I have a hard time liking the Summer Olympics.
Every four years, it descends upon us in all its manic neediness, demanding attention from all corners of the globe, 24 hours a day for two weeks straight, dishing out prepackaged, overdramatized “sport” to the delight of corporate sponsors everywhere.
But I’m not too bitter.
Yes, there are some genuine moments to enjoy and true athletes to marvel, but on the whole, I’m unimpressed. On that theme, here are the top five things I hate about the Summer Games:
No. 5: Silly Opening Ceremonies
There is not a more ridiculous, costly and unnecessary display of human excess than the Summer Olympics’ Opening Ceremonies, which is really nothing more than a Super Bowl halftime show multiplied by 1,000 and paired with a two-hour roll call of nations, half of which have no hope of even walking adjacent to the medal stand.
“Now here’s the proud country of Brunei Darussalam. It has a population of 407,000 and three Olympic athletes.
Next up, we’ll explode another battleship-sized load of fireworks and watch dudes dressed up like finches ride around on bikes. Stay tuned.”
OK, maybe that was mean. Mean but true.
No. 4: Way too much swimming
It’s obvious: The reason Michael Phelps has won so many medals is that he enters so many darned events. The 100-meter butterfly, the 200-meter breaststroke, the 400-meter individual goggle-less underwater relay medley.
How many variations on swimming from one side of a pool to the other must we have?
And speaking of medleys, you want a real aquatics version? How about an event in the pool that mimics track-and-field’s heptathlon?
Butterfly, backstroke, dog paddle, bellyflop, blindfolded pole-vault platform dive, reverse tandem trapeze plunge, and a round of synchronized hot-tubbing to finish. Now that’s an event I would watch.
No. 3: These ‘games’ are too safe
The reason I vastly prefer the winter version of the Olympics to summer is that the winter sports are far more daring and adventurous.
You literally can get killed barreling through an ice tube in a flimsy fiberglass sled or flying down a mountain on a snowboard.
There’s more fighting in hockey than in boxing.
And if you’re going to win a medal for shooting a rifle, at least in the winter you have to ski around a bit first. That’s got some built-in danger potential.
The same cannot be said for rhythmic gymnastics, which hardly qualifies as a sport. (Circus act, yes; sport, no.) Speaking of what qualifies as a sport
No. 2: Too many non-sports
So the Olympic Committee believes baseball and softball are not worthy of the games but target practice at the archery range, pingpong and jumping on a trampoline are?
How stupid is it that you can actually earn a gold medal in badminton, the worst of all the bad Olympic sports? The only time you should ever be smacking a birdie with a twiggy racket is against Great-Grandpa and your 6-year-old second cousins at the annual Fourth of July family picnic.
As if that’s not bad enough, we find out eight of this year’s so-called badminton Olympians are sandbaggers as well and have been thrown out of the Olympics for throwing games.
It’s time to start ejecting these blue-blood hobbies masquerading as actual athletics.
Next out after badminton should be sailing.
In the immortal words of George Carlin, “Sailing isn’t a sport. It’s a way to get somewhere. Riding a bus isn’t a sport. Why the (bleep) should sailing be a sport?”
No. 1: NBC
As usual, blame for many of the most annoying things about the Summer Olympics lies with NBC, which is determined to embargo the best live events and edit them into tidy prime-time packages like a reunion episode of “Survivor” where some TV host blabs with the stars while replaying juicy old clips of past conflicts.
Sports should always, always, always be shown live. Even more so in this day and age. No excuses, especially ones that involve ratings and advertisers.
Go ahead and create your prime-time dog-and-pony shows. Just air the events in real time as well. You’ll make everyone happy, and you may get more overall viewers.
Finally would it kill NBC to show something besides swimming, gymnastics and volleyball in prime time? Let’s see a little handball. Or horse jumping.
Except add some better obstacles, like pits of flaming gasoline and trip wires tied to explosives.
Now there’s some danger potential.
Joe Tarica is the presentation editor for The Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.