Why I Hate the Olympics

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Why I Hate the Olympics

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Think Pieces | July 25, 2012 | Comments ()


I have loathed the Olympics for my entire life. At least there are a hundred other channels now, piles of DVDs, and Netflix these days. Those dark days in the past have receded, when one of the networks would shutdown for weeks in order to breathlessly flood our lives with ice twirling. I am convinced now that not having cable during those times of my childhood was child abuse by foul.

My first exposure to the Olympics was with the original Dream Team, when Michael Jordan and his buddies got together and savaged random pick up teams from the rest of the world while America blew its collective load over just how awesome we were. There were of course the arguments that this was a demonstration of why the Olympics were supposed to be about amateurs and not professionals. But watching amateurs is about as exciting as watching the College World Series, where we watch all the athletes who weren't good enough to be professional. Congratulations, here's your trophy for participating. And if we make it all professional, we've just engineered our way back to the professional sports leagues that already exist.

It's been a tradition for over two thousand years, they insist. The worst to me personally are those who insist that this tenuous tie to history means that I should implicitly care about the Olympics. I'm not sure what seventeen different diving competitions really have to do with the tradition of oil-dipped nude Greeks wrestling each other in between bouts of underage buggery, but here we are anyway.

The proliferation of events for the sake of events makes my ears fashion shivs and stab out their own ear drums. Just listening to a list of swimming and track events is like listening to Bubba talk about shrimp. So when I see the orgasmic delight of talking heads telling me that this is unprecedented, that this swimmer just won his 17th gold medal, I'm more impressed that someone came up with seventeen different ways to swim across a damned pool. I'm sure there are small strategic differences between the myriad of indistinguishable events, but then explain to me why the baseball players don't get separate medals for hitting seven different sorts of pitches, running to four entirely different bases, correctly identifying balls and strikes, catching ground balls and fly balls, blowing the biggest bubble, spitting the sunflower seeds most precisely, and scratching each nut individually and with team synchronization.

It's the false earnestness I hate the most though, the endless little vignettes about how little Jimmy overcame being born in the first world to fulfill his dream of running in circles. Oh but not the hundred meter circles, we mean the two hundred meter circles. For the one hundred meter circles we will instead be talking in awestruck tones about this kid whose name you can't pronounce from a country you've never heard of. His entire extended family was massacred by warlords, but don't you know that his grandmother's dying words were "keep running." Back to you Tom, this heartwarming story has been brought to you by Pepsi.

And I should say that I don't begrudge the athletes, or mock them in the least. They work their asses off trying to do what they do better than anyone else in the world. That is humanity at its most fantastic. But the Olympics as a product, as a thing that a network spends a billion dollars packaging into something to sell ad space, that's the tip of what's objectionable. The fact that people buy it up is what is most upsetting. Those people who are so excited to tell you about how they watched the triple-dodeca-running-thon last night and the boy who raised three blind cats won and isn't it just so exciting? They couldn't tell you where a track is in their hometown. They couldn't tell you if their local high school's track team got shut down because the money ran out. Those people who latch onto some human interest story attached to an obscure sport and pretend that they're a fan and not just a vampiric consumer of emotional porn.

Sports aren't about winning, they're about losing. When your team wins, it's glorious not because you heard some Readers Digest story about their lives, but because you have weathered their losing. And for every time you've screamed in wonder as the replay shows that two toes brushed the turf as time expired, there are a dozen times you've watched them fall short. Being a fan is pain, it's taking on the agony of the losing side so that someday you will get the joy of the other. And every time our team wins, we know that someone else is suffering how we have suffered. The only joy is on the backs of others' losses, not because we're zero sum sadists, but because the agony of losing is the gift we give to the winners. Except the Yankees, because fuck them.

For viewers of the Olympics, this is lost, for they are nothing but fair weather fans jumping on the bandwagon of whoever the talking head tells us has the most inspiring story. And if their long jump falls short of the next guy who the network neglected to do a puff piece on, well now let's flip to the semi-finals of women's curling. There's no investment of emotion, just hit after hit of cheap stolen joy, never feeling the depth of the losses because there's always another winner to move on to. And those fleeting little triumphs don't last longer than the next commercial break because they were never earned. Watching the Olympics is like a succession of one night stands, each blurring into the next, little spurts of enjoyment but none of the deep joy that is grudgingly yielded by years of devotion.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Gordon Taylor

    And I think those of you who have messaged here to say the Olympics are justified are missing the point. First, the Olympics is no longer a sporting contest. That died long, long ago. The entire basis of the Olympics is to make money for sponsors etc. That's why governments who tell you that the host country will make massive amounts of money, over and above the grossly disgusting costs of hosting this event (lets not call it a sporting contest) are misleading the public in the extreme. The purpose of the games used to be amateur sporting contest. Now we have money paid to so called sports people to appear. It may be outright payment or a tenuous appearance of expenses to appear; its irrelevant. The outrageous waste of tax payers money when the country is in dire state shows how much politicians could not care one iota about the ordinary citizens plight. If they did, this kind of profligate squandering of public money would never take place. It's about time politicians realised they cannot be all things to all men and try and administer this country in the fashion best placed to make it succeed. When this worthless event is long gone, we as tax payers will still be paying money for its two weeks of sheer, unmitigated folly. It's up to you as tax payers, you can either realise what the word priority means or allow these administrators to dig your country into further ruin. As for the non entity that is Sebastian Coe, let's not even talk about this man who is an establishment lacky.

  • Colin

    Loved this article. Glad olympics are over. Good to get some fresh air and watch real issues on the news. These athletes parade around with the same sense of entitlement and self worth as an artist or a pompus psychology student.

  • Freestyle

    I hate fucking commentary too. Why do I need some wad to describe what the hell I'm seeing? You mean the guy in front wearing the flag I've seen all my life that just crossed the line before all those guys before him... WON? What? Give me all the details because I fucking missed something, BOB! Sports commentary takes a dumb concept and makes it even dumber.

  • Freestyle

    The Olympics are an obnoxious form of human expression the US has perverted into a mirror of itself. We root for shirt colors and silly stories about people we knew nothing of and will never know. We don't really even mind where they're from (google stories of countries buying teams and athletes playing for nations they've never set foot in) because we don't ask and don't care. Tell us who to root for and the viewers happily oblige. McDonald's makes food no Olympic athlete would ever touch- Doesn't matter. Pro b-ball players whoop up on 'international' college kids- Doesn't matter. Garish uniforms that yearn to say 'this space for rent'- doesn't matter. Medal counts- we're told that matters. But to who? Who keeps track of that stuff outside that sad period when the games rear their ugly head? Or better yet, can you name how many golds, silvers and bronzes did the US take home in 1985 Summer Olympics without the help of Google or Wikipedia? (Hint: there were no games in 85.)

    What baffles me is the entire concept. Who cares who's the fastest or strongest anything other than 5 to 10 year olds? Is stick throwing still relevant? If some guy came up to me and told me he could outrun anyone on Earth I'd likely reply: good for you. Seriously, where's the value in anything any of the Olympians do outside the Olympics? Outswimming sharks? Outrunning runaway taxis in Times Square? Jumping fences?

    And as for the 'they've trained their whole lives for this!' So? Accountants train all their adult lives for their jobs too, make crappy pay and still keep at it despite changing tax regulations. I don't see the world going nuts over guys who protect clients from audits. Again, who cares what these people do for irrelevant activities?


  • Palaeologos

    I have mixed feelings about the Olympics, myself. The idea behind the Olympics--an international stage for the expression of beauty, talent, diversity, and identity--is, for me, always compelling. Then again, there's always a part of me watching some random clip or another thinking, "There goes the next Wheaties model." There's also something cynical at large behind them; people (in the U.S., anyway) seem to care more about the total number of medals won than about how they were won, let alone who actually earned them. And in the end, almost everything about them is forgettable; ask an American about the '84 Olympics, and fifty bucks says the first thing out of their mouth will be something like, "Isn't that where they showed that Mac commercial?"

    But, hey, YMMV.

  • Dinka

    With all the shit on television both fiction and non fiction- this is what should be given air time and celebrated. These are the greatest athletes in the world and represent the best of the human spirit. If all you pay attention to is corniness, then this is lost on you. It brings together into one place people of all ages from all over the world. These people SHOULD be celebrated. I welcome this distraction from the disgusting kardashians. It makes me happy to know these people exist. I love pajiba, but this opinion you should keep to yourself.

  • The Wanderer

    I generally watch the Summer Games for the gymnastics (all the while reminding myself I should not get aroused at the young women, as they're all under 18 and I'm going to Hell), and beach volleyball.

    The Winter Games, though - it's got to be Curling. It has everything. Technical expertise, artistry, drama, and you can play it indoors wearing sneakers.

  • Matchetes

    Yeez SLW. Go ahead and hate the Olympics all you want, but this reads as just a smug half-assed rant. I love them, but I get all the reasons to hate the Olympics (the commercialization, the self-importance, cloying character pieces, the burden it places on the host cities), and you being forced to be vaguely aware of track and field twice a decade isn't one of them. "And I should say that I don't begrudge the athletes, or mock them in the least"...Except that you just got done mocking them and their sport. Own up to it, don't spout empty sentiments.

  • Clancys_Daddy

    "Events" like the olympics are the reason I have cable, the internet, netflix, movie tickets, a boat, and a kindle, so that I can avoid "events" like the olympics.

  • Littlejon2001

    Boo!!! Communist!!! USA! USA! USA!

  • BWeaves

    I grew up watching the Olympics during the Cold War. It was US vs. THEM. It was our amateurs vs. their full time, fully funded "amateurs." There were no designer costumes. Most skaters sewed their own outfits.

    My grandmother snuck out of Russian at the turn of the previous century and watched the skating with an evil eye. If a USSR skater was on, she'd say, "I put a WHAMMY on the Russian!" and DAMN, they'd fall down like a sack of potatoes. Nana was awesome. But it only worked once a day, so she had to save it for the best events.

    Back then, the network would air everything. You saw the skaters actually skate figures. You saw a lot of the heats, and not just the ones with Americans in it. It was more well rounded and enjoyable to watch.

    Now, they only show the last heat that has a "MERCIAN" in it. And they don't show you any other heats, because they're so busy showing you the kid's backstory. I don't care. It's a sporting event. Show me the sports.

    I don't watch it anymore. Not on TV anyways.

    Anyway, I think the Olympic committee is corrupt and riddled with bribery, so I really don't find it very uplifting knowing all that.

  • Anne Taiz

    I'm a practitioner of an "obscure" sport--one that doesn't draw fans into mass stadiums. These sports are difficult, and the only real venue, the top achievement is the Olympics. If all you care about are spectator sports that fill stadiums, I can see this is a real bore. However, many Olympic athletes never make the big bucks and most of their reward is the doing of their sport. Watching that kind of dedication is refreshing. Watching a bunch of guys who are so over-paid for being entertainers of the masses, well, that's old news, and there are plenty of puff pieces about them, too. I feel a lot more cynical about that.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    I like the music.

    I actually like the Olympics. It is just sad to see so many athletes who have committed their whole lives to a sport, hard work and sacrifice, and lack of cigarettes and booze. Sad... so sad...

  • wonkeythemonkey

    "Brought to you by Pepsi?!" Don't you know that Coca-Cola© is the Official Cola-Flavored-Beverage® of the Olympic Games™?

  • Miley's Virus

    My first Olympic experience was the 1980 Winter Games. Back then there were no tickets needed for a bunch of events and the atheletes walked around nd cheered on thier teams like everyone else. I was in the arena when the US hockey team beat the Soviets (a group that had dominated NHL teams in exhibition games and arguable the best hockey team on the planet at the time at any level) and got to watch Eric Heiden win 3 of his 5 gold medals and set 2 world records. Two of the greatest athletic triumphs in the games history. I guess what I'm trying to say to all you Olympic haters out there is fuck you and the horses you rode in on.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I don't care for the Olympics either but I also don't watch professional, semi-pro, college or high school games. I do enjoy a violent hockey movie occasionally, however.

  • ,

    Wow, Steven, I couldn't agree with you more (except on one point, which I'll get to) but you left so much out.

    Such as how the corrupt and evil IOC has no qualms about climbing into bed with totalitarian regimes like the one in Beijing while offering up the fairy tale that hosting this two week-long commercial for capitalism with a few blurbs of sports thrown in will bring the bad guys to their knees and water the flowers of sweet sweet democracy. How did that work out, China?

    Such as how Israel is still waiting after 40 years to acknowledge that sometimes bad things happen at the Olympics, such as athletes getting slaughtered, and maybe it would be a nice thing to remember that.

    Such as how the Games suck ridiculous amounts of money out of nations that these days have precious little of it to lavish on their own shipwrecked peoples. Do you think the Greeks might like to have back some of the bajillions they squandered on the Athens Games? How about the Brits? And yet for all the money blown, poor folks still get shoved out of the way, as they always do, so the rich developers can build their arenas and stadiums and Olympics villages.

    Such as how the venues those billions of dollars get spent to build will be largely empty and useless in a year or two?

    Such as (getting to that one point) there can never again be another Miracle on Ice, or Jamaican bobsled team, or Eddie "the Eagle," because no, the Olympics are WAY TOO IMPORTANT to allow any fun. No, we must have all-star teams of professionals who have multimillion-dollar pro contracts and NBA rings and Stanley Cups but whose lives somehow just aren't complete if they can't shove the amateurs the fuck off the stage to try to win add that gold medal to the trophy room built onto the McMansion because ... well, because the sponsors and networks pay a FUCKLOAD of money to put on and air the Games and it just wouldn't do if a bunch of basketball players named Bob beat the fuck out of Angola and nobody watched. So we put together a Dream Team that can only make news by failing. You'd get bored watching amateurs? Why would I want to watch a fucking NBA all-star game? Nobody watches the thing any other time.

    Such as no baseball OR softball? THAT'S a sports festival? Are you fucking kidding me? And no golf either?

    Such as fuck synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics and fuck them hard.

    And while I'm at it: fuck the Olympics, too. Fuck them in the five rings.

  • ,

    50 years FOR THE IOC to acknowledge ...

    Sorry, got all caught up in my own spitting vitriol there.

  • ,

    Jesus ... "40 years."

    I'm so pissed.

  • I feel like, at least in terms of the kind of coverage, you'd have a different perspective if you lived in Canada. The TV coverage here is drastically better than in the US. Not only are more sports presented live, but they cut back on those package stories about the athletes in order to focus on the events themselves. Here and there they'll feature some Canadian athlete, but for the most part the aim is to have great coverage of the games, and to do it with as much insightful commentary as possible.

    The Olympic coverage is so great in Canada that I'll often end up watching sports that I would never in a million years think to watch just because they present it so well and with quality, informative commentary. Here and there I'll check out what NBC is doing and I'll just sit there in shock at how bad the coverage is. Then again, I've seen American hockey coverage, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised at the awfulness.

    It seems in Canada we prefer to celebrate the actual sport of it all, whereas in the States its all about some giant, hollow, pseudo-patriotic, corporatist crap.

  • Josh

    The NHL on NBC is decent coverage, this is just depending on who is playing, or the event is. If it was the Winter Classic or the Stanley Cup Finals, you know the coverage would be good. However if it was a regular game with nobody teams, they both will not get the same coverage, if it were teams like Boston, New York Rangers, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Toronto, Montreal, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Vancouver, Chicago, Dallas and Colorado--they would get the attention from NBC. Mainly, the teams are from the Eastern conference would be aired on NBC regularly, but not many teams in the Western conference would be seen as much.

    The NBC coverage for hockey is half ass to watch and horrible, and I already said: this is depending on who is playing or what the event is. The interviews are okay to a point, but they have too much filler during the game-in interviews. They just annoy me for a reason, they are not there for interviews, they are there to play hockey and play hockey for money. Interviews in moderation or for occasion is good, or when they period/game is done with, then it's fine.

    I live in the United States and the games in Canada are straight to the point. I have seen some games on CBC, they ARE straight to the point. They show hockey, the full game without making looking horrible. CBC does still show the segments of interviews or have commentary that isn't shit for the sake of trying too hard, as when NBC does it. CBC is still good. CBC is keeping up tradition with how hockey is meant to be played. NBC is decent, but compared to CBC, it's shit indeed. NBC is still good compared to when Fox and ABC did air it.. At least, ESPN was good to a point with it..

    In Canada, hockey is for the actual sport itself, with some filler here and there to get the people's attention of to happen next. Here where I live, United States hockey on television is nothing but a multinational corporation's way of getting involved with making it more appealing to the eyes of all of the viewers, using worthless commentary that means nothing to the same itself, and the advertising of shows that is nothing for that network. Sure, all of the networks do that, but NBC is doing that too much in the game, that I cannot take the game seriously. NBC has too much ads placed in the game, and even if the game goes without a goal for awhile: there's a "timeout" for the big time sponsors way too much--and they don't place a timeout during those 3 minutes, so you miss a goal, fight, or something that happened in the game--then out of nowhere: timeout from NBC! What the fuck? NBC places automatic ads for their sponsors and then directly following that "timeout," they actually have a timeout? NBC has no logical sense of doing a NHL game, without fucking up, excluding the playoffs or the Winter Classic.

    When it comes to the NFL Sunday Night Football games, they do the same thing... I am not even making this shit up, either. So it's not just the NHL, it's every sport to get money from their sponsors, and they have to give money to that corporations for more direct links to more sponsors... NBC have no business, economic, and ethical procedures when it comes to airing sports these days. Actually, they didn't fuck up until the middle of the 90's with their sporting events, that is when they got too greedy with everything related to money. Even the Olympics they do a "timeout" and they place an automatic timeout from their sponsors to cash in, so they can get money for their corporation, itself. The fucking Olympics, they are greedy with money! They usually go back to the event when it's over, or when a new competition is on...

  • Bert_McGurt

    Yeah, the coverage up here is certainly BETTER, but I don't know that it's that huge a gap. There's still the treacly, sappy time-filler segments, but I agree there are less of them (and they try to spread them out amongst non-Canadian athletes too). Still, it was better when CBC had the official rights. Then we got Brian Williams AND Ron McLean.

  • It's a huge gap. The NBC people are terrible. The commentators are so bad.

    I somewhat preferred CBC, but I have to hand it to CTV, they're main coverage of Vancouver was excellent, and the way they spread coverage over all sorts of Bell services was amazing. Could stream everything easily online, and there were like five HD channels on Bell TV. I was pretty impressed.

  • Gina

    IAWTC: I live in a border state, and I have been watching the CBC coverage rather than the NBC coverage since Atlanta. Much superior.

  • everybody ever

    So much whining, and all entirely pointless. Change the damned channel and spare me the drama queen shenanigans.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    I love to watch the Olympics for the same reason that I love to watch ballet, opera, the Tour de France, and things like that. It's because I can't do what they do.

    I am not graceful, I am not fleet of foot, I can not sing, I can not ride a bike up a
    mountain, I flail around in the pool like a drowning hippo. I’m a little chubby, I’m winded easily, I can’t jump very high. I tried fencing, my right arm about fell off. I wish I could do all of those things, and more. I have dreams that my boy could some day do those things, and more.

    I try. I run (Ok, jog. And walk). I jump around a little, and sing a bit, when no one can hear or see me. When I watch people excel in anything physical – cycling, swimming, track, fencing, gymnastics, volleyball, whatever – it gives me goosebumps of envy. It makes me want to try harder, even though I know I’ll never be any better than I am right now.

    But the work that those men and women put into being the best they can possibly be, and getting to the point where they can compete against people even better than that? It’s beyond what you or I could possibly fathom. That alone is worth our respect, and if it means wading through miles of treacly crap to see one woman from Saudi Arabia come in last in the 800m qualifying race, it’s worth it to me.

  • Hippos can swim.

  • Artemis

    Drowning hippos can't.

  • Pete

    This is possibly the most boring article I have ever read. Top 3, definitely.

  • Romeo Cranberry

    this may be the single greatest article ever written for pajiba...i agree with every word of it.

  • John W

    You didn't have cable in 1992?

  • MAG

    BTW, Ease down on the Yankee insult. Better than Red Sox.

  • MAG

    Some good points. However, regarding swimming. Each different event goes through "heats", quarter-finals, semi-finals and then the final competition for the medal. They do that for 50m, 100m... etc... all of them. Same as basketball, baseball and other sports. They get more medals because they are in more competitions, going through more semi finals and finals, whereas in baseball, they go through one.

  • ,

    This goes for track, too: Why is the 50 so much different from the 100 that it gets to be a race? Why is the 200 so much different from the 100 that it gets to be a race? Swimming and track might be a little more interesting (and would certainly take up a lot less time) if we cut out about a third of the events. It's easy for track: 100, 400, 1600. 400 relay. 100 hurdles. High jump, long jump. Shot put. MAYYYYBE discus.

    Everything else is bullshit.

  • Anne At Large

    My dad was on the IOC. It it all political bullshit. Most athletes are preparing for the World Championships of their sport. This is just an extra way for them to get some cash (with any luck).

  • Jerce

    The Olympics bore the butt practically offa me. SLW is my kinda guy.

    What IS amusing to me is all the logistical fuckaree going on in London. Everything they are trying to do to keep order in the city for the Games seems to go wrong on them. They are screwing the Olympic pooch and it is just hysterical.

    Why any city in the world would agree to host the Olympics, much less campaign for the privilege, is a pure mystery.

  • GunNut2600

    The reason that the international basketball allowed the US to send pros (because this decision was NOT made by the US) was because the rules were being abused by every other nation. The US was the ONLY team not playing professional basketball players. If a player played in ANY other league other than the NBA, it was okay for them to be considered "amateur". It was a complete farce because the US would have a team of college athletes going up against professional teams. It was just like how the USSR abused the amateur rules in hockey...only every single nation in Europe was doing it.

    And also, the Dream Team is responsible for popularizing Basketball across Europe. Ask any of the international players in the NBA today, and they will speak of the Dream Team as inspiring them to play. Basketball is HUGE in Europe now, often only second to soccer overseas.

    I tell you two decisions that the OIC made that pisses me off...getting rid of baseball and softball. Baseball because its extremely popular across three separate continents, it was extremely competitive, and the games were exciting to watch (seriously...if you missed out of the US/China game you didn't see the near brawl, players getting ejected, and the Chinese team manager getting dragged off the field). Softball pisses me off because they removed it because it was "not" competitive (why then the most winter Olympic events are continued I have no idea) even though the US didn't win the gold. Then...after they get rid of it, the OIC releases a report detailing the need for more women team sports...well why the fuck did you get rid of it?!?

    The real reason is that its about money. Baseball and Softball don't have an easy time period to schedule. That is the SOLE reason why they got rid of them.

    Also...NBC is the WORST at broadcasting sporting events. You get better coverage watching a feed from a 3rd world country than trying to watch NBC butcher its coverage.

  • jane

    Are we not allowed to like comments? Because I like your comment.
    So baseball and softball are cut but there are events for ping-pong and ribbon dancing? Hmm . . . ok.

  • GunNut2600

    Also, while it is annoying as fuck to see all the advertising, the US is the only country that does not directly subsidize its athletes. Most Olympic athletes in other countries are paid by their government to do just that. US athletes have to pay for everything themselves and the vast majority of them have day jobs. This is why you see every US athlete under the sun shelling just about every product possible. Also, for a significant number of them, a large portion of that money goes back into supporting their entire team, such as coaches, athletic clubs, etc.

    The stark truth is that for many of these athletes, they take a real hit in the pocket book for their dreams. And its annoying as fuck to see NBC cover it so fucking badly. Seriously...the weather channel would do a better job.

  • Mara

    Wow, man, you should have your cynicism gland checked, seems hyperactive. Emotional porn?

    The Olympics are about bringing the world together, and for some reason I doubt you'd have this kind of vitriol for the World Cup, despite it's equal amount of corporatization. People learn about new sports and about countries and places they haven't heard of. It also brings countries together. I mean, with all of our atomized entertainment these days, how many things actually bring together people from various backgrounds, ages, etc. to talk at the water cooler?

  • BarbadoSlim

    Awwww that's so precious. And you actually believe it too.

  • Jadashay

    I don't mind the advertisements, I don't even mind the human interest melodrama, it's network t.v., what do you expect? The thing that makes me absolutely dread the Olympics is the fact that for the next few weeks, I have to hear every nitwit I know act like they have always followed swimming or running or what have you for their entire lives. If I have have known someone for 3.5 years and they have never even said the words butterfly stroke to me, there is no way I want to hear their opinion on whatever golden boy is swimming this year. It's just like World Cup, people act like they give a shit, when all they are responding to is hype.

  • I don't much care for the ads or the blather, but I enjoy watching the competition, even in sports I don't normally watch. In fact, it's because I don't normally get to see those sports, and some of them are cool. Also, I admire the heck out of the folks who set that goal and make it all the way to the Olympics. Even if you come from privilege, you still have to train incredibly hard, and some dude from Uzbekistan might just kick your ass anyway.

    What the broadcasters don't seem to get is that the drama is built in. We don't need the "human interest" crap, and we sure as hell don't need it told to us by some faux-documentarian. I would love it if they would spend more time showing us events and less time talking about them. It's sports. It doesn't need too much interpretation.

  • Trey Shacksit

    I only tune in for the butts.

  • While I agree that the vignettes can be annoying, I greatly enjoy watching the competition and getting caught up in the drama. It's like others have said, about not being a baseball fan but still getting thrilled by a close final game in the World Series. It reminds us that the world isn't all doom and gloom and people still strive for excellence no matter their nationality.

  • John G.

    I don't even care enough about the olympics to hate them. They are just nothing to me.

  • Leftylad

    I hate Glee. All those people, all singing and happy ... They should be as bitter and depressed as I am. There's no reason for anyone in the world to get together in one place unless there's a body count involved I says. It's all just so pointless, like the College World Series. The only reason anyone would ever play baseball in college is because they're failures in baseball and in life. Not that I have anything against anyone who playes competitive sports. They're just failures and they're all wasting their lives. And I hate them.
    Yeah, sports all suck. Let's all just sit around and write goth poetry instead.

  • Slash

    It is amusing how people talk about how important all these sports are, but pay attention to them for only 2 weeks every 4 years. So I guess they're not THAT important.

    Still, I don't begrudge the athletes themselves the international showcase showdown, I just don't want to watch it. I've seen parts of various Olympics before, when I was younger, but now, it just mostly bores me. It's the sitting through hours of crap (like mentioned by SLW above) to see the few minutes of actual performance that I can't abide. I'd watch a highlight reel. Actually, that's the only way I'd watch any sport. All highlights. No filler.

  • BarbadoSlim

    my love for anything with "hate" in its title not withstanding I would enjoy an Olympic event taken to an extreme level. By which I mean with every athlete roided up, to the max. A showcase for the pharmaceutical and genetic acumen of their respective nations. It would be glorious.

  • Groundloop

    A multi-event, one day competition based entirely on how roided up the competitors are could be interesting. They could be judged on things like how much of their body mass is comprised of backne, a beer keg toss n' crush strength challenge, and testicle size. Except for that one the rules would be different for men and women. For the men's competition, wee ones win. For the ladies, bigger is better. If we get some more ideas I could submit it to the IOC. Maybe we could get it in as a demonstration sport for 2020!

  • BarbadoSlim

    See, that's EXACTLY the kind of events Im talking about.

  • ,

    Many years ago I worked with a guy who said there should be a separate Olympics for steroids users. (Even I might watch that.) He also said they ought to build separate roads for drunk drivers.

    I thought he as a genius.

  • Lindzgrl

    I have to say...I loved this. I feel like it speaks to a lot more than just our Olympics obsession, too.

  • Stephen Nein

    I've been dreading the melodrama whorage that NBC/Universal will interject in the broadcasts. They've literally made the spectacle un-watchable.

    The good news is that I read that the events will be streamed live over the Internet. I don't know if the sob stories will also be played - I hope not. Bad news is you have to be a cable (or satellite) subscriber. NBC, you suck.

  • BobbFrapples

    I watch for the opening ceremonies because I love a good we-can-do-better-than-the-last-country pissing contest. Also, aside from golf, there is nothing more soothing to fall asleep to than high dive commentary.

  • Puddin

    Yeah, this is the only time I can watch female athletes compete in network prime time. Your cynicism is not welcome here. May I also add- suck it France! 4-2 baby! Bring on Colombia!

  • France

    "Suck it France". This is another aspect of the games I don't get. 'France' is not at the olympics- just some people wearing shirts that say 'france'. Most people in France have probably never met them (kind of like you). France didn't win or loose anything. Again, it was just a handful of people wearing shirts that said 'france'. Same goes for all the teams.

  • vlestragon

    This is my attitude exactly, and add in also 'sports that are never shown on free-to-air television'. Watching the Lauren Jackson, one of the greatest female basketball players, play for the Aussie Opals is a rare delight. Even more incredible is the chance to watch 470 (sailing) world champions Mat Belcher and Malcolm Page DESTROY the competition in one of the most exciting, challenging and unrecognised sports around (LET'S GO MAT AND MALCOLM!!). It must be a wonderful feeling as an athlete competing in a rarely televised sport to know that, at least in one competition, your whole country is supporting you. This is particularly so for athletes from smaller countries, who often come home as national heroes.

    I'm so bored with the Australian media concentrating on overpaid male douchebags going through the motions in a select few sports. Bring on archery, waterpolo, rowing, equestrian and gymnastics! Who knows, maybe it will inspire some kid to become the next Phelps, or encourage people to go and support their local fencers/swimmers/pole vaulters/divers at the next state or national competition.

    Tl;dr: Yes to televising and celebrating female athletes, lesser known sports and athletes from countries outside our general sphere of influence!

  • Royalewithcheese

    I like the Olympics because it's exactly the right amount of sports for me. New faces competing in a variety of events for a couple of weeks every few years. I have no idea where ppl find the time to follow sports teams.

  • REL

    Jeff Winger: "Sean Penn called... he said to dial it back."

    Relax, man. It's fun to root for USA regardless of whatever puff pieces we may see before the race. And of course it's commercialized. Everything this is. Christmas is commercialized, but that doesn't make me hate Christmas.

  • Groundloop

    I hate Christmas. But I love the Olympics*.

    I'm a mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in comfy, breathable cotton.

    *(the competition - not the human interest stories).

  • dahlia6

    This is why I hate televised sports. NASCAR (argue amongst yourselves whether or not this is a real sport, I don't care) is religion in my house, and I hate it with a loathing that is quantum in its magnitude. Now, going to the track and watching it first hand, breathing it in, enduring the sunburn and the drunken groping and cheap burnt hot dogs, I can dig that. I'm there, its happening, and as a pseudo-participant, it means something. As for watching it on TV, its just a bunch of cars driving in a circle for hours while some drunk jag-off tells you something so stupidly obvious you just want to punch through the TV and throttle him, because if I was drunk on the job, I'd get fired, but this guy gets put on TV and talks to millions of people every Sunday.

    To me, sports on TV in general is like porn. If I'm not playing, I have no interest in it.

  • MixmastahH

    I appreciate the effort people are putting into protracted rebuttals against this article, and in response I say:
    Steven is right. The Olympics are garbage.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Well...I understand cynicism about the Olympics as a commercial event. But I think any opportunity to be reminded of how big and and diverse the world is, any chance to rub shoulders with people of all different nations in a peaceful way, is not to be dismissed.

    It is a celebration of humanity, the human body, and excellence, and for all the times we see athletes with excellent trainers and sponsors and motion capture to make movements more efficient...we see some rando from sub-Saharan Africa who can outrun him/her.

  • ,

    You're fooling yourself.

    It's a celebration of money.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Like many large scale institutions, the Olympics has problems at the top. But the people on the ground? The athletes actually competing? They are not there for the money.

  • Malware

    I like the Olympics, it comes around just often enough. The only thing I could agree with is that it is a little rude to have the US basketball stomp all over everyone like that, but its a competition for the best in the world, not amateur best in the world. You don't think those gymnasts are professional? So I understand letting the basketball players stay in also.

  • Fredo

    The Olympics were started as a festival in honor of the god, Zeus.

    So, in a sense, the Olympics are a pagan celebration.

    There's your hook to enjoying this! Now go rile up the religious nuts!!

  • Pookie

    Wilson, leave the sports to people that know about sports. Your talents are thrilling us with stories about space and shit.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I have to agree for the most part, despite the fact that I love watching the Olympics. It's mostly for the chance to watch weird sports like steeplechase (hey, you there! Go run through that puddle! Now jump over that really big hurdle!) and biathlon though. They should really think about adding the World's Strongest Man competition to the Summer Games...

    Although I have to mention that if you want to see some emotional investment, then come to Canada during the Olympic hockey tournament.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Oh, how I love World's Strongest Man. And the Crossfit events too. Brilliant, jawdropping insanity.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Let's not forget the Lumberjack Challenge! Especially when they decide that a regular chainsaw just isn't big enough, so they replace the engine with one from a snowmobile.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I really do love the Olympics, save for two parts. 1) the sports that allow professionals in (basketball), I think it's disgusting. 2) the emergence of non-sports as Olympic competitions. Case in point: Trampolining. What the HELL is that and how the F did it get into the Olympics??? Ice Dancing, even Snowboarding, please someone explain how this happens?? I fear it's some sort of ploy to allow American's to win more medals but I want very badly to be wrong.

    As far as the emotional investment, I don't understand why we need one to enjoy watching these people give everything they have for momentary glory. Sure it can't compare to the collective release Cubs fans would feel were they to win the World Series (they won't), but why do we have to compare the two? Just because they are sports competitions doesn't mean we're talking apples to apples. It's apples and oranges and there's nothing wrong with that. So you know what? I'm going to watch Usain Bolt destroy everyone and I will enjoy the hell out of it.

  • Pajamas

    Minor point, but you can't assert that ice dancing was included so that the US could win more medals. Ice dancing has been dominated by countries from the former Soviet Union since...forever. Every once in awhile, the French, Italians or Canadians get some people in there, but the US rarely does.

    But I am with you on Trampolining. And possibly rhythm gymnastics.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I'm not that bothered by professionals competing in the Games (tennis, soccer, the soon-to be-added rugby and golf all do or will feature pros), unless it creates an entirely uncompetitive tournament (I'm looking at you, basketball). I actually think that the addition of pros to ice hockey IMPROVED the competition, since up to that point the Russians were overwhelmingly dominant. In the 11 Games from 1950-1992, Russia (or the Unified Team) won 8 of the 11 golds. Since then the tournament seems more balanced.
    Though I recognize my national bias in that case.

  • lowercase_ryan

    you are correct about hockey. The basketball thing just rubs me so wrong that it's affected how I view pros in other sports. Professional hockey truly pulls talent from all over the world too. Letting pros into Olympic basketball was a purely ego driven move. I actually think that the way they do it in soccer is the best of all worlds. Olympic soccer is for players under 23 with 3 slots for older players. It feels a lot more like amateur play at least.

  • Slash

    No, letting pros in the Olympics was a MONEY-driven move. Nobody in the U.S. would give a fuck about Olympic basketball if it was played by a bunch of guys who weren't good enough to make a pro team.

  • knifeyspoony

    the reason the US started sending pro basketball players was because everyone else already was. other countries don't really have collegiate sports the way we do...Ricky Rubio started playing professionally when he was 16, for instance, and top soccer players usually start playing professionally when they're 17-18 years old.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I still don't give a fuck about it even with the pros. give me archery or high jump any day.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    See, the set up for soccer is so random though. If they made it entirely for players under 23, that would make some sense. 23 is on the young side to be the upper limit, though.

  • knifeyspoony

    well, Olympic soccer is usually total garbage because it's such a low priority for every nation involved.

  • lowercase_ryan

    really I don't see why there can't be some consistency in the requirements for who competes and who doesn't. It all strikes me as random.

  • pbo

    I understand that the slickly packaged presentation of the Olympics is a bit much to take, and that one melodramatic human interest story after another gets old in a hurry. And as an obsessed NBA/NFL/NHL fan, I agree with your thoughts on winning and losing.

    But you are missing out on what makes the Olympics so compelling to watch. The Olympic competitors have spent years and years training for this precise moment. The Olympics are the pinnacle of their athletic achievements. And right in front of us, we get to watch whether their years of preparation and training will be rewarded. For the most part, they are not competing to earn a bigger contract. Most will not become rich through endorsement deals. They are competing to compete.

    When that much human energy has been directed to a single event, how can it not be compelling to watch? So while I would not particularly care to watch some random swim meet, I am fascinated to watch these athletes compete at this moment, to try so hard, and to succeed or fail in their life's main pursuit.

    Even if you hated baseball, you could not watch a late innings matchup in the deciding game of a World Series and not be taken by the drama and tension that exists. Football detractors have to concede that watching a team summon themselves for a last minute drive, and watching the defense trying to stop it, with all of the desperation and tension that comes with it, with players laying it on the line, is compelling viewing.

    So forget about the production and Bob Costas droning on about whatever. Focus on the amazing moments of human competition, and the resolution of years of working and dreaming that often comes in a few brief seconds of frenzied athletic effort.

  • Colin

    Thanks for this. How often do human beings get the chance to achieve their biggest dream in life? These athletes can do incredible, superhuman things; they have spent lifetimes training for the Olympics, and even some of the very best will fall short. But watching somebody win a gold medal and realizing that that person is literally living out his or her wildest dreams -- I can be pretty cynical, but I find that deeply moving. Olympians have a single minded dedication, an awe-inspiring perseverence, a compulsion to keep doing something they love, despite the lack of fame and the high likelihood of failure. They overcome injuries and setbacks and tragedies along the way, and sometimes the stars align just right for them and for one unforgettable moment, they get to stand tall and be recognized for their achievements. (And some of the best stories belong to athletes who never win gold but whose drive and devotion is undeniably stirring.) It is one of the few things that still inspires in me a sense of childlike wonder -- just look what our fellow humans are capable of!

    Again, I think a good dose of cynicism can be healthy in a lot of cases, but good lord, this article just drips with largely unjustified scorn and comes off as unflatteringly bitter. Of course the networks and the advertisers do their best to strip the spectacle of all that makes it so compelling, but I'm not sure why that should utterly overshadow the spirit of the games. For me, none of that BS really matters when I see the face of an athlete at the moment they realize they have won a medal, accomplished something almost impossible and earned a victory that nobody and nothing can take away from them.

  • ,

    How often do human beings get the chance to achieve their biggest dream in life?
    Don't most or all of these sports hold a World Championship every year? Why does calling one of those years "the Olympics" make them such a big deal? Pro basketball just finished holding its world championship (the NBA playoffs) a month ago. We have to hold it AGAIN and pretend it means something?

  • zeke_the_pig


  • APOCooter

    This. I love watching the Olympics for this very reason. Just about all of them. Yeah, the contrived story lines are annoying, but it's the freaking Olympics; there are plenty of natural story lines. Michael Phelps attempting to win 8 gold medals in one Games? I'm there. Watching Paul Hamm fall from first to twelfth, and then come back to win the gold? One of the most intense viewing moments of my life. And it's not a nationalist thing, either. I was all over the 2004 women's all around competition. Svetlana Khorkina was competing in her THIRD Olympic games. She is, quite possibly, the best female gymnast of her era and this was her last chance to win an all around gold medal. The tension was palpable.

    Contrived storylines are bullshit. But real ones exist, and they are compelling.

  • Tammy

    Ick. I need a shower from all that cynicism. Did you get dizzy up there on that high horse?
    People like spectacle. The connection with history isn't the Olympics themselves, but the idea of arenas full of people watching other people do things that astound. It's got more to do with Roman Circuses and Cirque du Soleil than it does with modern professional sports. It's a show. And it's no worse than 9,000 iterations of "Toddlers 'n Barely Disguised Abuse" or "Let's Watch A Clearly Suffering Person Suffer From Mental Illness on National TV for Our Amusement!".
    At least the Olympics occasionally inspire a kid to aspire to something. Something more than catching herpes from Snooki, anyway.

  • googergieger

    So what I say just a lot nicer warrants thumbs up? Good to know.

  • piedlourde

    Don't be such a thumbs up-hog.

  • Psychicdog

    "Let's Watch A Clearly Suffering Person Suffer From Mental Illness on National TV for Our Amusement!"
    Yeah, I can't believe How I Met Your Mother is still on the air, either.

  • Tammy

    BaZING. Well played, sir[or Madam].

  • john


  • Rooks

    This reminds me of somegreybloke's video. His criticism of the Olympics comes from a slightly different angle...

  • zeke_the_pig


    I live in London and I work in the bloody East End; literally round the corner from ground zero and I've had to get the fuck out of the country and drink myself to oblivion just to escape the corporate gang bang.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    I'm not familiar with that, but I might be soon. I live in Tampa - the RNC will be here soon. Shudder.

  • mc-rox

    I live in North Vancouver and was around when the Olympics were here. It was a freakshow for sure for 17 days. It was super difficult to walk anywhere in our downtown core and our public transport was overburdened. Twice in that period, I had to get to work downtown. All the buses were full so perfect strangers in cars drove up to the bus stop and offered me and the one or two others who were standing there rides into downtown free of charge. This didn't just happen to me, I heard several stories like this where people got free rides everywhere in the Lower Mainland during that time. So yes it was crazy but there was a bunch of come-togetherness which was awesome to see. I hope this happens to London too. Best of luck to you.

  • Gonewithtwins

    I can sympathize, Zeke! I live in SLC... I basically didn't leave my apartment for all of February 2002.

    I still get the shakes.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I'm a bit north of you, and the fervor my co-workers had for all things Olympics was kind of scary. I'm still seeing that damn logo on cheap outerwear.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I can't imagine living anywhere near the games, just unimaginably horrible (although it would be worth it if you could finagle your way into the Olympic Village. People be getting FREAKY). But the corporate side and the competition side of the games remain very distinct and separate for the rest of the world watching at home.

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