• DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    by Mary Beth Ellis
  • Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Random House Trade Paperbacks
This area does not yet contain any content.
« Olympics Crack UPDATE: Shiny, Shiny Italians | Main | If Olympics Lovin' Were People, I'd Be China »

Olympics Crack UPDATE:  Splash

See, this is why the Olympics are my high-octane stimulant drug of choice.  In six months--six weeks--I might not be able to pick these four guys out of a lineup, but for tonight, I pushed my laptop from its near-permanent position on my legs as the race entered its final leg.

"Nope," said Josh The Pilot.  Then, "Well, wait."

I stood up, we waved Jason Lezak in, yelling "Go, go!", and then screamed and slapped hands, there at midnight on a Sunday, watching the Olympic champions holler and shove at each other.  I shouted something very unChristain at the French team, and we settled in again, smug and sharing a cinnamon roll.  They will not want for a date for a very long time, even more so than the Japanese gold medal swimmer who, in the words of one of the commentators, "can now claim the title as the world's greatest breaststroker."

What must it be like to do something like this--swim the fastest relay split in the history of the human race as the most powerful man on the face of the Earth* sits in the stands, as a wall of cameras tracks your every move?  Swimming, water polo, track and field:  All digestible sports (well, the water polo is questionable, what with the fetching caps tied demurely beneath the chin), but certainly not something I care about outside of a four-year cycle.  At the top of NBC's primetime Olympics broadcast, we watched a swimmer named Brendan Hansen face off for his second Olympics in a row to the same man who'd beat him in Athens.  "This is what's been going through his head four years," the commentator said cheerfully.

He lost.

The entire event unspooled in about 35 minutes of network time, including commercials and introductions.  And now... gymnastics!  And Michael Phelps, Who Is Supposed To Win And Therefore Gets All The Attention Whether He Wants It Or Not. (And yet, those poor other three:  Lezak, who, and I am thrilled to report, is OLDER THAN ME, shatters a world record, and one of the headlines reads, "Phelps Stays On Course For Eight Golds.")

We're in a different world now; an Olympic victory guarantees a flash of late-night mentions and a few truly fantastic photographs, but even if people remember who you are, it's going to take them four years to do so, and even then it's going to be, "Wasn't he the guy who..."  Increasing globalization has dimmed the all-consuming nationalism which drove the Cold War--if we beat the Russians on the vault, it's no longer a triumph of the free world over communism, but one shoulder-chiseled, potentially overtrained, glittery interview subject outjumping another.  It's a business now, some say.

I would not like to believe that, and I'm not entirely sure why I came to this ever-expanding blank box, filling it with bright images of four men who are barely above the age of my students.  Maybe it's because I'm a Reds fan and highly attached to Notre Dame football and needed to win for once.  Maybe it's more for me than for you, so that I'll scroll through the archives a few months, a few years along and remember that barely a year after we were married, we sat side by side in our home with our lives resting on our laps, sharing a sports high because our underdog swim team had beaten a smack-talking French team.

Or maybe it's because, at least in my own little space here, I wanted to make sure those four years didn't mean a thing.

everybody into the pool at:  mbe@drinktothelasses.com

* Specifically, Bill Gates

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (7)

I still get a rush from remembering the US Hockey team kicking the stuffing out of the USSR, back when nobody in Ohio, except some people in maybe Toledo, had ever heard of hockey and I had to high five myself and call my friend in Pittsburg on the phone to shout and yell (take that Brezhnev!)
At least now there's a pub in Columbus where I can go on Saturday mornings and hang out with the other poor souls unfortunate enough to live in the US and be enamored of the English Premier League (soccer).

August 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterstarnarcosis

That "water cube" building is really, REALLY amazing

August 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterred pill junkie

Last night, my brother and I sat up and watched the relay. We were curious to see just how good this French team was that the US had "no chance of winning against". We used to swim, of course in our day, Speedos did not go to your feet and boys did not wear caps, ever. But we watched and cheered. We yelled at the commentators, who were sooooo wrong on this one. We were happy for the team. And yes is it great for Michael Phelps on his quest but I was so much more impressed with Lezak. I didn't know he was older than us, but I did hear that HE COACHES HIMSELF. That is total motivation. I have trouble coaching myself away from the snack isle and to the gym. He was amazing but then again, things like that happen in the Olympics.
I was thoroughly disgusted with the commentators though. Did you hear the comment about the young one on the team, swimming his first OIympics? They said "well of couse he is going to stand next to Phelps, he knows that is the only way he'll ever get TV time." How sad, that they couldn't even show him cheering w/o referring to Phelps.
I think I cheered more for the team to win, just to prove the commentators wrong than to actually beat the French.

BTW--Did you see the piece on the 33 year old gymnast from Germany. She went to the games at 16, won team gold, then moved to Germany b/c they had better hospitals for children w/ leukemia (sp?) and now is on their team.
Also, there is a 41 year old swimmer somewhere in the games. Can you imagine the headlines at the 2012 Olymipcs as I take the block, "She started training at 31 knowing that age was no longer a factor" (Well, a girl can dream can't she?)

August 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKell Belle

After the whooping and hollering died down (I'm sure my neighbors loved that, as I had my windows open), I believe my exact respons was "Suck it, France."

This is something absolutely mesmerizing about the Olympics for me (despite my belief that they were far more awesome when they opened happened once every four years--it was this cycle of Important Things: Olympics! Leap Year! Presidential Election!). You're right, though--in a few months, I won't be thinking about these people (unless Phelps gets another DUI or something), even though I'm sure they'll be busy being awesome on a somewhat smaller stage.

August 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

Kelly, that is an excellent suggestion. I'm starting my Olympic training for weightlifting TODAY. (No water sports. I am NOT getting into my bathing suit before a worldwide audience.)

And yeah, I was mega-impressed with the gymnast. She's totally my hero, to have a comeback in sport known for sending embryos down the vault run.

August 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMB

MB--quick update, the 41 yo swimmer won a medal. And you too can be in water sports, if you'll notice, the trend is to wear a suit that is very tight and make you look bulky, even if you aren't. Plus, it'll be hard to tell if it is you or not as you are in the cap and goggles.

August 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKell Belle

[...] doing my best to maintain By-Proxy Sports Win Pumpitide over the alternate-heavy men’s team bronze in gymnastics, especially since it was such a [...]

Comments for this entry have been disabled. Additional comments may not be added to this entry at this time.