Why I hate the Olympics

Greed, hypocrisy, dumb sports and Bela Karolyi, just for starters. Plus: Mets? Braves? Try Giants. Dennis Miller: He doesn't know football, but at least he's not funny.



Allen Barra
September 15, 2000 11:00PM (UTC)

Ten reasons to hate the Olympics:

1) Greed. A more reprehensible concentration of greedy, unprincipled hypocrites would be impossible to find outside of a convention of sports agents. Come to think of it, all the sports agents are probably in Sydney right now. One well-placed thermonuclear device would do the world a lot of good.

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2) Appeals to patriotism. Let's drop the pretense. Olympic medals should go to corporate sponsors, not countries. That's where most of the athletes' loyalties lie.

3) Junk food. What's the "official" Olympic snack food this time around, Snickers or Three Musketeers? Precisely what training regimen are candy bars a staple of? And what happens if you're caught snacking on non-official junk food? Do you lose medals if caught eating a Kit Kat bar? When do we start doing blood tests for Milky Ways?

4) Bela Karolyi. Football for girls is what U.S. women's gymnastics has become under this guy. Romania's answer to Bob Knight. Does any activity in the world cause more fearsome injuries to pre-high schoolers?

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5) Really stupid sports. Bludgeoned by appeals to patriotism, one-world-ism and goodwill toward our fellow man, we feel guilty for not watching hours and hours of silly activities that we care absolutely nothing about during non-Olympic years, the kind of sports you wouldn't watch if the only other thing available was reruns of "Family Feud" on the Game Show Channel. Sorry if I've offended anyone from the light air rifle shooting (is there also heavy air rifle shooting?), ballroom dancing or "rhythmic gymnastics" lobbies. (I'm not positive about this, but I bet that rhythmic gymnastics, which features young girls running around waving ribbons, is the only Olympic event inspired by a Fellini movie.)

6) Sex gossip. As in the snide references in the press regarding the alleged sexual preferences of some athletes. Who cares? Gays have been winning gold medals since "Xena" was on live TV. The important thing is that our gays kick the crap out of their gays.

7) Team sports. Excuse me, but why do we even have team sports in the Olympics? Aren't there already enough World Cups or Davis Cups or Ryder Cups? And if there aren't, why not leave it to the businessmen in those sports to create their own championships? Wasn't the original Olympic ideal predicated on the basis of individual achievement? What goodwill comes out of a Nike basketball team stomping Angola by 60 points?

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8) Sports that are scored with numbers. This includes any so-called sport where an elite group of pain-in-the-butt purists get together to decide that the aesthetic of one person's performance was "9.8" and another's only "9.3" in some activity that all the rest of us have no knowledge of or interest in. Let's make it simple: A sport is something that anybody can score, something that makes you sweat. Anything determined by someone's subjective theories of aesthetic beauty and performed to a recording of "Pachelbel's Canon in D" is not a sport.

9) Olympic mascots. "Syd the platypus" "Olly the kookaburra," "Millie the anteater." Who in God's name dreamed up these monstrosities? These things look like the result of drunken sex between Crocodile Dundee and Pikachu.

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10) Synchronized swimming. This probably belongs under a couple of other numbers, but to me it deserves its own special category. Who, I wonder, is the Babe Ruth of synchronized swimming? The Michael Jordan? The Jackie Robinson? Are there colleges that give athletic scholarships to synchronized swimmers? Do they give sex tests to synchronized swimmers? And what in the wide, wide world of sports is solo synchronized swimming? If you're swimming solo, what do you synchronize with?

It's the Giants, stupid

Would someone please tap the Eastern press on the shoulder and tell it that the National League pennant is not going to be decided by who wins the tedious up-and-down race between the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets? That the team with the best shot at winning the home field advantage throughout the playoffs -- in fact, finishing with the best record in either league -- is the San Francisco Giants?

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As I write this, the Giants are leading the National League in batting average -- well, OK, Colorado is leading, but that's only because of Coors Field -- on-base average and slugging average (24 points higher than the Rockies!). There are some who are going to tell you that's because their new ballpark, Pacific Bell Park, is a hitter's park. Well then explain why the Giants are second to the Braves in National League ERA. The Braves are also slightly behind the New York Yankees in team ERA. Some will tell you that that's because the National League doesn't have the designated hitter, which swells ERA by at least half a run per game. OK, then explain why the Giants have outscored the Yankees by about 30 runs this season.

The Giants have the best player, Barry Bonds, the best manager, Dusty Baker, and perhaps the best starting rotation (ERA of 4.20, same as Atlanta) in baseball. If you just landed on this planet from Mars, you'd look at the numbers and make them favorites to win both the National League and the World Series. That is, if when you come from Mars, you didn't head straight for New York.

Dennis Miller: Turn out the lights, the party's over ...

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OK, let's get the Dennis Miller thing over with now before the ratings drop another 20 points and they fire him in the middle of a really busy week. Now, some people think Miller is funny. That's OK. Some people laugh at Three Stooges movies, while others, like myself, get more laughs from the films of Peter Greenaway. Men froze at Valley Forge for the right to laugh at whatever we choose. But that's not the point here.

Before the Jets-Patriots broadcast, Miller told his audience (referring to the tangle of front office and coaching politics between the two teams) that "I haven't seen murkier bloodlines since the House of Plantagenet." And, referring to a report on Vinny Testaverde's ability to throw a "touch" pass, "I was querulous." And, referring to the back-and-forth rhythm of the game, "It's the ebb and flow of humanity." Now, I hate to be querulous, but I'm pretty sure that what Miller meant is that he was dubious about Testaverde's ability to throw a soft pass. Or at least that's what he should have meant. But what this Plantagenet and ebb-and-flow-of-humanity stuff is doing on a football telecast is beyond my ken, and, I suspect, beyond that of the "Monday Night Football" audience. Miller's obscure references are neither profound nor funny, and they sure don't add anything to the understanding of the football game. (His actual game comments are usually limited to "Was that a hit or what?")

What I'm left wondering is, if ABC didn't hire Dennis Miller to be funny, what exactly did it hire him for? After two weeks of the season all he's put me in mind of is a junior-grade Howard Cosell who doesn't know anything about football.


Allen Barra

Allen Barra is the author of "Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends."

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