Tag Archives: Olympics

The Best Sport in the Olympics

When it comes to the Olympics, I am obsessed with watching gymnastics.  There is no other sport that makes my palms sweat, fills me with awe, and outrages me quite like it.

I think the appeal is based in the undeniable recognition that I am utterly incapable of doing any of what they do.  Have you seen the beam?  It is four inches across.  I can’t do a back-flip on the wide, wide ground, much less four feet in the air on half the width of a piece of notebook paper.

My favoritism also comes from doing gymnastics all through childhood and for one year in high school.  I was inspired by the Magnificent Seven, and now I’m thrilled to be watching the Fabulous Five take home gold.

I haven’t specifically identified the gymnasts as women here, and that’s on purpose.  One of my favorite things is watching men watch the men’s gymnastics.  Whatever pride they took in their Crossfit workouts is quickly eradicated as they see gymnasts hold themselves aloft between two rings for minutes at a time.  The horse?  Ridiculous.  The high bar?  Absurd.  I can’t even fathom their strength.

Can we just deal with the fact that gymnasts have to be great at EVERYTHING?  It’s not like someone can saunter into the workout room and say they are phenomenal at the floor exercise.  The coach would say, really?  Become an expert at three more completely different events and then we’ll talk.

When you consider that, and then you see, say, the equestrian, don’t you feel the slightest irritation that they both get to be called Olympic champions?  I do, is all I’m saying.

Other sports involve brute strength and incredible talent — track, swimming — but gymnastics is also risky.  It feels like death is the aim of every piece of equipment.  Watch someone fall from the high bar just once and you’ll shave ten years off your life.  See a woman hurl herself toward the vault and try not to picture a head injury.  Glance at the beam (without anyone even on it!), try not to envision a quadriplegic situation, and I will applaud you.

The outrage in gymnastics comes from its subjectivity.  In swimming, track, shooting, rowing, there is the mighty clock to tell you if you’ve won or lost.  In gymnastics, there is a group of judges who score each athlete.  For any viewer, this is infuriating.  There is no explanation given, just a number flashed on the screen that always seems wildly inadequate based on the performance given.

I always scream useless exclamations at the judges, “As if YOU could do it!” or “Where EXACTLY was the flaw in that?!”   Anyone who can complete these routines and make it out alive deserves a gold medal, and maybe a suitcase of cash for their trouble.

Everyone has complained that the time difference is ruining the Olympics, but I’m grateful — it removes the anxiety.  I know it’s more fun to sweat it out, but when it comes to gymnastics, I’ll take the relief where I can get it.  USA takes home gold?  Fantastic!  I can watch them tackle the beam without fear of lifelong injury.

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The 2010 Olympics: A First-Hand Account

What kind of a blogger would I be if I didn’t head directly to the source of the hottest thing around and give you a full report?

May I present:  The 2010 Olympics, A First-Hand Account.

And what better way to showcase the Games than by award?  Here I will rate each aspect of our experience on the gold/silver/bronze spectrum.  We traveled to Whistler, BC with Phil and Rachel Goodman (Mike’s sister and her husband).

They win the first gold medal for best traveling companions:

Bronze Medal for Obligatory Tourist Photo in Whistler Village:

Silver Medal for Encounter with Celebrity Gold Medal Athlete Bode Miller at Men’s Super G Event:

Gold Medal for Getting Actual Olympic Athlete to Hold Our Stuffed Animal (Rachel gets ALL the credit for swallowing her pride to achieve this feat):

Gold Medal for Witnessing a US Gold Medal Win (Four Man Bobsleigh) While Standing at the Finish Line:

Silver Medal for International Cell Phone Charges Due to Friends and Family Texting to Say They Saw us on TV at Bobsleigh Event: See video here (at about 3:27).

Silver Medal for Managing to Stay Upright During Blizzard (Rachel, shown here, kicking serious tail):

Now let’s talk about the nighttime activities.  Few things make one feel as wild as being at a once-in-a-lifetime event.  That is all I will say about the following photo except to add that despite appearances, very minimal drinking actually occurred this evening.  Laura (in pink) and Annie (in blue), my dear friends who were also in the Village for the Games, pulled me (in black) in for some fun.

Gold Medal for Olympic-Fever-Induced Dancing on Bar:

Bronze Medal for Most Bizarre Winter-Themed Party in Village (a bar made of ice, complete with glasses carved out of ice, and complimentary parka upon entry, as shown by Mike and Laura):

By far the most exciting event was the US/Canada men’s hockey game, the final event of the Olympics.  We joined Annie, Laura and some insane Canadian fans at Garibaldi’s to watch the game.  We fully represented in our tiny corner of the bar:

Despite a fantastic, blood-pumping rally by the US with their goal to tie the game, the Canadians won and madness ensued:

We were almost fearful to leave the bar, given that we were the official enemy.  But what we never expected, not in a million years, was that as we took to the streets to face the throngs of victorious Canucks, we were treated like celebrities — or circus freaks, depending on how you look at it.  We stood in the middle of the Village and not one minute would pass without people coming up to take their photo with us, to thank us for coming, to tell us that we were good neighbors and good sports.  We were blown away.

On second thought, it might have had something to do with the hats.

Occasionally someone would gloat obnoxiously, but we were intentional about being the first to extend a hand and say, “Congratulations on your win!”  They would always react the same tail-between-the-legs way — “Huh?  Oh, yeah man, good game!  We love you guys!”  We felt like Goodwill Ambassadors for the United States; the six of us were representing 300 million US citizens, so we were on our best behavior.

They even wanted us to pose with their Canadian dogs!  Please disregard small child with finger in nose.

I’ve never felt such effusive international camaraderie.  We didn’t want it to end.  We kept thinking, “How will we ever feel this way again?”  And then it occurred to us…

Gold Medal for Being Fully Prepared for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia:

 

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As the World Turns…Around the East Coast

I am one of many long-suffering West Coast residents who has to deal with the inconvenient and at times infuriating East Coast bias that plagues our great nation.

Usually I handle this with a calm demeanor befitting a Victorian socialite attending afternoon tea.  This week, however, I am handling it with the anger and bitterness of a scorned lover who just found out her ex won the lottery.

What brought this fury to the surface?  The Olympics, of course.

Instead of watching the Opening Ceremonies in real time, in my time zone where they’re taking place, I have to be on nytimes.com getting the play-by-play from commentators watching it in New York.  Yes, the ceremony is actually occurring 141 miles north of my city, yet I’m forced to wait three hours so people 3,000 miles away can watch it first.

Here is a helpful visual to explain the situation:

Of course, many would say that in the age of DVRs these issues are irrelevant.  To those scoffers, I offer this: DVRs were invented to record something that was on earlier that you want to watch later.  A DVR isn’t going to help much when the show doesn’t come on for three more hours.

When it suits them, the media moguls curse us with the opposite problem.  Consider the awards ceremonies: the Oscars, Emmy’s and Golden Globes all take place in L.A., yet start at 5PM PST — so that the East Coast can watch at the more appropriate 8PM hour.  While we’re racing to get through Sunday dinner or afternoon plans, East Coasters are settled in on their couches with popcorn ready to take in the show.

Another illustrative slide:

I can’t place all of the blame on the the men at NBC, CBS and ABC.  I’m happy to bring ESPN into the conversation.  How about a little coverage of our teams, gentlemen?  Does the word “Mariner” or “Seahawk” ring any bells with you?  The only reason anyone in Pittsburgh has heard of Seattle is because they remember paying refs to throw our Superbowl game.  And while East Coasters may bemoan Angels games starting at their 10PM, at least they aren’t sitting in church while the Yankee games start at 10AM.

This bias is pervasive enough to be found outside of programming.  My brother-in-law’s former clients are all in Alabama, and they used to insist he be available from the moment they arrive in the office.  So he would show up every day for work at 6AM and leave at 3PM to accommodate them.  My company headquarters is located in New Jersey, and while not required, I feel the same pressure.

To be fair, the population comparison isn’t even close.  There are approximately 111 million people in the states lining the Atlantic, and only about 46 million on the three states lining the Pacific.  But still.

A less obvious bias occurs in the collegiate arena.  The Ivy League is clustered in the Northeast, and it would seem anywhere outside of that region is irrelevant.  I went to the University of Washington, and I can imagine the laughs I would get applying for jobs in Boston.  Despite my school being ranked 16th in the world, it’s as if we don’t exist.

Speaking of schools, consider this bone-chilling encounter from junior high.  In 8th grade, when I found out I was moving from Pennsylvania to Seattle (the “other” Washington, according to East Coasters), a student in my class came up to me and said, “Seattle.  Hmm.  That’s just west of Chicago, right?”

Maintain composure.  Channel the Victorian tea lady.

“Yes, tech…ni…cal…ly, it is west of Chicago,” I replied, attempting to be kind.  “About 2,000 miles west,” I added under my breath.

In case you’re tempted to blame that tiny error on youth, consider the exchange I had with a fellow junior in college I met in Washington, D.C. while I was in town for a leadership conference.  In what I can only assume was a mild attempt at flirting with me, he said, “Oh, I meant to tell you I’ll be in San Francisco in a couple of months!”

“Great!” I replied, not understanding why he was sharing this information.

“We could do lunch!” he exclaimed.  “I’d love to get together again, and you live in Seattle so we could meet up for a meal.”

I stood there debating which would be more painful — taking a cheese grater to my face or explaining to this person that San Francisco and Seattle are not one but TWO states apart, separated by more than 800 miles.  I wanted to scream, “Would you tell a friend in Philadelphia to meet you for lunch in Jacksonville?!”  Instead I stared at him blankly until a friend listening in (thank you, Annie!) yanked me out of the conversation.

Is it obvious yet that I’m a former East Coaster?  Friends tell me I’m like a child who’s been spoiled; having lived in the center of the US universe, I’m sour now about orbiting my former planet.  Any armchair psychologist can see that all of my sputtering really means that I miss it.  I miss being in the eye of the hurricane, I miss feeling like I could pop into NYC at a moment’s notice (even if I rarely did).  I miss the what-does-your-daddy do elitism, the four-generations-and-we’ve-never-left-town families.  While living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania or Washington, D.C. I loved knowing I was in the historical heart of our country.

Now, 12.5 years into living in Seattle, I can say that I was blind to how good I had it — but I wouldn’t trade where I am for where I was.

Please don’t mistake my missing the East Coast as preferring to live there.  What that coast has in history, numbers of people, and bustling cities, this coast has in geographic splendor.  It’s no mystery why the Winter Olympics weren’t held on that side of North America: where would they find respectable mountains?  Skiing in the Appalachians?  Please.  New Hampshire? Those aren’t mountains;  they’re hillsWhistler and Blackcomb belly laugh and high five each other when they make jokes about the slopes in Maine.

So this week as you West Coasters nestle into the couch to watch the women’s slalom, and you look at your watch and it’s 12:30AM, you’ll know exactly which region of the country to blame.

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