Five things I learned from the 2004 Olympics


Sept. 2, 2004, midnight | By Nick Falgout | 16 years, 4 months ago


Yup, it's about that time again. Time to sit back, look contemplative and then go to sleep. I mean, recap what I (and, as an extension, we) learned from the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.

In no particular order…

Number Five: Commentators are awful
You know there's a problem when you actively wish for commercials to save you from the pain of having to listen to commentators drone on and on and on about some stupid story or make inane remarks like, "Oh gosh, his left knee has just a slight crookshank right there (*draws heart on irrelevant part of screen*). That's going to be at least a nine-thirteenths of a point deduction there, Ted." Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if commentators for "sports" like diving or gymnastics would, instead of assuming that we know everything there is to know, try to communicate with the viewing public on a level they'd understand. For example: "Diver from Brazil make big splash. Score low." Or they could at least try not to tell us that, because a gymnast fell off an apparatus, they aren't going to score very well. News flash! We'd pretty much figured it out. That is the only reason most people tune in to gymnastics, anyway: to watch people fall and pretend they aren't angry at themselves. Hilarious.

The worst, though, is when commentators make statements so mind-numbingly stupid that the other commentator just sits there in stunned silence for a few seconds before managing to open his or her mouth again. For example, during the women's team gymnastics events, one of the commentators said, and I quote (sort of), "The Austrian team came here with one simple goal: to win the gold medal." GUYS! I've got a GREAT idea! Let's go to the Olympics and TRY to win BRONZE! Or take a comment overheard during the men's individual gymnastics event, something to the effect of, "If the judges think you're supposed to win, then you're going to score higher." Nice job buddy. Way to undermine the entire validity of your sport.

Speaking of which…

Number Four: Gymnastics is *officially* not a sport
Sane and rational people have known for eons that gymnastics is not really a sport. Sure, it requires physical ability, dedication and hard work, but seriously, no activity where the participants, male or female, wear leotards can ever be considered a true sport.

All kidding aside, this year, gymnastics has been involved in a judging scandal, much like ice skating at the 2002 Winter Games. Paul Hamm, an American, won the gold medal in the individual men's gymnastics competition. However, apparently Yang Tae-young's parallel bars routine had points unfairly deducted, or had the scores added up wrong, or something. So, though Tang received bronze, he should've been golden. Now the FIG (International Gymnastics Federation)(crazy Frenchies) has strongly urged Hamm to give his medal back, and there's been outcry and blah and blah, etc. Remind anyone of a certain whiny Canadian figure skating pair? Thought so. A sport is called such because the implication is that the athletes decide the outcome, not some third party that is apparently so liable to such grievous error. Sorry, gymnastics. At least you've got some company.

Number Three: I am terrible at ping-pong
Not just bad. Not just awful. Absolutely, one hundred and ten percent terrible. I used to fancy myself a fairly good pinger of the pong, if you get my drift. I could hold my own among most of my friends; the fact that my friend and fellow Silver Chips staff member Eric Glover beat me pretty handily each time only meant to me that I was simply the number two player in the world, not the top dog.

Boy, was I wrong.

Did anyone else drift over to Bravo in a fit of boredom and find the ping-pong (referred to olympically as "table tennis") coverage? Only one word comes to mind to describe the experience of watching Olympic ping-pong, and that word is "Holy jiminy willickers, Batman!" Those guys are good. Incredible. You can't even see the ball. The concentration, the poise, the agility, the precision, the hand-eye coordination, the outright luck! It's amazing, enthralling, breath-taking, and I'm running out of thesaurus entries!

Of course we all know what this means…. Olympic air hockey anyone?

Number Two: Water polo is the new equestrian (giggle)
Water polo is a cross between lacrosse (har!), hockey, football, team handball, soccer, marathon-running, and ultimate fighting. The very combination of some of those words should send you into wild paroxysms of delight, as if I'd just told you that they invented Cinnabon cheesecake. Violence? Check. Fast moving? Check. Objective scoring system? Check. Violence? Check.

Whoa.

Seriously, who knew? Who knew that a sport with the word "polo" in it, which usually conjures images of rich snoots riding around on horses with golf clubs, could rule so much? The games are high-scoring, intense, fast-paced and absolutely filled with illegal contact. There's dunking, biting, punching, kicking, even Wedgie-giving! How this sport hasn't caught fire yet in America is beyond even my great sphere of comprehension.

Maybe it's because someone other than America won the gold medal…

Which brings us to:

Number One: The Olympic spirit is still alive (and kicking)
Given all of the controversy, uncertainty, cost, security, everything that people were afraid of going into these Olympic games, and taking a look at the end result, it seems like this year's Olympic Games was a wild success. NBC had a ratings bonanza, admittedly mostly on the back of a one Michael Phelps. Olympic and world records, as is their tendency, were shattered. We even had uncanny displays of sportsmanship, like when a Brazilian marathon-runner, leading after 22 miles or so, was knocked from the track completely by a crazed bystander. He ended up finishing third, but I haven't heard a single thing about him complaining. Sportsmanship is the spirit of the Olympics, after all.

But the Olympics are not only known for sportsmanship. They are also known for their knack of bringing the world together in strange ways. For one week, Iraq was simply the fourth place soccer team in the world, not a war-ravaged nation struggling to get back on its feet. For one week, no one cared about how many people had died in Israel or Palestine yesterday. No one was paying attention to the bad that fills our everyday lives. For one week, there was triumph and happiness in the world. That's the Olympic spirit. And it lives on.

See ya in Beijing.



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Nick Falgout. Nick Falgout was bored one day and decided to change his Chips staff information. And now, for a touching song lyric: "I'm a reasonable man, get off my case Get off my case, get off my case." ~ Radiohead, "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd … More »

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