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Olympic Poseur: Day One

One brave fan tries to imbibe all of the Olympics

2016 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Training Camp Media Day
I’m excited, too, Mike.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Once again, it is time for my favorite event on the sporting calendar. Yes, I know the Olympics are corrupt, overstuffed, and a boondoggle for the host city. You know what? I don’t care. There’s something about sporting excellence that gets my needle to the red.

Besides, if you can’t even get a little misty over the parade of nations, during which all of the athletes march into the stadium under their nation’s flag, then maybe you need to reconsider your life choices. Sure, it’s hokey, but there is something inherently moving about the individual donning the nation’s colors and representing all of us.

Sure, the whole thing is bloated and overstuffed. The Olympics are inherently silly, but so are sports. Heck, so is life. Stop taking yourself so damn seriously. This is a celebration of the human race, and the Games are an excuse for one big party. Despite all of the logistical issues, can you think of a better place to throw a party than Rio?

Maybe things won’t work as well this time around, unlike the ruthlessly efficient Beijing Games or the overwhelmingly friendly London Games. Hey, that’s life. There will be traffic snafus, security will lose the keys to the stadium, and the Olympians will enjoy shabby accommodations. We housed the athletes in a damn prison during the 1980 Lake Placid Games, so maybe everyone can cut Rio a little slack for a few broken sinks.

But we will also be treated to some amazing athletic feats. We will learn new heroes over the next two weeks, and give a final send off to some old legends. Records will fall, controversies will rage, and hearts will break. We will learn new stories, and there’s nothing in sports that I enjoy more.

Which is why I love the smaller sports. To me, the Olympics are about swimming in the first week, track in the second. Then, there are a few of the long time Olympic standbys like gymnastics, weightlifting, and wrestling (which has shamefully been dropped from the program). Other than that, I’m only interested in the sports I usually don’t get to see.

The test should be simple on whether something should be an Olympic sport: Would winning an Olympic gold contend as the highest honor someone could achieve in that sport? Table tennis? Sure. Water polo? Definitely. Archery? Go on with your bad self. Basketball? Maybe for the women. Tennis? Laughable. Golf? Get the hell out of here.

So the goal of the Olympic Poseur is to try and immerse ourselves in the Olympic experience, especially in the sports that only pop up into my consciousness once every four years (which, to be fair, includes the marquee events of swimming and track). Every day, I will obsessively follow one niche sport, and try to get into it with an open mind.

I will also have two other sections: one for team sports and one for the marquee events. The team sports go on for the entire length of the Games, but only get one medal at the very end. So the USA’s total domination of basketball only will result in two medals instead of the bounty of medals China will win in badminton and table tennis. But I like to keep tabs on the entire competitions of handball, field hockey, and the like before just dropping in for the finals.

Then, we’ll close out with the prime time events, primarily swimming and track, but we’ll save a little room for gymnastics, too. These are the centerpiece of the Olympics, and will dominate the conversation. I don’t want to lose the forest for the trees by paying too much attention to weightlifting or something.

I’ll also probably complain about the media coverage at some point, though I have to be the only person who doesn’t care that NBC is going to tape delay events to play in prime time. Of course they are. And what’s the big deal anyway? If you want to watch them live, you have an internet connection, and the events are streaming live online. Think of the prime time show as a highlights package or, if you’re old enough, as the second coming of the Wide World Sports. Yes, that was an ABC show, but bear with me.

The Olympics are going to be fabulous, horrible, and wonderful all at once. I cannot wait. Let the Games begin.