by Channing Kapin, Contributing Writer
The Olympics are a mega-buck generating juggernaut. As a money-generating Event, it’s a beast. But the Olympics are no longer a sporting event. Haven’t been since the over-marketed, over-hyped patriotic love-fest that was the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 that generated billions of dollars. Suddenly Olympic Committee eyes were opened, and they saw dollar signs.
You could argue that the Olympics last shred of “amateur competition” went out the window with the 1992 Dream Team. After that it was no longer about the patriotic fervor of unknown athletes. It became about the patriotic fervor of really famous athletes, who could also double as spokespersons for Coke, Nike and Ford.
So from a business side, the Olympics are unassailable, but as a televised sporting event, it’s a disgrace. It’s a two week long orgy of solemn music and sappy human interest stories about orphans from Kyrgyzstan. The Olympics: The TV Show is designed to sell Diet Pepsi and laundry detergent to housewives who have no interest in sports. Don’t get me wrong, they show some manly sports: Dream Team basketball, boxing and weightlifting. But based on the random, haphazard coverage of the second tier events, the endless sob stories scored to tinkling piano and strings and the super-serious fake gravitas of Bob Costas, it’s clear we’re miles from the any serious sporting event.
And how come the highest TV ratings are for the opening ceremony where there’s always lasers, fireworks, some goofy Cirque Du Soleil costumed dancing, and a decided lack of any athletic competition?
I think the main problem with The Olympics: The TV Show, aside from all of the above, are the dozens of lame non-sports that are actual Olympics events, where people win medals playing kids games that actually count as much as basketball, soccer and women’s gymnastics. I’d also suggest that the other huge problem with the Olympics is that their biggest event features pre-teen girls sporting sparkly camel-toe leotards doing backflips. If we’re talking about major fixes I’d raise the minimum age limit to 18 on gymnastics, just so I don’t have to feel so creepy watching the damn floor exercises.
So, here are the lamest non-sports and how the Olympics can improve them:
1. Synchronized Swimming – Easily the most ridiculed “sport.” It’s embarrassing to watch and to participate in, what with the cheesy music, swimming caps, plastic smiles and ever-so-stylish noseclips. Some of the “awesome” features of Synchronized Swimming that immediately disqualify it from being good, or even a sport: It was originally called “Water Ballet”, the participants (what do we call them, synchronizers?) do something called “eggbeater kicks”, and there’s a judge. Any sport decided by judge’s scores is already dubious. Also, is it the only sport where participants wear make-up?
WAY TO IMPROVE IT: None. It is a terrible event. Kill it.
2. Rhythmic Gymnastics – After watching the gripping, enthralling gymnastics team finale, you may be drawn in to watching this debacle, featuring emotionless mannequins playing with balls, ribbons and hula hoops. This is not a sport. It’s barely a step up from televised hopscotch. On second thought, televised hopscotch, with some lasers, a time limit and possibly incorporating some fire would be pretty awesome.
WAY TO IMPROVE IT: Take away the balls and ribbons and foofaraw, make the girls do backflips and call it “Gymnastics.”
3. Archery – Remember a couple years back when Geena Davis got bored one summer and decided to try out for the Olympic archery team, and nearly made it after a couple months of practice? Yeah, that’s how challenging Olympic archery is. Real sports require years of devotion, hard work and practice to achieve Olympic skill levels. Olympic archery features goofy hats, beer guts and ridiculous bows with more twigs and crossbars sticking out than a porcupine.
WAY TO IMPROVE IT: Do it Top Shot style. Instead of hi-tech bows, competitors have to randomly use crowsbows, blunderbusses and cannons. Preferably with exploding ammo in slow-mo.
4. Taekwondo/Judo – These are quaint, centuries old self-defense hobbies that few people outside of the Far East care about. The rules are esoteric and Taekwondists wear chest guards and helmets. I’ve seen a couple good matches, but most of it is far from good TV.
WAY TO IMPROVE IT: How about we mix Taekwondo and judo, throw in some wrestling and kickboxing and call it MMA. The ancient Greek Olympics had a sport called pankration. It was like MMA 2,400 years before MMA was invented. Now THAT sounds like a great freaking event.
5. Equestrian – Equestrian is a fancy Latin word for horse riding. It is made up of eventing, jumping and something called dressage. I don’t give a crap what dressage is, I’m not gonna watch it on TV. Just one question, shouldn’t the horses get the medals? They do all the work.
WAY TO IMPROVE IT: Ditch the goofy tricks and dressage and have the horses do what they do best, namely run fast. The Greeks had horse racing too.
6. Modern Pentathlon – The original Greek Pentathlon was five events: running, jumping, discuss, javelin and wrestling. These were designed to show off a young man’s battle training. So when the new Olympics rolled around in 1912 they created this five sport event to show off modern warfare training. The events? Pistol shooting, swimming, horse show jumping, cross country running and fencing. So, now in 2012 we have entirely too many swimming and running events. Horse jumping is lame, as I already mentioned, and fencing? Olympic fencing has more in common with little kids sword fighting with cardboard tubes than actual sword fighting. Each bout takes about 2 seconds and they have to straighten their tinfoil sword after every hit. Pathetic.
As further proof that this event sucks, the Olympics are going to combine running and rifle shooting this year into one event, like an even more stultifying biathlon, without the skis and snow. So it’s not even a pentathlon any more, it’s a quadathlon.
WAY TO IMPROVE IT: How about combining horse riding, sword fighting and shooting into one event? You could even take a cue from the Greeks and add chariots. Now you’ve got something awesome. Possibly deadly? Sure, but so is having to watch this stupid event.
7. Badminton – This game is usually played by bored kids after birthday parties. They use something called a shuttlecock. Otherwise it’s a smaller court than tennis, smaller raquets than tennis, and far less interesting to watch than tennis. In fact, it’s like little league tennis without the grunting. But you know, with a shuttlecock.
WAY TO IMPROVE IT: Add a fuzzy green ball and call it tennis.
8. Ocean Swimming – Don’t we already have 8 million swimming events? And the only thing to differentiate this one is it’s about 20 dudes swimming in the ocean. Yeah, that doesn’t sound like a sport to me, either.
WAY TO IMPROVE IT: Hungry sharks perhaps?
9. Kayaking/Sailing – Any time you are riding on a boat where the tide and wind do most of the work that’s not a sport. And it’s not entertaining either. Watching kayaking is the punishment I get for trying to catch 2 minutes of Greco-Roman wrestling at 2:00 AM sandwiched between a bunch of other horrible sports and sob stories.
WAY TO IMPROVE IT: Cannons and battering rams.
10. Trampoline – Another kids past-time. Yeah, so kids can’t do 20 flips in one jump. But they can enjoy playing on a trampoline with self-esteem intact.
WAY TO IMPROVE IT: Let kids do it, and then we record all the shenanigans and neck-breaking flops America’s Funniest Home Video style.
11. Handball – No, it’s not the kids game. No, this is an even stupider game that’s like soccer without kicking. Or field hockey, without sticks or checking. Just to illustrate how Americans don’t give a crap about handball, the U.S. Handball team filed for bankruptcy. So, there’s that.
WAY TO IMPROVE IT: Hockey sticks and checking would be a good start.
And finally, the lamest, goofiest, most useless sport:
12. 20k/50k Race Walking – Also known as power-walking. This isn’t a sport, this is cross-training for house wives. See, it’s a race, but you can’t run. Because that would be cheating. So you walk really fast. This is pure hilarity to watch on TV. Also, the cherry on the sundae is that it’s so goddamn long, 20k and 50k to be exact. 50 kilometers is 31 damn miles. Of walking. Feel the passion and excitement as a handful of sweaty runts grind out lap 104 of power-walking. Most contestants wind up with bags of ice down the front of their 1970s style tiny shorts. Just imagine the agonizing chaffing of a dude walking 31 miles in an 3 ½ hours.
WAY TO IMPROVE IT: Actually it’s pretty damn fine the way it is. Just don’t call it a “sport.”
Stay tuned for more wonderfully cynical coverage of the Olympics.
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