We watch the Olympics all day so that you don’t have to.
Yes, I spent some of the day with the horsies, and watched some Equestrian yesterday. And I admit to doing so to see if Bruce Springsteen’s daughter Jessica was riding. I have no doubt that she’s very talented, and her making the Olympic Team is an impressive accomplishment she’s achieved, all the more so for succeeding in something separate from her renowned father. But…well, yeah, I normally wouldn’t be watching it all that much. And I suspect I’m not alone. Though it does have its loyal followers. Alas, I was watching the dressage event, and she’s competing in the show jumping category. So, more Equestrian to come. And no, I have no idea what makes one dressage performance better than another – and I’m sure neither do the horses.
The U.S.men’s Basketball team had a big win today. I watched off and on, and they won big, 120-66 against mighty powerhouse…er, Iran. I hope that this win doesn’t give the team too much of a swagger since, as we’ve seen, they got beat by Nigeria and France, and no one should consider Iran much of a test, especially by U.S. basketball standards and expectations.
The U.S. women won the 3x3 Basketball Gold medal. And I was wrong about who plays in it, since it turns out that those on the women’s team are fairly accomplished, most even from the WNBA. But that defeats the only reason I could see for it as an Olympic sport, which was to have a venue for amateurs, since regular Basketball is now made up of pros.
There was a very nice moment at the medal ceremony for the double sculls rowing, won by the Sinkovic brothers Martin and Valent of Croatia. As you may know, because of the pandemic officials no longer put medals around the winning athletes’ necks, but hand them over. What the Sinkovics did, though, was the officials’ old job – and rather than put their Gold medal on their own neck, instead each put it on their brother.
I watched a bit of weightlifting, and the starting weight was 347 pounds, though I wasn’t impressed because even I have lifted that amount. In fairness, I didn’t lift it all at once – 30 pounds here, 20 pound another time, 40 pounds later, then 12 pounds – but eventually I made it to 347. More even.
Lots of good whitewater canoe slalom, which I said is one of my favorite, offbeat events. I stayed up until 12:45 AM two nights ago watching, and looked forward to more being shown the next morning on the USA channel, since it was listed as “New.” As it turns out, no, it wasn’t new at all, but just a repeat of the night before. Had they left off that pesky (and deceptive) “New,” I would have gotten to sleep a whole lot earlier, and just watched the whitewater racing in the oh-so far more convenient morning.
I keep meaning to mention this about the Opening Ceremonies, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet. So, now is as good as time as any –
For the Opening Ceremonies, NBC generally has two hosts, one a sports expert and the other for more social color. While I understand the latter, since this really isn’t a sporting event – I tend to find it empty airspace. After all, there are only two parts of the evening: the first is the arts and cultural presentation, and the other the parade of athletes. For the arts portion, although you’d think a social host is appropriate for that, all they’re really doing is just reading a press release that explains the otherwise indecipherable movements, so there’s nothing that they or pretty much anyone bring to the event from their personal expertise, or could possibly bring to it. (“I don’t know, Mike, it looks like this is a tribute to abstract thought, or perhaps screen doors…”) As for the other part when the athletes enter – that does call for sports expertise, to recognize who is who, and ideally know something about their career to add historical perspective. Bob Costas was always brilliant at this – I’m sure announcers are given notes, but he also had an encyclopedic knowledge of such things. Mike Turico isn’t at that level (few are), but he handled things respectably. Unfortunately, talented as Savannah Guthrie is, this is just historically a poor venue for most people who aren’t sports experts, and I always dread the cringe-worthy moments that are sure to come.
The cringe moment that stood out this year is when host nation Japan came in, and she noted that their flag bearers were carrying “one of the most recognizable flags in the world.” All I could think was, well, yeah, but that’s probably because of all the WWII newsreel footage and movies about then uniting with the Nazis and attacking the U.S. at Pearl Harbor. Yes, that’s just a pure guess on my part. But it’s not like there is much of another reason for people to see the Japanese flag regularly – or (to be fair) any flag but their own. If the Stars-and-Stripes is so recognized around the world, that’s likely because American popular culture permeates the world, English is the international language, and America has commercialized its flag so egregiously on as many products as possible that it’s probably the only flag in the world that needs a trademark. I just don’t think the Japanese flag, unique though it is, is especially seen more over the years all that more than others – except perhaps on Red Dot Day. Or on the History Channel.
More to come...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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