Monday, January 25, 2010

I Hate The Olympics. There. I said it.

There, I said it.

I know that it's practically blasphemy to admit that I hate the Olympics. Both winter and summer; every event in it. But I do hate it. I cannot stand it.

That's my gut, visceral reaction to all of the commercials and hype leading up to it--hatred, dread and exasperation. So I really got to thinking about what I hate about the Olympics to try to understand why I dread not only the duration of the Olympics but the leadup and fallout to and from the events.

Upon careful consideration, I have decided that perhaps I should amend my statement to:

I hate the coverage of the Olympics. I don't just hate it. I abhor it.

I don't even hate that normal programming is suspended; I don't watch enough network TV to care.

What I hate the exploitation of the athlete's personal tragedies and biographies. I hate the absolutely incessant searching for the Olympics to be a symbol of world hope and community. (The only community really occurring at the Olympics is the Olympic-sized debauchery that happens in the Olympic village amongst the athletes that would make Caligula blush.)

I hate the search for another national hero that will inevitably fall from grace for reasons deserved or not (Michael Phelps?). I hate that my morning news is spent on puff pieces with the athletes when I want those anchors behind a news desk giving the news, something they struggle with even on a normal day.

I feel manipulated because I get emotionally involved, which is just what the network wants for ratings. If I watch it, I get to wondering what those athletes are thinking and feeling. It makes me uncomfortable and cringe to witness their embarrassment and defeat, as I wonder what their life turns into when they make it home. When the hero wins, I do like that feeling. But that only happens, say, 25% of the time. I don't like thinking of dreams shattered and lives changing as a result of a sport. And more often than not, you see more defeat than victory amongst the people the networks have decided have a story worth telling.

On a side note--this is also why it's hard for me to watch football games when I'm emotionally invested. For example, University of Texas games. I can't help but remembering that those players are just college kids. Those are the kids that lived in the apartments below Chris, who were in my classes, who went to high school with me. The college superstars carry the hopes and dreams of a city (and most of the state, at least the parts of the state that matter) on their 20 year old shoulders.

Back to my Olympic sized hatred. Even worse than the networks scrambling to fill time with the athlete's stories and family dramas is the commercials featuring Olympians. Case in point--the Visa commercial featuring a speedskater. A voice over intones: "2 Olympics ago, hours before he had to skate, he got the news his sister died. He made a promise to his sister to win the gold". As the speaker is explaining this, you see this poor man WIPE OUT on the ice. Naturally, the dude didn't win the gold. But the next Olympics, he did win the gold. What the hell this has to do with Visa no one knows. All I do know is that it made me tear up to think about (much like when I open my Visa bill), but then get furious that a company exploited this man's tragedy to sell a brand image. And that it moved me!

What's interesting is that I absolutely love to watch the biographies and stories of UFC Fighters before watching a bout. I think it is because their tragic stories are not used to sell things (yet, give it time) and it's not 24 hour, inescapable coverage on every network. If I watch the biographies of a fighter, it's completely of my own volition and isn't shoved down my throat or interrupting my need for a REAL news fix. I watch them because I love an underdog, a comeback story. I love to see how they train and what coaches they work with. I love hearing the stories of the fighters who battled injuries, depression, addiction, and who become gods for 3 or 5 rounds. I admire the fighters with the autistic children, or the family back in a third world country. I like hearing of the fighters who walked away from being nurses, cops, or corporate wage slaves to do something they love.

Why these stories intrigue me more than Olympic stories I really cannot figure out. I don't feel remotely as manipulated watching the stories. Part of me thinks it's because the athletes in the Olympics (from rich nations) tend to have been born into privileged lifestyles. You have to be from a family of some sort of means to have been training professionally all of your life with world-renowned coaches. Generally speaking, you aren't the kid that had to be a garbage collector just to have an early morning shift so you could go to the gym and train.

The Olympics make me angry. I may have to move the Xbox into the bedroom, as my husband loves the Olympics. It is a rough time in our house during the Olympics.

And the World Cup. Don't get me started.