you who kick the sidewalk pebble all the way to class, take heart. The IOC will be meeting again soon and your event just might make it to Salt Lake City in 2002.