WHEN IT COMES TO THE OLYMPIC GAMES,
I’LL TAKE ICHIRO
You may have noticed that the Olympics started this weekend.
Please wake me when they’re over.
I know as someone who has spent the biggest part of his life writing about sports that may sound strange (and not to mention a bit arrogant, but I don’t meant it that way. Honest.). I’m supposed to be crazy about all sports, right?
But I just can’t get all that excited about the Games going on in Rio.
The way I look at it is this. I really don’t care all that much about any of these sports for other three years and 50 weeks, so why now? (Yes, I like basketball, but not so much Olympic basketball. It changed for me when NBA stars took over the Games.)
I wasn’t always this way.
I used to watch a good part of the competitions, especially in 1972 when Mark Spitz (above) was winning beaucoup gold medals swimming for the U.S team. Spitz also swam for Indiana University and I am an IU grad. Plus I was working for a newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana, at the time.
So I had an interest in how he fared.
After that, my interest in the Olympics began to fade.
I don’t remember much of anything about the 1976 Games (Whatever happened to that guy who won the decathlon?), and in 1980 the U.S. didn’t even take part because of President Carter’s ill-advised decision to boycott them in protest of the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan. Then in 1984 the Soviet Union retaliated by staying home.
In other words, the Olympics became little more than a weapon in international politics.
Oddly, it seems to me that that is when they also started getting more attention in the U.S. For that, I think USA Today had a part.
That newspaper was just getting started in the ’80s, and I spent some time there in 1984. That’s when the editor, Henry Freeman, who was running the sports department, made an interesting observation.
Since USA Today is a national newspaper, he told me, they really didn’t have a “home” team to cover, like every other newspaper in the country. So USA Today was going to make treat the Olympics as its “home” team. And he did.
Of course, television had a huge part in that growth as well. If you’ve done any channel surfing the last few days, you’ve probably run across coverage of an event on one of NBC’s many over-the-air and cable channels.
They’re hard to miss. But I manage.
Another thing that has soured me on the Games is the number of sports under the Olympic fold:
—Tennis? Aren’t the Grand Slam events enough?
—Soccer? Don’t we have the World Cup?
—Air rifle? You’re kidding, right?
Oh, I suppose somewhere along the line I will watch some of the different events, especially when we get to track and field. But for the most part, I kind of feel about the Olympics the same way I do about NFL exhibition games (one of which was supposed to have been played right now as I write this). I’ll stop and watch a few minutes if I run across it while channel surfing, but not much more than that.
In the meantime, I’ll stick with baseball. (Had I been watching the Olympic tennis, as my wife was, I would have missed Ichiro Suzuki’s 3,000th hit!)
I’m not saying, by the way, that I wish the TV coverage of the Olympics would go away. Not at all. I’m not a big enough lunk not to recognize that a lot of people enjoy them. Who am I to deny them that pleasure? I have the same tolerance for the World Cup. If it floats your boat, great. Mine just sinks.