J With the Olympics on the horizon, it gives me reason to pause and ponder some of the unusual Olympic sports that are and have been considered, well, sports. Here are some odd ones that have now been discontinued. Distance plunging: For this one, contestants had to dive into a pool and remain there, without moving for 60 seconds or until their heads bobbed out of the water. Live pigeon shooting; PETA would have been outraged. Dueling pistols: This is about as odd as they come, especially when you consider that the contestants were shooting at fancily dressed mannequins. And solo synchronized swimming: I personally witnessed this at the ’92 Olympics and left feeling mightily confused, wondering who they were synchronizing with. The Winter Games have the exciting and somewhat odd “sport” of curling, where two guys push a stone ball down an ice court and try to maneuver it with brooms. Huh? A sport? Not so sure, but it is nice to see men with brooms in their hands.
M I’ve got to admit that I have some real issues with this ultimate athletic competition. Is being No. 1 in a sport an admirable life goal or rather a self-serving objective? Stopping the spread of AIDS, serving your country, finding a cure for cancer – to me those are admirable goals. And let’s face it, many of the Olympians are privileged (not to mention physically gifted). Along the road to glory there were numerable (and extremely pricey) coaches, tutors, training camps, totally devoted parents, etc. And win or lose, what happens post-Olympics? While many go on to successful personal lives and find positions as trainers or commentators, there are those who can’t make the adjustment, debilitated from the mental, physical and emotional toll of excessive training (and perhaps, drugs). There’s even a name for it. It’s called post Olympic stress syndrome (POSS), and it can affect not only the athletes but the spectators as well.
J Historically speaking, people will find a way to compete with one another in almost any arena. It’s just human nature, dating back to the Neanderthals – who was the strongest and best hunter, i.e. who brought in the biggest chunk of meat. The winner, in turn, usually got the finest “piece of meat,” if you get my drift. But fair competition is one thing; cheating by pumping yourself up with synthetic hormones (something that has become quite prevalent due to bad coaching and even worse ethics) is completely different. It’s been sad to see so many athletes have to go through the public humiliation of giving back their medals. I do look forward to the Olympics, however. I get weak in the knees when I watch those swimmers. They are such hunks. (Michael Phelps, I love you.) And, they have the greatest (and smallest) uniforms of all.
M This summer, I’ll try to put all my Olympic biases and concerns aside and just concentrate on the brawn and the beauty of the superbly tuned and chiseled athletes. And I have to agree with you about swimmers. They are so fine. Phelps is a hotie, as is James Magnussen (plus he’s got the Aussie accent going for him) and Ryan Lochte. But I think my money this year is on Ricky Berens, who has beaten both Phelps and Lochte this year. And thanks to “The Hunger Games,” I’ve found myself enthralled by archers. A man with a bow makes me quiver and no one does it better than USA’s Brody Ellison. And then there are the oldies but goodies – David Beckham, who at 37 is still a god among men, and Hiroshi Hoketsu, an equestrian who at 70 has still got it going on.
J Now if they would just make miniature golf an Olympic sport, we’d be in.
• Synchronized swimming – the suits, the facial expressions, the moves, not only impressive but hysterical. (M)
• Speedos, on men who should be wearing them. Hint: They are usually donning a swimming cap and going for the gold. (J)
• People who say “I can’t” without even trying. (M)
• Clips of various athletes falling, tripping, missing, crashing or passing out before crossing the finish line, that are shown over and over and over again. Jeez. (J)
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