Once every four years, I’m in the mood to watch a little discus, a little javelin throw, some long jump, some pole vault, and some hammer throw and shot put. These are not events you see every day, and don’t really want to. Every three years would be too much; every five years, too little. Four years seems just about the right interval at which to spend an afternoon watching a bunch of shot putters do their thing and wondering where they get the motivation to spend so much time practicing.
It’s not as if these athletes can turn pro, even if they win the gold medal. The kids on “Jersey Shore” will make more money in a week by being spoiled brats than most Olympic champions will make in a lifetime. A “real” housewife makes more getting her nails done.
Spoiler alert: I don’t know who actually won the gold medal in any of the above-mentioned sports, because if they were on TV, I missed them. Every single time I turned on NBC, the network was showing women’s beach volleyball. Endless hours of it. Nine gazillion hours of it. It was some weird obsession with NBC, as if suddenly beach volleyball was the only sport that counted. There was never any discus, javelin or pole vault when I tuned in.
So instead of the long jump and hammer throw and other field events, I watched hours of women’s beach volleyball and team synchronized swimming, hours of diving and hours of Michael Phelps. If anyone should get a gold medal for synchronized swimming, it is whoever designed the team’s swimsuits.
It was not the fastest, the highest or the strongest athletes who got the most airtime, but those who wore the skimpiest outfits. The more covered the athletes were, the less coverage they got.
Historians tell us that in the ancient Greek Olympics (back before the euro), the athletes did their thing naked — maybe because that is the only thing that could have made Greco-Roman wrestling remotely interesting, and even then, not interesting enough. NBC is, no doubt, angling to bring back the all-nude Olympics, but barring that, it has beach volleyball. Besides, if the athletes were nude and barefoot, how would Nike make any money?
Or maybe it’s not about skin at all. Maybe I didn’t see much of certain sports because no Americans were in the running to win them. I think I’m mature enough to cope with losing a sporting event to another country once every four years without thinking less of my homeland. I think it’s OK for Americans to clap for athletes who aren’t on Team USA. It’s called sportsmanship; it’s common courtesy. If we clap because a Cuban athlete does well in an event, it doesn’t mean we’re clapping for Castro to come here and take over our government.
When NBC was busy not showing the hammer throw and the shot put and the long jump, it would tell us about the lives and hard times of the seminude athletes competing in the least-clothed events — how hard they worked, the obstacles they had overcome, their not-so-perfect home lives. It sounds horrible — having to swim every day, having a coach and a trainer and an agent, and meeting people from all over the world, including beautiful young athletes of the opposite sex. How can they stand it?
Golf will be back as an Olympic sport in 2016 for the first time since 1904. I’m thinking that if they want their event to be on television, golfers had better toss the shirts and slacks and go for a sexier look. Maybe they should play 18 holes wearing Speedos.
Jim Mullen’s newest book, “How to Lose Money in Your Spare Time — At Home,” is available at amazon.com. You can follow him on Pinterest at pinterest.com/jimmullen.