The Olympics and The Things You Actually Want to Watch

Aug 3, 2012

The London Olympics features 26 summer sports, with 39 disciplines, and 302 separate competitions, in a desperate attempt to get everyone to watch. 

So you’ve got the Ancient Sports, or the Events No One Watches Anymore, like horse riding, rifle range, and archery -- also known as, Things You Did in Summer Camp, But Stopped Doing After You Learned How To Drive and Talk To Girls.  Why not include making moccasins and key fobs?     

The Modern Penthathlon has got the complete collection: fencing, horse jumping, shooting, a 3-K run and a 200-meter swim – or, The Full MacGyver. Introduced in 1912, the Modern Pentathlon is one of the least modern things in the modern games. 

A truly Modern Pentathlon would include:

  • Aerobics – which is not as silly as rhythmic gymnastics;  
  • Running Brain Dead On A Treadmill;
  • Bikrim Yoga, for some reason; (or Programming Your Television?)
  • Sitting On The Weight Machine I Want To Use For Five Minutes, While Admiring Yourself In The Mirror; and
  • Filing Your Taxes Electronically. 

The smallest category is The Things You Actually Want to Watch: swimming, track, gymnastics and basketball.  Everything else is filler.  Oh, and Tae Kwon Do, of course.  Why?  Because my editor likes it.  That’s why. 

At the other extreme, you’ve got Fake Sports the IOC Recently Jammed Into the Games in A Failed Attempt To Get Your Teenager To Stop Playing Video Games For Ten Minutes And Watch Through At Least One Commercial Break, which occur every 38 seconds.  These sports include:

Mountain biking, wake boarding, trampoline, and beach volleyball. 

Well, OK…lots of teenage boys will watch beach volleyball, because they have Discovered Girls.

If the IOC really wants to appeal to today’s kids, they should add:

  • The 100-Meter Dash, With Your Pants Halfway Down Your Butt;
  • Texting While Walking;
  • Texting While Doing Everything Else; and
  • Beer Pong. 

The problem is, the table tennis snobs get upset when you call their sport Ping Pong, so perhaps we should call it Beer Tennis.  Which, come to think of it, would be a pretty good sport, too.   

The last category includes rowing, cycling, weightlifting and distance running.  Or, as most of us call it: Exercise. 

But the silliest sport I have ever seen in the Olympics, without question, is Synchronized Diving.  This involves two people jumping off the platform at the same time, and doing the same dive. Get it?

Of course, once they’ve settled on doing the same dive, it’s kind of hard to speed it up or slow it down.  And they’re pretty much guaranteed to fall at the same speed, which, last I checked, is the speed of gravity.  So the only thing they really have to synchronize is when to start their dive – which they do by saying,

"Ready?”  

“Yeah.”

“1-2-3.”  Dive.   

In other words, the exact same system kids use to play rock, paper, scissors.  Synchronized bowling would actually require more sophistication.    

But all is not lost.  We can save this sport – and here’s how:

Start with two divers on the platform, but from different nations, and have them duke it out on the platform.  First one to get tossed in the water, loses.  I'd watch that – and you would, too.  Even your teenager might. 

I know, I know.  All these events are difficult in some way.  But just because something is difficult, does not make it Olympian. Pushing the garage door button, then running under the door before it cuts you in half is difficult – as my adolescence will attest – but it didn’t make me an Olympian. 

Folding a fitted sheet?  That’s hard, too.  I’ve never seen anybody do it very well.  But, you won’t get a medal for it. 

At least, not yet. 

John U. Bacon is Michigan Radio’s Sports Commentator.  Views expressed by Bacon are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, the University of Michigan.