Thursday, August 19, 2004

Sometimes you don't catch the fever...

I don't have Olympic fever, particuarly.

I have some sunburn from last week's vacation, but I wouldn't consider myself Olympically savvy at the moment.

Sure, I've watched a few U.S. basketball games, caught a few swim meets, watched a few minutes of the ladies' and men's gymnastics. But I haven't exactly caught the sickness yet.

It's sort of a bizarre thing. Every year, the Olympics begin, and among average sports fans, it's barely even on the radar. You might watch a few minutes of the opening ceremonies -- but c'mon, what else are you really doing besides seeing if there are any cute Aussie athletes this year?

Ahem... Anyway, a strange thing happens. You are sitting there, with nothing else on except for Law & Order re-runs, and you flip on the Olympics. You watch. And you watch some more. Pretty soon, you start to care. Suddenly, gymnastics, beach volleyball, wrestling, judo -- they all start to mean something to you, against your will, almost. You identify with the athletes and want them to bring home the gold. You see the looks on their faces, watch their lips sing the anthem, and it stirs something inside you that makes you glad you watched. It almost never fails.

Of course, the only time it does fail is when you read the papers, skip the TV watching. You find out what happened the next day; you don't get wrapped up. There is no drama. There is no hope of watching Michael Phelps do the impossible. You don't see Paul Hamm rejoice as he discovers his miraculous victory. You don't stay glued to the set, watching a flawed group of U.S. basketball players try to live up to the standards set by Jordan, Magic, Bird and the Admiral.

The fever never catches you.

But you see. You know what you are missing. People around you chat energetically about Hamm, the Dream Team, Phelps. And you somehow feel less American because you don't watch. You think to yourself, I need to watch. I need to be involved. I need to help my country. It's patriotism run amuck, but it's ok. It's fun. It's sports. It's the Olympics. That's why we love 'em. They make us care.

E-mail Mike at


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