I was forced to watch the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics last night.
Tess was all excited by the thought of the spectacle, and got into one of those passive-aggressive moods of hers, in which failure to comply with her wishes – in this case, that we “enjoy” something that I find about as interesting as dry toast, and about as exciting as a case of toenail fungus – as “a couple”.
This is, after all, she tells me, what “couples do”.
She gets into these moods, with this sort of strange ideal surrounding it, every so often, and rather than have to deal with the complete bullshit (the expression of which ranges from the emanation of a simple “attitude” all the way up to “full Menstrual Fury”), it’s easier to give in, keep my mouth shut, and make her happy, just to spare myself the additional pain of all the “if you loved me, you’d make an effort…” nonsense.
Women…can’t live with ‘em, and you can’t kill ‘em…
Be that as it may, I have a few things to say about the Olympics, particularly as they relate to the “modern” games.
As for last night’s Opening Ceremonies, let’s just list the issues:
1. If the idea behind last night’s three-hour, tour-de-force of complete crap was to out-spectacle Beijing, then sorry, Britain, you’ve failed. The entire thing, which supposedly was all about the history of English Civilization, was short on history and chock-full of Stagecraft 101 chintz, to my mind. I mean, really? Fifteen minutes devoted to the nightmares of children in hospitals and Mary Poppins? The Industrial Revolution as an extended dance routine? Granted, it’s difficult to pick out individual highlights of the whole of English History to highlight, but the ones chosen left much to be desired, and were not, truth to tell, very inspiring.
The nation which gave the world Elizabeth Tudor, Victoria, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Shakespeare and Churchill (who both got but cursory nods), Magna Carta, the Empire which gave birth to some 50 democracies, the English voyages of Discovery of Darwin and Cook, the nation that stood stalwart in the defense of Freedom against Napoleon, the Hohenzollern's, the Nazis and Communism, was barely introduced to the world, but for a minutes' silence to honor the war dead of Flanders.
This is what happens when a Great Nation becomes infected by Political Correctness to such an extent that it feels as if it must pick-and-choose which aspects of it’s history to celebrate on the world stage; whichever milquetoast, untalented hack gets to make the choice, usually chooses the wrong crap for the wrong reasons. In this case, I would suspect that no one who had say in this debacle wanted to play up these English achievements for fear of “giving offense”.
2. Arctic Monkeys. Great cover of “Come Together”. I may have a new fave band.
3.. Paul McCartney looks about ready to have that fatal stroke. The voice is gone, and “Hey Jude” was hardly an appropriate selection for such a venue. Yes, we know you were Beatle, but you’d think that someone who is supposed to be one of the greatest songwriters/composers of the 20th Century, might have spent a little time arranging an original composition for the event. You know Elton John would have.
4. I must admit to having had no idea that there were 204 countries sending athletes to the Olympics, and had nary a clue that there were 204 countries on Planet Earth. However, it would seem that the majority of them consist of what I think Lawrence of Arabia once referred to as “Tribes With Flags” (don’t quote me on that), and that Parade of Nations just convinced me, more than ever, that the United Nations is a waste of time, effort and money. There is just no way in hell that anyone, or any deliberative body, could forge a consensus on anything from that stinking pile of humanity…excuse me…Mass of Diversity.
5. The only things missing from the initial pastoral stage were J.R.R. Tolkien's hobbits, because the “Forging of the Olympic Rings By the British Factory Proletariat” thing reminded me of the opening minutes of The Lord of the Rings.
6. Rowan Atkinson ceased being funny the second he stopped being “Blackadder”. What’s the matter? The Monty Python guys were too busy ripping themselves off with cheap stage reproductions of their masterworks to come to the ceremony?
Now, onto the entire concept of the Olympics, themselves.
There’s no juice in it,.anymore. The Olympics were a great watch back in the day when it had a subtext besides competition in a mess of sports that no one really cares much about. That subtext was The Cold War. Without the Us-vs.-Them factor that used to be a staple of the Olympic Games, the whole process seems to me to have devolved into something which is much ado about nothing.
You knew the Olympics as an event had lost much of it’s flair and interest when it suddenly became necessary to incorporate professional players into what was once supposedly about the “purest” aspects of competition. Yes, I know, there have ALWAYS been “professional” athletes in the Olympics (the Old Warsaw Pact and Soviet Bloc nations could not really compete, otherwise), but really, are we supposed to be excited by the prospect of watching LeBron James and Kobe Bryant running up scores on, say, a Vietnam or a Tunisia, which, on a good day, might be able to muster up a dozen people who have at least seen basketball played?
Where is the sport in that?
And speaking of the “sports” themselves…
Some of them are simply ridiculous. Weightlifting? Canoeing and Kayaking? Sailing and Rowing? Handball? Water Polo? Synchronized Diving? Why not an Olympic Needlepoint competition, or maybe Synchronized Masturbation? I rather doubt that many of these sports have much of a following, sans Olympiad.
Gymnastics, to me, was always something akin to those Toddler Pageant shows you see on cable. The sort of thing that is usually only watched by gay men, pedophiles and people so enamored of the ‘sport’ that you wonder about their sanity. Think about it this way: you never see 14 year-old BOYS competing in Olympic gymnastics, only muscular little girls and gay men. The same can be said about figure skating in the Winter Olympics, where at least the little girls get all tarted up before they’re sent out on the ice.
Which leads me to believe that, deep down, the modern Olympic Games are really about two demographics which are largely overlooked when it comes to traditional sports’ broadcasting, and that’s Gay Men and Chicks. I think part of Tess’ excitement over the Olympics (she has set the DVR to record every last minute of it that she can) is that it’s mostly sports that she – and probably most women -- find appealing, i.e. sports in which there is no physical battle, not too much strategy, no padding, and which often involves a measure of subjective “artistry”.
Personally, I find many of these sports to be incomprehensible, what with their arcane, subjective, open-to-interpretation-or-bribery-overly-esoteric rules, and the fact that there’s no blood being drawn, no fighting, and barely any equipment. If given a choice between two mind-numbing television viewing experiences, say between NASCAR (the most boring ‘sport’ in Creation) and the Equestrian Events at the Olympics, I think I’d try desperately for a third option, which might be boredom-and-frustration-induced self-mutilation.
Don’t laugh, but I’m beginning to see the day coming when NASCAR gets its chance at Olympic Glory, too. But that’s for another screed. After all, if Synchronized Swimming had it’s day as an Olympic Sport, why not automobile racing?
Then again, I guess the selection of ‘sports' on the menu reflects the fact that not everyone plays the same games. I get the Track-and-Field stuff, Boxing, the pseudo-military events which all have their basis in the Olympiads of antiquity, but is it really necessary to include some 'sports' just for the sake of being inclusive? That, incidentally, would include Curling, which before the Olympics was simply a bunch of drunken Irishmen whacking each other with sticks. In other words, a typical Saturday night in Belfast.
But getting back to the idea that the Modern Olympics is all about Queers and Chicks, for me, the dead giveaway – after you learn the complete list of events themselves, and evaluate them for either their inherent Gay or Feminine, or both, factors – is that in many cases, the Games seem to be representing the non-competitive, feminine ideal. Most of these sports are NOT scored (if you can call it that) by many identifiable objective points – scoring a goal, breaking a time constraint, overcoming an obstacle which can be measured, leaping for distance – but by their taste factor, or by their sense of the aesthetic.
Where else but in Gymnastics can you lose fractions of a point on the impossible-to-understand premise that you rolled an ankle while doing something a human body was probably not meant to do? Or that something appears 'stiff', and it ain't in your pants? Where else does success in a combination of a series of tumbles and rolls come down to something hard to quantify like 'the energy level of your routine', or the selection of an appropriate musical score?
If that’s your idea of competition (pre-menstrual, abnormally-muscular little girls in sparkly glitter Sweatin’ to the Oldies, or flinging themselves at high speed off a set of modified monkey bars) then more power to you. You obviously see something I don’t, and quite frankly, that realization gives me pause about both your sanity and sexual orientation. But don’t tell me it’s a 'sport’, and for God’s Sake, please don’t torture me with second-rate-Off-Broadway productions which are long on cost and sleep-aid factor, short on entertainment value, and present my required-by-the-fact-that-you’re-retaining-water insistence to me that being forced to watch it is a healthy thing for our relationship.
I’m sure the Olympics will do much to temporarily boost sales of feminine hygiene products, that metrosexual low-calorie-low-carb-fake beer that a real man would be embarrassed to order in a crowded bar, a few more little girls will be inspired to take up stupid sports that no one wants to watch or pay any attention too, perhaps another few dozen homosexuals will be 'inspired' to tap into their inner (insert name of outrageous, unambiguously gay probably-bronze medallist here), but beyond that, there’s not much there for the sports enthusiast.
Well, except for hot chicks in skimpy bathing and track suits, right?