I’ve never been much of a sports girl. I support the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I cannot quote a statistic if my life depended on it. I know enough about the Indy 500 to prove that I am a real Hoosier, and I can talk intelligently about tennis, but that’s about it. I don’t fill out an NCAA bracket. I don’t bet on the Kentucky Derby. I have yet to figure out how the Stanley Cup is determined and I watch the Super Bowl for the commercials and halftime show. However, there is one sporting event that turns this ordinary mortal into an athletic junkie: the Olympics.
I’m not sure what it is about five rings, the American flag and a parade of nations that sends me into overdrive, but from the moment the torch is lit. I am glued to the TV morning, noon and night. It doesn’t matter what sport happens to be on the air, I will watch it and over the course of the two-week broadcast I will become something of an armchair expert on key players, medal counts and the local customs of the Olympic host city. (Even if I can’t find it on a map.)
“Since when do you follow water polo?” Boy Wonder asked two years ago during the London games.
“Well, I don’t, but the tennis match ended and they switched over to the water arena.” I explained, pointing to someone wearing headgear that resembled Princess Leia’s donut ‘do from the first Star Wars film. “See that guy? They were talking about him earlier and he’s got this really heartbreaking story so now…I’m involved.”
“Is his team even winning?” My son seemed annoyed by my sudden emotional attachment to the competition.
I shrugged. “I have no idea. I’m not really sure who has the ball.”
That’s the thing about the Olympics. It brings us a constant variety of sports. There is the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and you don’t have to be an avid fan of any of it! You don’t have to be well versed in offense or defense, what will cost a skater a tenth of a point or the subtle difference between the alpine events. The Olympics allows us to wear our national pride while connecting us to the global community. It doesn’t matter if you understand Shaun White’s chances in the half-pipe or if you are angry that he cut his hair-BOTH topics are covered extensively! There is a neat balance between competition and color commentary that helps everyone feel invested in the outcome even if you aren’t clear on the actual rules of the game you are watching. (And for the record…I liked Shaun White’s hair the old way.)
My family fails to understand my enthusiasm. They say that my obsession with the Olympics is an addiction for which there is no known cure. Their biggest fear is that one-day, Indianapolis will win their bid to be an Olympic host city and I will suffer a contact buzz from being so close to the action. They are more than a little miffed that the Olympics comes right on the heels of the Australian Open giving them only a brief reprieve between my yelling at Andy Murray and Serena Williams to cheering on Team USA.
“It’s bad enough that you will wake up at 2 a.m. to catch live coverage of a tennis match going on half way around the world, but when you tune in to every event featuring a cowbell or ask your waiter to turn on the TV so you can watch skeet shooting, that’s just weird,” my eloquent son intones. “You’ve never shot a gun on your life!”
“So what? Maybe if I watch it, I will take up the sport!”
“Seriously mom?” he said with a shake of his head. “What did the skeets ever do to you?”