Column: Finally time to change the channelEarly Sunday evening, I did something I hadn’t done for in two weeks: I changed the channel on my television. Before that, if I wasn’t either working or on my bike, two activities that took up a fair amount of time, I was stretched out on the couch watching the Olympics.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
Early Sunday evening, I did something I hadn’t done for in two weeks: I changed the channel on my television.
Before that, if I wasn’t either working or on my bike, two activities that took up a fair amount of time, I was stretched out on the couch watching the Olympics. Because I have only the most basic of cable packages, that meant I was tuned into the over-the-air high-definition broadcast. I was stuck watching whatever NBC wanted to show me at any particular time. Beach volleyball? Sure. Horse jumping? OK. Ryan Seacrest reporting on who’s being discussed on Facebook? Look, just make it fast, OK. I think something’s about to happen in synchronized diving.
There was never any reason to look for anything else. The Olympics has all of the stories you could want. It had greatness in the form of Michael Phelps chasing the all-time medal record and Usain Bolt, who reminded the world once again that if you need someone to run down the block to get something for you, there is absolutely no better choice.
The Games gave us disappointments, like the men’s 4x400 relay team, which failed to win the gold for the first time since, I think, the original Olympics in Greece. The team had its hardships. One of its runners broke his leg while running a qualifying heat and still managed to finish. That was amazing, although, when the camera cut after that story to Oscar Pistorius, the South African who was the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics, it kind of put things in perspective.
The Games gave us new national heroes, like swimmer Missy Franklin and gymnast Gabby Douglas. It also let us share in the stories of people we’d never heard of before and will never hear from again. Like, um, that one guy. You know, with the nose?
One person on Twitter suggested at some point during the games that perhaps one average person should be allowed to compete in each event to give viewers the proper context to appreciate what everyone else is doing. Clearly, that person did not see the very early rounds of the 100-meter dash, where runners who hadn’t run the automatic-qualifying time got to compete for a chance to advance to the later rounds.
Apparently, if your country has someone with a pair of tennis shoes and you want to send him to the Olympics, you’re welcome to do it, a fact that led to several heats of people with no chance of winning a medal going head to head with other people who had no chance of winning a medal. And even then, some of them were losing by the length of a city bus or more in a race that is usually over in less time than it takes to microwave a burrito.
It was pretty incredible.
By the time the second weekend of this year’s competition rolled around, I was in deep. On Saturday, as whichever talking head was in the studio announced that rhythmic gymnastics was coming up after the break, I said to myself, “If ever there was a sign that it’s time to turn off the TV, that was it.” I thought it was a good joke, and I resolved to make it again when there were other people around to appreciate it (you’re welcome). Then I sat and watched about 10 minutes of young women twirling ribbons. And I’ll admit, they twirled ribbons better than anyone I’d ever seen twirling ribbons. I bet they’re great people to know at Christmas. And I bet they drive their cats absolutely crazy.
That’s another one of the great things about the Olympics, though: becoming invested in sports you might not otherwise remember existed. I had several friends complain about the confusing world of track cycling, which I think is a lot of fun. And be honest: when is the last time you ever heard so much conversation about badminton?
The Olympics is our chance to pretend we care about things like who the world’s best rowers are, or which person we’ve never heard of can throw a javelin the farthest.
And that’s worth watching.