Olympic Love

Oh, how dearly I love the Olympics. Seriously. I love them. I always have, and I suspect that I always will. I remember distinctly the excitement felt when in 1992, at the age of twelve, I learned that there would be an Olympic games every two years instead of every four. Oh the joy!

You see, I’m not really your stereotypical sports fan. I don’t love all those standard, go-to sports us Americans generally love. I could give a rats ass about the NFL, unless it’s the Superbowl, in which case I really only watch for the commercials. I grew out of my NBA phase when The Portland Trailblazers stopped winning. Portland wasn’t “Rip City” without Bucky, Clyde “The Glyde”, and Duckworth. We never had a pro baseball team, so I never grew to love or care much for the sport. Though I will admit to being a fan of the SF Giants, but only because they won the World Series the year we moved to San Francisco. I would be a hermit living under a rock if I sat here and said that I didn’t get caught up in all of that excitement. But this year Lincecum has forgotten how to pitch, and the Giants just aren’t seeming so giant.  And don’t even get me started on NASCAR. Is that really even a sport?

So, what sports do I like?  Well, let me tell you.  I LOVE all of those off the wall sports that you never see on ESPN, and really only get to watch during the Olympics.  The Summer Olympics to be exact. For there are exactly eleven Summer Olympic sports that I love to watch:

  1. Archery: and not just because I kinda love The Hunger Games
  2. Athletics: all the track and field events
  3. Badminton: because they use shuttlecocks, and I think that’s a really funny word.
  4. Equestrian: because I love horses.
  5. Fencing: because you get to play with epees, which is really just a fancy word for swords.
  6. Gymnastics: because Kerri Strug vaulted her team to gold in 1996, even with a practically broken ankle.
  7. Shooting: you mean I can get a gold medal for shooting a rifle. Now, that’s just cool.
  8. Synchronized Swimming: I have no explanation for why I love this sport.
  9. Table Tennis: because Forrest Gump did it, and Forrest Gump is cool.
  10. Trampoline: because it’s so rediculous, who wouldn’t like it?
  11. Triathlon: because you have to be an ace in three sports and not just one.

Additionally, who wouldn’t love a competition that at one point included croquet (in 1900), and tug-of-war (until 1920), as medal earning events?

And this year, I’m expecting to add one more favorite to the list. This is the first year that women will be allowed to compete in Olympic boxing. Generally speaking, I don’t like watching people voluntarily get beat up. But, I have recently become completely inspired by Marlen Esparza, who will compete and is expected to win gold at this years games. Vogue recently interviewed her, and wrote a pretty good article about her. You can read it here. This woman seriously, and literally, kicks ass.

Now, the Winter Olympics shouldn’t be left out, but they just don’t hold the same magnetism for me as the summer games do. There’s only two winter game sports I actually enjoy watching: Figure skating, and curling. It makes for a much less enjoyable two weeks of viewing. And I only like to watch curling because it’s both funny and f’ing ridiculous.

I just love strange sports, mostly because they take a conscious act of interest and will to actually become Olympic caliber. I mean how the heck do you even get in to archery, or fencing, or competitive shooting for that matter, at an age young enough to gain those skills? It’s not like your parents signing you up for little league, or peewee football. And, who goes to college on a trampoline scholarship? I remember in middle school there was an archery week in gym class. I loved every minute of it, and I was even a pretty good shot. And when I went home and told my parents they kinda laughed at me, and told me to join the track team instead. I’m assuming their reaction was less about their opinion of my skills as a budding archer, as they were about them simply not wanting to figure out how on earth to find me lessons. Regardless, athletes in these off the wall sports have earned my unending respect for no other reason then the tenacity, and determination it must have taken (in my opinion) to even get that far. Now, that’s not to say that soccer, or basketball for example don’t take determination. It’s just that the road seems much more defined for those mainstream sports.

But I do have one mainstream sports love, and most of you won’t be surprised. I’m from Oregon after all, and I went to college in Eugene, aka Track Town USA, and home of Steve Prefontaine.  Yeah.  I’m obsessed with Track and Field. I just don’t understand how people can run that fast.  I did follow my parents suggestion, and joined the track team (albeit briefly) in high school. It was 1996, and Michael Johnson was a running fool. I watched him and his golden Nike racing spikes win gold in the 200 and 400 meter races in both Olympic and world record times. He made me want to RUN so I could actually be in the Olympics. A dream that quickly died as I quit the track team, realizing that I liked to run, but simply didn’t like to compete. But regardless, a love for the sport was born.

So even though I’ll be honeymooning (and hopefully not sunburned) in Mexico for the start of this years games, you’d better bet I’ll still sneak in some viewing. I may be watching in Spanish, with subtitles, but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

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