I think we'd all find it easier to enjoy the Olympics if we were given some sign that the competitors are having a little bit of fun. A wink of the eye, even, or a subtle semaphore. We'll take a smile; hell, at this point we'll take a smirk.
Obviously, the Olympics have always been serious business for the athletes, but when did it all get so damned solemn? The opening ceremony has become like four hours of church. (I think I just blasphemed, by the way, since most reports call them the Opening Ceremony.) Just because NBC paid $90 quadrillion to televise them, can't we have some fun? How about an opening ceremony featuring 30 minutes of Chris Rock -- with the requisite number of translators -- followed by audience participation in Olympic events like balance beam and platform diving?
Wouldn't you love to see some corporate honcho on his sixth gin and tonic be called out of the stands to attempt to clear 12 feet in the pole vault? Couldn't NBC pick up the insurance on that, maybe as a rider on the "Fear Factor" policy? How about an over-60 competition in floor exercise? Let's see which yellow-jacketed security guard can knock down more clay pigeons in target shooting.
Where's the passion? There's very little from the participants, unless you count that Japanese swimmer who yelled to the point of annoyance after beating Brendan Hansen in the breaststroke. The U.S. men's basketball team, in addition to being composed of horrible shooters and indifferent defenders, is on vacation. They can't wait to get to the pool.
Even the winners are only moderately contented. Expectations for people such as Michael Phelps are so stratospheric that failure is the only possibility. There was no earthly way he could exceed expectations, since the expectations called for eight gold medals.
(The Greek synchronized divers who took gold were a nice diversion, but that event is just a little too weird. And the weekend wasn't all humorless. After watching the U.S. women's gymnastics team, I was heartened to see that the old costume designer from "American Gladiators" has finally found meaningful work.)
At the current rate of depreciation, fun is going to be completely drained from the Olympics by 2012, when the opening ceremony tentatively calls for a six-hour procession of blank white framed canvases representing the competing concepts of vast possibility and vast nothingness.
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