This most recent "summer of heat" made outdoor chores fewer and farther between, and the timing was good, as it gave me a chance to tune into coverage of the Olympic Games telecast on numerous channels during the day and the main NBC network at night.
Every Olympics brings some new learning of different sports, rules of new sports, rule changes of old sports, and I'm sure we all had our favorite sports to watch. I know for me during past Winter Olympics, I'd seen curling, but never really watched it intensely, until the 2010 games. I'm hooked.
These summer games gave me chances to see that handball isn't swatting a ball against a wall with your hand, as I thought, and I never knew trampoline was an Olympic event. I saw more events I'd never seen closely before (judo, archery, canoeing, shooting, et al.), finding them interesting and entertaining. I got to see some of my favorites like swimming, diving, track and field, gymnastics, and rowing. I enjoyed soccer (if USA was playing), but wasn't really into badminton, table tennis, or fencing. (I'm still questioning how/why baseball and softball were taken out of the Olympics.)
J. Paul Lombardo
I liked boxing too, though I didn't see a lot of coverage of it, just a smattering here and there. I thought some analysts talked way too much, and I thought there was way more coverage of beach volleyball than other sports (NBC probably liked the uniforms.) All in all though, I found myself watching a lot of coverage of the games, which was a welcome change from some of today's lousy choices on television.
I also found it interesting how some equipment has changed over the past 20 years, or so, of the games. The vault in the flashback of the 1996 USA Magnificent Seven looked a lot different than that which this year's Fab Five used in competition. Advancements in technology also allowed viewers to see what happened below the surface of the water in swimming and diving events, painting clearer pictures as to just how close some of the competitions were.
Two sports I didn't want to watch much were basketball and tennis, though I admit, I saw more of both gold medal tennis matches than I care to admit. (Not much else was covered first thing in the morning on each finals day.) I don't feel these sports are special in the Olympic tradition. I feel the same about hockey in Winter Games. Basketball compares an NBA All Star Team beating up the "Washington Generals." How entertaining is it to watch money grubbing, greedy, egomaniacs of the NBA defeat Nigeria by 83 points? Wow, that's entertainment. Not!
I feel the same about tennis. What's so entertaining, or traditional of the Olympics, watching four professionals who played in the very same stadium a few weeks earlier in the Wimbledon tournament, the men having played each other in the finals, ironically, on the same center court?
On the flip side, how could anyone not get goosebumps, even tears in their eyes seeing the innocent, jubilant, smiles and tears of joy on the faces of a Missy Franklin, Katie Ladecky, Gabby Douglas, Kayla Harrison, Reese Hoffa, Kelci Bryant, Abby Johnston, Oscar Pistorius, Jenn Suhr, and more, when they approached the venue of their event, when they finished a heat/race/competition, and especially when they perched themselves on that medal stand, receiving the reward for their efforts and talent?
Who of us (old enough to remember) can forget past athletes like Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Scott Hamilton, Eric Heiden, Mary Lou Retton, Mark Spitz, The Magnificent Seven, Cassius Clay (Mohammed Ali), and historically what an amazing feat was accomplished by Jesse Owens in the 1936 Games, especially in Berlin, in front of Adolph Hitler? And of course, who of us around in 1980 will ever forget what the USA Olympic Hockey Team did, not only for hockey and the Olympics, but for the uplift and enthusiasm for this country.
The chant of "USA, USA," was something we, who were around then, still hear today, as we relive that magic moment. I'm willing to wager that most of us around then can tell you exactly where we watched the game against the Soviets which put the USA in the gold medal game, and where we watched the United States play Finland to win the totally unexpected gold medal. I admit, as I'm writing this piece, I can hear ABC announcer Al Michaels' famous "Do you believe in miracles?" shout as the clock expired in that semi-final game against the Soviets. To me, these last paragraphs are what I feel our country's attitude and philosophy of the Olympic Games should be. Give the games back to amateur athletes. (Note, I have no problem with athletes receiving endorsements to help offset training costs; I'm talking about "pay for play" professional athletes.)
Professionals are making more money than anyone should, and many supplement their already obscene salaries with financially ridiculous endorsements. They've had their moments. They have their fame. Give the Olympic stage back to the amateurs. Who cares if we don't win as many medals? Who cares if other countries use amateurs, who are really professionals if you look at how they operate? If America is the Land of Opportunity, let's let some who aren't already in the public limelight get their 15 minutes of fame. I guarantee the chants of "USA, USA" will not diminish, and the smiles of the true amateurs in this year's games will shine brighter in our minds and hearts long after the shine of the medals ever will.