This is for all the boys and girls, men and women, for whom sports plays little or no role in their lives. As a lad the only sports in which I engaged were those required by “gym class” which for me involved trying to avoid any activity that displayed my lack of interest and ineptitude.
At some point I developed an interest in billiards—pool shooting to be precise. I liked the whole hand-eye coordination thing, the sharp crack of the cue ball and the satisfying thump when the target ball fell into the pocket. I also enjoyed time spent at a local shooting range. Again it was the hand-eye coordination thing and the explosive sound of the gun or rifle firing off a round. Neither of these sports involved breaking a sweat.
I have never watched a complete baseball game on television, let alone ever been to a ballpark. When a student at the University of Miami, I attended a couple of the football games, but as an adult, televised football became a succession of long commercial breaks and short bursts of the game actually being played. I have never watched basketball. I do enjoy boxing and it is the only sport I will watch on television.
Suffice to say, the Olympic Games every four years are largely lost on me. NBC is promising to air 3,500 live hours of programming so sports enthusiasts can literally overdose on them though, presumably, they will select those sports of particular interest and watch them. They will also be watching 3,500 hours of non-stop commercials and everything you ever wanted to know—or not—about each contestant.
For anyone who engages in a favorite sport, I know it is good for you. It promotes both physical and mental health.
Olympic contestants, however, take their sport of choice to a level most people may admire for the discipline and hard work involved, but would never think to do themselves. For the more than two weeks of the contests, the games offer a look at feats of athleticism that are impressive and often astonishing.
The winners receive a gold medal, get their picture on a box of Wheaties, do advertising endorsements, and can sometimes get a gig on television providing commentary. The rest fade into obscurity.
For those who will be watching, let me say I am happy for the participants. I just won’t be watching most of them. I am not even likely to last long during the opening ceremonies with its succession of national teams marching in and around the arena. In the end, it is all just show business, glitzy and filled with symbolic displays of flags, music and dance.
It strikes me, too, that for all the talk of the collegiality of the games, they were hosted by the Nazis in 1936 and then cancelled because they started World War Two. In 1972 Palestinian terrorists killed members of the Israeli team for whom, once again, there will not be a moment of silence in their memory and in 1980 Jimmy Carter would not allow the U.S. team to participate when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
Allegedly the games transcend politics, but they tend to be more about “bringing home the gold” than world peace.
Mostly, I just want to offer some reassurance to all of you who did not much care for “gym class”, team sports, or any sport enough to spend the exorbitant price to attend in person and maybe buy a hotdog or some snack for ten times its cost anywhere else.
If sports are not at the center of your life you are not alone. Indeed, I suspect there are lots of us who will be content to get the highlights from the sports reporters on the 10 o’clock news. As if we cared.