Who’s up for some badminton?

Jul 27th

I am writing about the Olympics. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. The Olympics combine everything I treasure most in the world. Tradition, athletics, celebrity-spotting, hastily-produced thematic pop music, round-the-clock live tv coverage that gets awkward a lot, a sweet attempt at international harmony and Bud Greenspan.*

I wasn’t sure how to tackle this post because my Olympic memories and thoughts on the event are very disjointed. But if you read my blog regularly, you’re accustomed to disjointed. Maybe you’re even a little disjointed yourself?

What are your memories and random thoughts on the Olympics?

My memories of the Olympics include:

THE SOVIETS and the humorless Eastern Bloc nations. That is the overriding memory from my childhood. It was so very serious. The threat of nuclear war, that is. The Olympics were just a stage for our hardcore clash of ideology and outfits. The Soviets with their red and gold, hammer and sickle. The US with its 80s glitz. All the defectors adding to the tension of competition. (I’m talking about you, Bela Karolyi.) I learned what “boycott” meant when we refused to attend the Moscow Olympics (though I remember having a stuffed “Misha” bear, the Moscow mascot) and when the Soviets returned the favor in Los Angeles.

SWIMMING was my sport and it was a big deal to watch it on tv. Janet Evans was my age and when she broke all kinds of long-distance records, I remember feeling proud of my generation, but also envious. She was so celebrated and cute and I was jealous. I could never muster that kind of commitment and lung power. Not with my lofty social aspirations and fear of goggle tan lines.

The closest I ever came to competing was this official 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics bathing suit. I am rocking it with my cheesy hair and super hot… brother.
Another swimming connection includes the very incredible Michael Phelps. We lived less than a mile from him in Baltimore and, before he was famous, Lu took her first swim classes at the pool where he trains. I swear I saw him around town before I knew anything about his talents or potential. In most cases, world class swimmers stand out like crazy because their bodies are borderline bizarre. Long torsos, long arms, short legs, broad shoulders. I just know I waited behind him at Uncle Wiggly’s Ice Cream Shop. Michael, if you read my blog, please confirm. Would have been about 2003.

NANCY KERRIGAN, of course, but my main memory of her shot at gold goes beyond the Tonya Harding fiasco, though that was some nutty sh*%!

Everyone supported poor Nancy and her bruised knee. Even Vera Wang, who designed beautiful, classy dresses. Going into the long program, she stood firmly in first place. It was a lock! I was so excited! Finally, justice!

She skated during the afternoon, but they were airing it again at night, when I was home from work, sitting on my couch, happy. Just needed to get through the day. As I was boarding an elevator, some super jerk blurted out, “Can you believe Nancy got the silver?!” Whaaaaaaat? He robbed me of an incredibly dramatic evening with an unbelievable surprise outcome and I’m still bitter.

Four years in the life of a forty-something goes by awfully fast. I remember being so sad at the closing ceremonies. How could we possibly wait to see those rings again? But then they started staggering the summer and winter festivities and that was better. Now that I’m officially old, four years is like nothing at all. “What, the Olympics again? Already?”

Old or not, I’m thinking I could compete in Rio — if I start badminton lessons tomorrow and squeeze in 10,000 hours. That’s roughly 48 hours/week for 4 years.┬áConsidering what babysitters charge these days, I will need sponsorship for sure.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to watching soccer, all of the swimming, much of the track and field, and none of the boxing. Hope you enjoy the festivities, the sportsmanship and the hastily-produced thematic pop music. Go team USA!

* I just learned that Bud died in 2010 and now I think they should cancel the Olympics. Is it too late? At least recognize the man in some capacity during the endless coverage. If you don’t know who Bud Greenspan is (was), yes you do. Trust me. He chronicled the “too incredible to be true” Olympic stories, his steady narrating voice urging you to believe all things are possible with hard work and a goal for glory. Especially if you come from an impoverished village somewhere, were tragically orphaned, fled a despot, and given your first pair of shoes at 12. RIP Bud.

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