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From the Bleachers: Olympics: the non-sports-fan’s favorite sports
I don’t know anything about sports.
I am aware of their existence, and I know that people get mad at me if I talk when they are on TV; however, besides being able to tell the difference between volleyball and hockey, my sports knowledge is pretty hopeless.
Even though I know next to nothing about this alien world, I had a lovely time watching the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, and I learned quite a few things about sports while I did.
First, the Olympics have nothing to do with sports.
The games, as far as I can tell, have more to do with nationalism and commercialism than athleticism. Fans gather to root for athletes they don’t know in games they don’t understand against countries they’ve never heard of. Advertisers relish the opportunity to exploit the vulnerable state of our patriotism to sell shoes and credit cards and NBC essentially invented its own time zone to maximize its prime-time viewership.
But I’m not upset about the apparent prostitution of the Olympic Games. I think it’s great. It’s the superficiality that makes them so accessible to indifferent, oblivious viewers like me.
Watching the Olympics as a novice is kind of wonderful. You learn everything you need to know about the events as they are happening, based on the announcers’ comments and the expressions on the competitors’ faces when they see their scores. I might not have known anything about Olympic kayaking before I started watching, but I figured out the rules and reached expert judging status by the time the third or fourth paddler made it down that fake river.
We don’t really need to understand the intricacies of handball, synchronized diving or uneven-bar gymnastics to know when someone screws up or to pretend to know what that athlete could have done better.
Sometimes people try and explain that the Olympics are about the competitive spirit, the glory of hard work resulting in achievement, and pushing the physical limits of the human body. Maybe that is the case, but that’s certainly not what it looked like from my spot on the couch.
The fun isn’t in making sense of the games. The fun is in getting seriously excited about a sport we watch for 11 minutes every four years, judging something we only marginally understand, and cheering for anyone wearing red, white and blue.
And that’s what the Olympic Games are really all about: shallow entertainment. They are not made for fans of sports—they are made for fans of television.
It’s easy to watch the Olympics without a competent grasp of what they are because the best part is enjoying the pageantry without getting bogged down by all the confusing rules and history of what you’re watching. Not to mention that most of the events are totally made-up anyway.
Haylee Pearl is a sophomore studying journalism and a copy editor for The Post. Do you think the Olympics have a point? Tell her what it is at firstname.lastname@example.org.