Two Bits Man contemplates the Olympics and celebrating freakishness

I’ve always found it kind of funny the way everyone gets worked up into a frenzy about the Olympics. I can watch freaks of nature perform ridiculous physical feats anytime I want at the circus. Yet somehow, when you put a flag on everybody’s shirt it’s supposed to be something more important and noble than that?

I guess that the main difference is that the stakes are a bit different at the Olympics; if you mess up your act at the circus you’ll get yelled at by your stage director and you might not get your $50 bonus for Christmas, whereas if you screw up at the Olympics and you happen to have been born in the wrong country, you run the risk of said country’s dictator removing you and every trace of your existence from the planet. Wow, yay Olympics! Let’s all hold hands and sing!

It’s a little known fact that within a month after the end of the Olympics, nobody cares about any of the events or who won them. This Phelps guy who everyone can’t shut up about right now will be so much of an obscure name in 2009 that he’ll be lucky if he can get work cleaning swimming pools, let alone doing laps in them.

It’s my understanding that every Olympic athlete who wins a gold medal is basically being rewarded because they’re a genetic mutant in some way. For example. I heard from the announcers during one of the swimming events (I think it was the 153.5 meter men’s doggy paddle, or one of the 100 other variations) that the reason Phelps can swim so fast is that he has freakishly long limbs. That and, you know, training every day yadda yadda, that’s not important. You might as well just have an international arm-length measuring competition because that’s what it comes down to in the end, apparently.

But I will say this about the swimming events: at least they reward the athletes for being able to perform a task that could be utilised in day to day existence. Swimming fast means you can escape attack from sharks if you should ever fall overboard on a ship, and I guess you’d get to shore faster anybody else could. So at least it’s of limited application. But they should make you get drunk first because that’s the state in which you’re most likely to fall overboard on a ship.

Some of the others I’m not so sure about. Take badminton for example. I don’t really understand how badminton is an Olympic sport. I guess a badminton player would be pretty good at swatting insects out of the air, especially if they were big insects, but I think that’s pretty much the extent of it. I can’t really figure out how that made it into the Olympics, but Jenga remains on the outside. I could definitely get excited about Olympic Jenga.

The most puzzling part though is the way these people get treated like heroes. I mean great, it’s admirable that they’re able to combine their mutancy, a robotic training ritual, and a crazy obsession into an expertise at some game or task. Big deal. I bet I can do calculus better than Phelps. Am I going to get a gold medal for that?

So while there’s a lot I don’t get about the Olympics but that doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re totally cool. In fact, I think I’ve discovered my new favorite sport. It’s called women’s beach volleyball. There’s just something about those athletes that fascinates me.