The title pretty much says it all, but if you don’t like the Olympics, I don’t trust you as a person. I love the Olympics. Always have and always will. There’s something about the whole production of the greatest event in sports that just gets me. I love the pageantry of the opening and closing ceremonies. I love the puff pieces about the athletes informing you how much they’ve had to struggle as they strive for the pinnacle of a sport I just learned the rules of. I love the excitement when they attain the pinnacle of that sport. I love the tears when they don’t. I love getting way too into a sport that I know nothing about, pretending I’m an expert for a few days while really having the loosest of grasps on what’s actually happening, and then completely forgetting it exists for four years. It’s just the best and if you can’t get on board, you have a serious dump in your pants.
I’m genuinely not sure if I like the Summer or Winter Olympics better. To be honest I don’t even think it really matters. I think if I had to choose, gun to my head, I’d pick whichever one I had seen most recently. They both bring heavy hitters of events to the table. Gymnastics vs figure skating. Swimming/track and field vs skiing/snowboarding. Water polo vs curling. Soccer vs hockey. How could you choose? You can’t. Since it’s currently the Winter Olympics, however, I’ll say that’s my favorite. One of the things I love about the Winter Olympics is that like 30% of the events seem like they originated out of the necessity for residents of Nordic countries to find food. The Biathlon? That 1000000% was invented after some Norwegian guys figured out some people were better at hunting after miles of cross-country skiing than others.
“Have you noticed that Henrik can settle his breath and take remarkably accurate shots from hundreds of yards after skiing miles into the woods?”
“Of course I’ve noticed, Henrik is by far the best mid cross-country ski shot in the village. Everyone knows that.”
“Do you think that has more to do with his specific genetic makeup or with some sort of training regiment of which we are unaware?”
“I’d say likely a little bit of both. I’d assume that, as with most sports (yes I’m referring to this as a sport even though we have yet to agree upon a specific set of rules, a general goal of the activity, or any parameters at all for how it would be scored), his ability is a pretty blended combination of genetic affinity towards the activity and a certain commitment to sharpening his raw talent through repetition. Rarely do you see an athlete that is able to reach the peak of their sport without both a genetic gift and the work ethic necessary to become an expert at a skill. It’s both aspects working in harmony together that produces the truly great athletes.”
“Yeah, that makes sense, thanks for putting it into terms I could easily understand.”
More or less how I assume the Biathlon was invented. And then some 150 years later, I’m sitting on my couch on a Saturday afternoon with $50 on the line for Grejta from Finland to take gold in a sporting event in which they cross-country ski to a shooting range, shoot five times, then continue on their cross-country skis with their rifles slung over their backs like they’re in the middle of a chase scene that was cut from The Grey. If you can’t get up for that, I don’t know what to tell you.
Obscure racing aside, seeing the USA jersey in just about any sport is enough to get my juices going and my heart racing. Chloe Kim and Shaun White on back-to-back nights had me fully invested in snowboarding, and I’m honestly not even really sure why. Chloe Kim absolutely obliterating the competition as a 17-year-old was just about as much pride as I’ve felt in my lifetime, which is strange when you consider I did literally nothing to deserve the feeling besides being born in the same country as another person with way more talent than me. But pride is pride, and I felt proud. And Shaun White’s last run had me quite literally on the edge of my seat. I’ve never snowboarded. I don’t follow Shaun White’s career outside of the Olympics. But I had a pit in my stomach as he dropped into the halfpipe for his last run. And when he landed his last jump? I may have been more excited than he was. You don’t get that type of anxiety-inducing action at the drop of the hat, on command, in any other sporting event. I have to watch 16 Vikings’ games to even have a chance to watch a playoff game that will produce that same type of raw emotion. With the Olympics, you just turn on the TV after work and look for the person wearing the Red, White, and Blue, and you’re immediately invested. It’s like nothing else.
If we’re being honest, the thing I like most about the Olympics might be that it’s different. It’s a change of pace from our regular, shit lives for a couple of weeks. Instead of going home and watching the Wild or the Office/Parks and Rec for the millionth time, I can go home and pretend to be involved in something that feels like it matters a little. Stay up a little later waiting for the American’s last run down the giant slalom track. Maybe even set my alarm a little early to catch a couple periods of a U.S. Hockey game before work. For two weeks we all get to throw a wrench in our normal routines and distract ourselves with something that only happens once every four years. To me, that’s pretty cool.