Now that the 2012 Olympics are at long last over, I pose again the question I asked on Facebook when they began: am I alone in being constitutionally unable to care less about them?
When I asked that question what now seems like several epochs ago, it brought a heap of opprobrium for its alleged cynicism and left over journalistic jaundice.
Yet I insist it is a question that deserves a serious answer given the money, energy, attention, time, and manic-depressive torment the Games are said to demand of our country and our culture.
Indeed, one headline that caught my eye claimed that the nation’s soul had been restored because our women’s soccer team won one of the medals after apparently being “robbed” by the Americans a few days before.
Our soul restored? By women’s soccer? Women’s soccer??? Good grief. Show me a people spiritually uplifted by women’s soccer and I will show you a land whose inhabitants have exchanged the glory of Judeo-Christian faith for worship of the great god Snore.
I’m willing to bet that particular headline was of a piece with the rest of journalistic flatulence that permeates Olympic coverage. Apart from a handful of the usual delusionals who frantically care which minute Missy looped a hooper into the netting—or whatever it is you do in soccer to break the tedium of aimlessly running up and down the field—no one in this country engages soulfully with women’s soccer, do they?
How many of us really care about any of it? How many, like me, felt an overwhelming need to comb their cats or change the oil on their pianos when the conversation turned to the Olympics, much less when TV coverage of the games monopolized hour after hour on channel after channel? How many, like me, quietly resent the bullying media drum beat that heralds the Games as immeasurably important when they have no discernible meaning to our lives or the world around us?
I do not suggest the Games are unimportant to those directly involved. I do not suggest the athletic feats are unimportant to the athletes who accomplish them. And I do not mean to demean those feats for what they represent to the handful able to grasp their achievement. Even women’s soccer, I fully grant, has aficionados whose world turns on whether or not Missy loops the hooper.
But my strong suspicion is that as far as the rest of us go, the Olympics could be held on an outcropping of rock somewhere off Baffin Island and no one would notice the paucity of information on who won gold in rhythmic gymnastics or trampoline or the men’s marathon.
I include the last event not just to show that I am not picking on women’s sports but because I personally love running and find it not only physically invigorating but spiritually uplifting and am fascinated by the minutiae of what it takes to be an Olympic level marathoner and could talk for hours about the implications of the Kenyans being de-throned in this year’s event by a Ugandan even if Kiprotich did run 2:08:01 compared to the extraordinary 2:06.32 Olympic record race Sammy Wanjiru ran in Beijing…but I digress.
Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps I was alone in this land in happily avoiding being glued to the TV set, the Internet and the public prints throughout the games. As someone noted when I first posed the question on Facebook several ice ages ago, it would not be the first time I have been the only one with a certain skewed point of view.
I wonder, though, whether, with the Olympics specifically but also with sports generally, we have been culturally hooked into pretending they matter when, frankly, most of us are like Rhett Butler and don’t give a damn.