Finding some Olympic spirit
Though I normally don’t follow the Olympics or sports in general outside of watching the Georgia Bulldogs every fall, this summer’s games have proven a pleasing distraction.
There was a lot of negative news going into this year’s Olympic Games. Rio was woefully under prepared and is internationally known as a haven of high crime (it still is). A significant portion of the Russian team was disqualified due to doping charges. This had all the makings of a miserable time.
But the achievements of the athletes have given us here in the U.S.A. a welcome distraction from the bad news of the world that has been flooding us for the past several months. American Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time and won a gold medal at what will likely be his very last Olympic Games as an athlete.
I have been enjoying watching many of the women’s sports at home. My three young daughters can be inspired by the female athletes, I can ogle the young Olympians without looking like an obvious pervert in front of my wife, and we bring support to women’s athletics when we watch at home on television, or at least I tell myself that.
I’m determined to show my daughters popular female role models because most of what our culture serves us is pure garbage. That’s not feminism, that’s just trying to be a good parent. Female athletics have advanced enough that we now have stars that are trash-talking sore losers. It took male Olympic athletes nearly 100 years to become that obnoxious.
Like the World Cup, New York is a place where you can find any international population that exists in the world watching and cheering on their compatriots. I have one friend who is setting out on a mission to tour as many bars as possible and watch as many games with different international crowds as his Metrocard and his ability to walk straight will allow. If that’s not the Olympic spirit, nothing is.
Of course we have to endure the over-politicization of the games as the media wants to make everything an emotional epic of one sort or another. But most of us are content to enjoy the games as a chance to see a mastery of craft and hard work rewarded. Competitive sports are a great dose of reality that flies in the face of much of the increasingly infantile culture of the Western world. There is no medal for participation in the Olympics. Everyone competing is an amazing athlete and most of them will go home empty-handed.
Seeing people who excel with hard work and discipline achieve excellence in a difficult challenge is something we ought to see and admire. To see people from around the world compete and leave the politics and strife from the world outside the games for the most part, is a welcome sight in these contentious times.
Even when they are rife with controversy and disappointment, the Olympics still provide plenty of positive inspiration. Take the time to enjoy it while you can.
New York Winter Olympic Games
The Winter Olympic Games are taking place in Sochi, Russia at a time when New York (and Atlanta) have more snow. Few would have thought that Russia, known for its cold weather, would be having problems keeping snow on the ground for the winter Olympics. These are strange days.
During the 2010 Olympics I nearly wiped out on the treadmill at the gym while ogling the Danish Women’s Curling Team who were on a nearby television screen. Beyond that I didn’t pay much mind to any Olympics until the Russia vs. U.S.A. game came on this past weekend. It was nice to see a U.S.A. victory of the Russians, though such victories are now without their Cold War benefits.
In New York City, heavy and sustained snowfall with cold temperatures have made the daily grind of life that much more difficult. The New York Times proposed a few new weather-related games. In that same vein, here are five proposed Olympic events specific to New Yorkers during a difficult winter.
Slush Slalom: This season’s snowfall has been heavy and ranks among the city’s worst as far as inches of snow received. What makes this year’s succession of storms so bothersome is that in addition to the quick sequences of snow storms, is that some of them have been accompanied by freezing rain that makes for heavier snow during the day and then ices over at night. It also produces a lot more slush a lot earlier than normal. I like to think I have mastered the nimble ballet of stepping over and around these odious slush puddles. An Olympic event could make use of these New York winter staples by letting competitors race through a slush-filled street like skiers or judging these dances of slush-avoidance as they would a figure skating competition.
Plow Wall Excavation: Snow plows in New York keep the streets clear of snow and generally do a good job. The Sanitation Department definitely does more to keep the business and tourist areas of Manhattan free of snow than it does for the outer boroughs. But wherever they operate, snow plows leave in their wake very heavy, compact walls of snow that are very difficult to shovel. Unfortunate car owners have had to spend significant amounts of time freeing their cars from these cold tombs of dense white. For an Olympic event, have a race where competitors with the same sized shovel have to dig out a car. The first team to free the car and drive it out of the blocked space wins the gold.
Improvised Sledding: There are lots of snow sleds you can buy at a store to ride down a snow-covered hill, but what’s more fun is having to improvise with found objects. Cardboard boxes, plastic fast food trays, garbage-can lids, these are some of the things that would be acceptable in competition. Anyone with a store-bought sled is disqualified. Competitors who could manage to sled acceptably with the more obscure objects would get extra points.
Bus Stop Endurance Wait-athalon: The Metropolitan Transit Authority does a lousy job shoving snow away from bus stops and subway entrances. Subway service is almost always delayed because of bad weather. City bus drivers have to contend with snowy streets and plow-wall blockage of curbs and bus stops. They also tend to run fewer busses and drivers take the liberty of avoiding stops they don’t like and letting passengers wait things out a little longer. Standing at a cold bus stop and waiting and waiting for a late bus is an easy endurance event. The gold medalist is the person who waits the longest for their respective bus without quitting.
Considerate Door Usage: Moving in and out of buildings and small businesses is an art that few have mastered. We need to get in and out quickly and open the door as little as possible to fit yourself through. Temperature gauges could measure how much cold air is let in by the competitors. Like gymnastics, this sport favors smaller competitors.