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Monday, February 20, 2006

Summer Olympics 2004

August 25, 2004

I should preface this column by saying that my knowledge of sports is pretty much limited to what I learned from watching The Bad News Bears. So, it’s with great trepidation I even tackle a sports topic.

Get it? Tackle? Never mind. I’ll try to stay away from the sports puns while talking about the Olympic games.

The men’s gymnastics competition on the high bars Monday night was better than any season cliffhanger. For those who missed it, my new celebrity crush, Russian gymnast Alexei Nemov, proved he’s a champion in every way that counts. If there is a gold medal for sportsmanship, this guy should win it.

Nemov performed the most difficult, adventurous routine of the night and apparently in Olympic history, according to commentators. Nemov let go of the bars six times, four releases in a row and two more that included perfect full somersaults over the bar. Each release was met more loudly with cheers from the crowd. At the end of the brilliant routine, Nemov took a small step on the landing. When the judges scored the performance shockingly low, the crowd erupted.

Nemov didn’t pout, or throw things or cry. He simply waved and bowed to the audience graciously acknowledging their support before taking his seat, stunned into silence like the rest of the world. When the crowd’s boos and cheers ceased to stop after ten minutes, Nemov once again took the floor to give thanks and try to quiet the spectators, so American Paul Hamm could take his turn on the high bars.

As the judges nervously scrambled discussing the score, the cheers never faltered. "I hope they don’t stop until (the judges) change it,” one commentator snipped about the crowd outrage. The score was eventually changed, but not enough to make a difference. The four-time Olympic gold medallist placed fifth.

I’m telling you, this event was edge-of-your-seat exciting. I don’t think I’ve seen such a shocking moment on TV since Bobby Ewing stepped out of the shower.

Some other random thoughts during the Olympics:

  • These athletes are unbelievably tough. Watching the falls, spills and dislocated fingers makes me grateful that a bad day at my job doesn’t mean a visit to the emergency room. Well, most of the time anyway.
  • I think synchronized diving is just about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.
  • Is it wrong to enjoy a commercial as much as the events? That insurance ad where the weightlifter drops the weights through the floor makes me giggle like a little girl.
  • Why are the female Chinese gymnasts and divers so small? They barely look old enough to be out of elementary school.
  • The judging in some events is too subjective. The process needs an overhaul to make it more consistent.
  • Did I miss the synchronized swimming? I’ve searched every night but can’t seem to find it. I even tried looking up the schedule online at the Olympics site, but of course it was in military time. And that was, forgive me, Greek to me. I knew I should have paid closer attention to Sgt. Carter during Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
  • What is the deal with the swimmer, who dipped up a handful of pool water, swished it in his mouth, and spit it back in the pool before competing? Is this some sort of good luck ritual I don’t know about?
  • Perhaps the network should provide a warning on some of the events: don’t try this at home. My pathetic attempt at a flip-handspring combination in my own floor exercise won me only two colors to proudly display - black and blue.
  • How do the gymnasts doing floor exercises know how far they can back up to the line when they’re not facing it? These folks can do anything, so if you told me they had eyes in the backs of their heads, I’d almost believe you.
  • Someone should tell the commentators that silence is sometimes a good thing. They always seem to ramble on at the most pivotal part of an event, get distracted, and not finish their original thoughts. It’s annoying.
  • Who decides what is an Olympic sport? If fencing, canoeing, and table tennis are included, how about one for TV viewing? Granted, I can’t do a chin-up, but I’d match my remote-control-thumb muscles against anyone. And if there was an event for surfing the most channels, while still comprehending multiple plot lines, I could so take that gold.

    All in all, I’ve enjoyed the Olympics. With all the drama, scandal, drug abuse, arrogance, fights and tears it seemed like a really long episode of Dynasty.

    Originally published 8/25/04 in The Exponent Telegram newspaper.


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