Things I’ve Learned While Watching the Olympics – Dave’s Top 5
As I mentioned a while back, I like sports, and I really enjoy watching the Olympics. I don’t necessarily go out of my way to watch a particular sport, or a specific athlete, but I watch when I have free time. In watching the 2012 Summer Games in London from the comfort of my home, I have learned a few things. So here are some observations that jumped out at me, some literally.
It’s more than just a childhood backyard activity. Apparently, it’s an Olympic sport. This fact amazes me, and I don’t know why. My first thought was that they give out Kool-Aid and pb&j sandwiches instead of medals to the top performers. I imagined that, while participants were in the air, they were all screaming "Weeeeeeeee!" and looking around for their moms. Look, I believe I’ve got a high level of tolerance when it comes to watching Olympic events. I’ve sat through rowing, archery, cycling, and several rounds of curling in the winter games. But to turn on national television at noon on a Saturday, and see trampoline qualifying made me think to myself ‘isn’t there an infomercial on somewhere?’. In its defense, no Olympic sport will ever blow my mind as much as the clubs (juggling) and rhythmic dancing (running around with streamers). Therefore, trampoline doesn’t even win the gold for “worst Olympic sport”.
I’ve watched my share of volleyball, and also played some back in my younger days. So I know the rules of volleyball. But I was extremely surprised to see a player for the USA Men’s team actually kick the ball to his teammate, setting up a point in their match against Russia. After letting it sink in a few seconds, I realized I was watching volleyball, not soccer. And that guy just kicked the ball! Maybe you already knew this was okay. But I always assumed that if you can’t bend down to get the ball with your arms, you shouldn’t be playing volleyball! Now, I wonder if soccer players are allowed to run while holding the ball between their knees. No wait, I don’t want to know.
The announcers pointed him out from the start, that the Marshall Islands men’s track and field representative had no chance. But to see how bad he lost it in full speed was a sight to behold. Timi Garstang, whose previous best in the 100 meter competition was 12.56 – 3 seconds behind gold medal winner Usain Bolt – came pretty close to his personal best (12.81) in the preliminaries. Let’s put this into perspective. In a race that generally takes less than 10 seconds to finish, a real live Olympic athlete took 3 seconds longer to get there. That’s kind of like me racing my 2001 Caliber against a Top Fuel funnycar in a drag race. (But, come to think of it, I’d just be happy to try that!)
I watched Pistorius run his way into the 400 meter preliminary race, and qualify for the next round. Born with a defect that had his legs amputated before most children learn to walk, this 25 year old athlete embodies everything that is great about the Olympics. I have to admit getting caught up in the moment, watching Oscar run, envisioning all the challenges he has had to overcome just to get through everyday life, much less to be allowed to compete in the Olympics, or become a world-class athlete. Watching Pistorius run was one thing, but seeing the smile on his face as he qualified for the next round was an image that will rank among my favorite Olympic memories of all time. I want my children to know about this man, and appreciate what they can accomplish with all their limbs intact. This is the stuff movies are made from. Go “like” him on Facebook.
Maybe the international pool of talent is better than it was 20 years ago, but I can’t imagine the 1992 Men’s Olympic basketball team being challenged in any way during the 2nd half of any Olympic game. Ever. This years’ team, after squeaking by with a 99-94 win over an average Lithuania team (2-2 record at the time), is not a dream team. They’re the best basketball team of the 2012 Olympics, but the actual Dream Team consisted of the best players in the world, ever. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird. Come on. There’s a noticeable difference.