Winter Olympics (Flashback Edition)


(This originally appeared in The Patterson Irrigator in February 2006 at the outset of the Torino Games. Even though 12 years have passed, I still feel the same excitement! ―E.)

Do you hear it? Here it comes- the grand trumpet crescendo that could only mean one thing? The Winter Olympics! You know the song I’m talking about. The one that invokes the desire to pump your fist in the air, stand up and cheer for athletes from obscure countries you have never heard of. The song that makes 250-pound hockey players dissolve into a blubbering pool of incoherence.

I love the Olympics. Everything about it. When, the Olympics are imminent, I get the Olympic Television Viewing Guide and schedule my life around it. Every sport suddenly becomes intriguing and engaging-even when I have no idea what is going on. For the Olympics, pushing a stone on ice isn’t merely playground fun in Saskatchewan, but an actual sport called Curling. Someone flinging their body head-first down an ice-chute at 80 miles an hour with only a small piece of cozy steel separating them from certain death, is aptly named “Skeleton” because the odds are that by the time they reach the finish line a skeleton is all that would be left.

And if that isn’t worth watching, I don’t know what is.

During those 16 days, I don’t miss a second of the coverage – and not just the athletic events. A favorite of mine is the inevitable story that chronicles that one underdog athlete whose struggles tug at the world’s heartstrings. Like a young cross-country skier from rural Moldova, son of a poor farmer tragically struck by lightning whilst tending his goats. During this television segment they introduce you to this young man and show footage of him peddling for change in front of a Budapest branch of McDonald’s to pay his own way to the Games because his own country is so corrupt that they do not have the resources to support him. By the end of the segment, he is crying and you are crying, too. You then find yourself getting up at 5 AM to watch him on a subordinate cable network in the preliminaries of his event, only to see him finish 31st, but with a bright, gleaming smile on his face. And that is what the Olympics are all about.

So, I suggest you tune in during these Torino Games. Whether you are a sports fan, or not, it is a shining example of the beauty of the human spirit. Oh, and a lot of the guys are really cute, too.

The Not-So-Super Bowl?


Where’s the pomp? Where’s the circumstance? Where’s the nachos?

Each year, the fervor around the Super Bowl reaches such a crescendo that by the week of the game, I am OVER it. The kind of OVER it I usually reserve for fads that have dragged on for just a little too long— like manbuns and Justin Bieber’s career.

However, am I the only one that has noticed that the nation’s excitement for the Super Bowl this year seems somewhat muted? Where’s the endless news coverage? Where are the beer commercials and the scantily-clad models eating dripping, fatty burgers that they would never, ever eat in “real life?”

This is not a complaint, mind you. After all, I like professional sports about as much as I like Hawaiian pizza. And, trust me, I do NOT like Hawaiian pizza. It’s gross and unnatural. Whoever thought of putting pineapple on a pizza should never get to eat pizza again. In any state, including Hawaii.

But, I digress.

Is the excitement for the Super Bowl as fervent as usual? Maybe it is and I’m just intentionally living under a rock. Sometimes I do that. Like that time 15 years ago when I refused to accept that the television show, Friends, was really ending? Or that time last week when I didn’t want to accept that Barack Obama wasn’t our president anymore?

There’s no way that football’s popularity is waning. After all, a testosterone-driven culture, like ours, doesn’t just change overnight. America doesn’t just wake up one day and say, “Fuck Football— I’m going to sit here and knit myself a sweater, instead.”

We aren’t that evolved… or that crafty.


Sport Fatigue


After weeks of ingesting countless hours of Olympic and Paralympic (yay, Danielle Hansen!) coverage, I can easily say that I am worn out. Between events on television and those streamed online, it was nonstop action. As evidenced by my last column, I’m a huge fan of the Olympics. During these weeks, I show more devotion to watching sports than Donald Trump has to his assorted wives.

But, this kind of dedication was exhausting. I became a hermit, an anti-social, a puffy-faced recluse that ate too many Cheez-Its. Frankly, it was like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un had taken up residence in my house. When I wasn’t worried about the USA team dropping the baton in a track relay or vandalizing a Rio gas station, I was watching badminton birdies fly across my television screen like hypersonic gnats. It was all too much.

This led me to a startling conclusion. Being a sport fan is not good for my health. Maybe there’s a reason I don’t care for professional sports— it’s too damn stressful and time-consuming. Honestly, I don’t know how sport fans do it week-by-week and year-after-year. And I probably shouldn’t even mention the Chicago Cubs. Those poor fans have been waiting for a World Series for so long that they probably order Xanax by the truckload.

So, given my post-Olympic fatigue, I decided to do what most people do when they are experiencing distressing symptoms or ailments. I looked them up online. I discovered that the anxiety felt by a die-hard sport fan is a real thing.

Whether a favorite sport team wins, or not, is out of our control. Yet our brains are psychologically wired to think that we can still influence and impact the things that we care about. So when we can’t, we may feel helpless, anxious, angry or upset.

Unlike most other real-life relationships and friendships, the connection that a fan has to their team is not truly reciprocal. A fan may love and idolize their team— they can purchase game tickets, t-shirts and watch them every season. But, the team itself is not really reciprocating that adoration. How can they? They don’t know you personally. Yet, a true, healthy connection can happen— when a fan spends time with other fans in a meaningful way— and that’s great, and much more fulfilling.

Learning this made me feel better. Hope it helps you, too. Just remember, you truly can’t control whether or not your team’s quarterback scores a touchdown, fumbles the ball or refuses to stand during the National Anthem. But, you can control whether or not you are bothered by it.

Sports? You can have it. I’ll just stick to Cheez-Its.