Monday, August 11, 2008

Go For the Gold

The Olympics are cool.

I know there's been doping and scoring scandals in past Olympics, and the atmosphere reeks of bullshit politics. There's already been one random act of violence - coincidentally, committed upon two fellow citizens of mine. There are overhyped athletes, and the broadcast talent becomes annoying, if it didn't start out that way. I'm aware of the peripheral faults and vagaries, but still, the Olympics are cool.

I get to feeling patriotic, and I want the Americans to win every single contest. USA, baby! Let's beat the Frogs and the Canucks and the Japs. Damn right, win all the gold. Let the rest of 'em fight it out for silver and bronze.

For the most part, I feel that way. I'll admit, I didn't pull for the American skier in the last Winter Olympics, what's his name, Bodie Miller. He was pretty much a jackass, I thought, so I hoped he would lose and then cussed him for losing. The boy had no gratitude and no humility that I could see in the few interview clips I saw of him. I like a little humility in my favorite athletes. Spontaneous celebration with your teammates is cool, but don't overdo it. And don't act like a jackass when you don't win.

I like Michael Phelps, but he's about to get on my nerves this year. His celebrations seem orchestrated, with the removal of the upper half of his swimsuit, the shirt part. His teammates don't strip down when they finish their leg of the relay, why should he? Preparing for the cameras, I do believe. He should know you don't have to be a poser if you're The Man.

But my favorite thing about the Olympics is, they bring back memories from various points in my life. Giving away my age, I was about to turn 10 when Mark Spitz set all the records in Munich. Everyone was talking about it. I remember who I was friends with, who my girlfriend was, what Little League baseball team I played on, and we went to Jekyll Island for summer vacation that year.

Then there was Nadia Comaneci in '76. I thought she was hot, and she was my age. Those muscular legs served as infinite inspiration for a youngster dripping with hormones.

One of my favorite Olympics was in 1984, the Los Angeles Olympics. I was 21 and going into my senior year at Georgia. In other words, I knew everything and I was 10 feet tall and bullet proof.

My father took me on a trip to California and Nevada that August, while the Olypics were going on in El Ay. One night in Carmel, after we'd gone out for a nice steak dinner, we were back in the hotel room chilling out, he with a map spread out on the bed, plotting our travel strategy for the next day. We were headed for Lake Tahoe. Mary Lou Retton was on TV doing her thing, and looking fine doing it. I thought she was the bomb, with that tight little hard body, the perfect teeth and the fire in her eyes. I was plotting my own strategy for ditching my dad, taking the rental car and driving down to El Ay to try to catch her eye.


So I didn't do that, but we did go to Lake Tahoe the next morning. We spent two days there. I met a lady from Sacremento while playing Black Jack and drinking Wild Turkey. She was 44. We charmed each other and went off to have some privacy and drove her car to a little ramshackle hotel at the end of what was The Strip back in those days. The Playland Motor Inn. I forgot to cash in my chips before we left the casino, but fortunately the sleepy headed manager was cool enough to let me pay him with a casino chip from the High Sierra. Later, when I tried to sneak into the hotel room back at the casino, about 5:00 a.m., my father cracked one eye and said, "You better sleep fast, we're pulling out at 7:00."

I like to go back to those days and relive some of my favorite moments, and the Olympics reminds me to do so. I hope that sometime down the line, I'll look back on these Olympics with some fond memories. There is plenty of negative to be found right now, take your pick. The economy, inflation. Gas prices. The state of the war in Irag, or Afghanistan. I'm sure I'll remember these things and associate them with the 2008 Summer Olympics, but they won't be the things I remember most. This year we've got the new little American gymnast, Shawn Johnson, giving the young boys fits and poised to bring home some serious gold. And I'll remember the time I spent with my father, the girl I'm seeing, who my friends are and what we're doing. Incredibly, I'm still friends with 3 of the guys I was friends with in 1972.

Yeah, the Olympics are cool. Go America.


At 3:25 AM , Blogger Robin S. said...

Love the story, Wood.

This kinda stuff can't be replaced. It just can't!

I watched Michael Phelps hit 10 medals last night - it took my breath away. Schmaltzy, maybe, but true.

At 7:28 PM , Anonymous wonderwood said...

Man, after what I said about Michael Phelps almost getting on my nerves, the guy has totally redeemed himself. He's an awesome athlete, and as humble after winning his seventh gold as any athlete I've seen. Not a poser at all. He's a credit to the population and I'm proud he's an American.

For me he doesn't have the same appeal as, say, Alicia Sacramone, but the ladies probably dig him.

At 3:57 AM , Blogger Robin S. said...

Yep. He has some really nice shoulders - as swimmers do.

I was also happy to see Dara Torres grab a silver at the age of 41. Go, Dara!!


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