Time for my maniacal, quadrennial addiction: the Olympics. I’ve been a huge fan since I was a kid. Track and field, swimming, gymnastics, basketball… and now, with digital TV, I can watch 24/7. In previous olympiads, this caused problems. Basically: it drove my family nuts.
But Mom, The Simpsons is on.
Hush, Michael Phelps is on the starting blocks.
Mom, the kitchen’s on fire.
Didn’t you hear me? Michael Phelps!
Fortunately, I’ve sucked my kids into this insanity, so they’re no longer plotting ways to tie me up with duct tape and shut me in a closet for the next two weeks. They’ve given up. They can forget Futurama and Dexter for the duration. Yesterday afternoon I actually caught my son watching the judo. My evil plan is working perfectly. Next, young one, we’ll watch the women’s 1500 meters prelims. All 97 heats. Mwahahahahaha!
Admittedly, I’m more jaded than I used to be. Corruption, drugs, and cheating will do that. (Marion Jones: a pox on you.) And rewarding a police state with this chance to show off makes me queasy. But: the athletes should be celebrated. And when I think about all the thrilling events I’ve watched over the years, I still get choked up. Such as the women’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay at Montreal, when the U.S. team beat the doped-to-the-gills East Germans — an upset Swimming World calls “the greatest display of determination and competitive courage in Olympic history.” Or the Sydney men’s 10,000 meters, where Paul Tergat and Haile Gebreselassie gutted it out, step by step, inch by inch, all the way to the finish line. Watch and marvel.
And you can’t look at Natalie du Toit, who carried the flag for South Africa in the Beijing opening ceremony, without thinking: Go, girl. More power to you.
All right, I see that I’m not only watching the women’s cycling road race on TV, but track and field highlights on YouTube. That’s overdosing, even for me.
I’ll let you go with this: an Olympic literary quiz.