The Olympics and Casual Sports Fans
Last night the 2014 Winter Olympics kicked off with a typically long opening ceremony. My wife and I did our usual routine of waiting through all of the various national teams so that we could see what Team USA was wearing this year. We then tuned in and out of the performances until the Olympic Torch was lit. This marks the start of 2 weeks of sports-based obsession in our home.
NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour had a good conversation this week about what the Olympics mean, especially to the casual sports observer. That would…ahem…be me. I don’t watch much in the way of sports. Other than my obsession with mixed martial arts, March Madness and the Masters golf tournament I simply don’t find myself tuning in very often. It’s not that I don’t like sports, I played several in my youth, but I just find it hard to really to stay committed to watching them long-term. Even MMA only has one or two fight cards per month so the time commitment is minimal. That is why the Olympics are so appealing.
As Linda Holmes pointed out in the podcast, the Olympics allow us a short window to learn who these athletes are, learn their back story, root for them during a brief competition and then move on with our lives. Of course, the fact that there is a healthy dose of nationalism thrown in certainly makes it easier to cheer for our fellow countrymen and women. Some would say the Olympics create an unhealthy atmosphere of ‘us verses them’ but I don’t see it that way.
The beauty of the Olympics for the casual sports fan is that we can immerse ourselves in competition and not feel like it will go on forever. The fact that there is so much other good stuff thrown in is icing on top. If the American hockey team makes it to the finals against Russia, look for the kind of high drama that make the Olympics so great.
For me this is also a time to recollect my childhood fondly. I remember the 1984 Summer Olympics very well, watching them with my grandmother on a small TV in her kitchen. During the 1988 Olympics, one of my favorite memories was the US volleyball team defeating the Soviet team on a Saturday night. The Dwyer kids all loved volleyball and our house watched the match with white knuckles. It was the first time I remember recognizing the power of athletic competition on the largest stage.
And with this I greet the Winter Olympics with excitement. For the readers, what are you looking most forward to? What kinds of feelings do you have about the Olympics?
Mike Dwyer is a freelance writer in Louisville, KY. He writes about culture, the outdoors and whatever else strikes his fancy. His personal site can be found at www.mikedwyerwrites.com. He is also active on Facebook and Twitter. Mike is one of several Kentucky authors featured in the book This I Believe: Kentucky.