Will's Coffee House

John Dryden, Dramatist, Critic, Poet Laureate, and my ancestor, frequented a coffee house called Will's almost daily, where he would hold forth on sundry subjects with great wit and aplomb. Same deal here, only without the wit or aplomb.

Location: Large Midwestern City, Midwestern State, United States

I am a stranger in a sane land...

Friday, August 13, 2004

Zeus Help Us - Warning: Adult Content!

The Olympics are back. Seems like the frigging things happen every couple of years or so--like the cicadas, they burrow back into their earthy pit of dormancy just long enough for us to get comfortable, then rise again, like the Living Dead, to plague all of humanity.

Why, you ask, do I hate the Olympics? Apart from the fact that they gave John Tesh yet another venue to inflict his coiffed, reptilian presence on the TV screens of the nation the last couple of times?

Well, the short answer is this--and I'm going to get vulgar, so send the kids out of the room, this post is rated 'M' for 'Mature':

Bullshit Events.

Bullshit Events, and their encroaching tyranny over the games as a whole. Now I know what you're thinking--we all hate that ribbon-dancing filth, and synchronized swimming is the work of the Devil. True. But. I'm not just talking about ridiculous nonsense like that. And I'm not just pissing on all the sports included in the games.

For there are legitimate athletic events at the Olympics--I'm not saying I could stand to watch a marathon. "Hey, there's a Kenyan running at a moderately swift pace! And there's another! And there's a South African! Boy, I could sit here looking at this for, like, a couple hours. What? I can? Oh boy!" But a marathon is not a Bullshit Event.

Nor is the decathalon. Nor any of the various dashes. Nor even, God help us, fencing.

Why, you ask, are these not Bullshit Events--especially the fencing?

Because they are atheletic events.

By which I mean--they are events where the winner is determined by an objective standard of measurement. And now we're getting to the Sheep-From-The-Goats division. For what is a Bullshit Event?

Anything in which the judges are there to do anything other than make sure nobody cheats. Anything in which some bitter has-been holds up a score-card. Any event where the winner is not determined by a stopwatch, a yardstick, or some other objective means of measurement. Once it's about another person's reaction to the event--once it's about what another person thinks or, sweet Jesus, feels--that, my friends, is a Bullshit Event. Diving? Bullshit Event. Gymnastics? Bullshit Event. Anything that happens on ice that isn't Speed Skating or Hockey? Bullshit Event--unless Curling is an Olympic sport, in which case, OK--though that's a weird fucking game, so I'm only barely giving it a pass. Even Boxing, in the absence of a TKO or Knockout, is--I'm sorry to say--a Bullshit Event. (Easy fix--just let the bastards go at it until one of 'em drops. Problem solved--no more Bullshit.)

Consider. The Colts play the Ravens. It's a slugfest--both sides giving it their all. TDs are made, conversions succeed, and fail. Turnovers, interceptions, clipping, face-guard pulling, calls of off-sides. It's a hell of a game. And at the end, the referees all get together and decide which team played with the most skill. The most elan. Which team really got out there and tried the hard plays, the challenging passes, the artistic runs. Never mind who scored the most points, the game's not about that--it's quite literally not whether you win or lose, it's how some random asshole decides you played the game. There'd be a fucking riot, and rightly so.

So why should it be any different at the Olympics? Why should a group of people--all of whom, as I say, are past their prime and no doubt bitterly watching these promising young folks do what they no longer can--why should we let them decide? Who gives a good goddamn what these people think? It's all Bullshit, in short. Oksana Baiul (is that how it's spelled?--I don't care enough to check) or Nancy Kerrigan? Who was a better skater? Who the fuck knows? How the fuck can you tell? When you're great, it's all good, so how the fuck do you split hairs--and which hairs do you split--and why? Why? Look, what's the difference between, say, figure skating and ballet, other than the ice? What's the difference between acrobatics and gymnastics except one's done 50 feet off the ground? The point is--most of this shit isn't sports. It's art. And how do you say, objectively, who's a better artist? And if you get to do that, what the fuck--let's send out competing actors--Can Meryl Streep take the Gold, or will it go to Susan Sarandon? Will Denzel get the award for Most Strenuous Monologue, or can Russell Crowe win it for his native Australia? Hell, let's make it retroactive! Mozart or Beethoven--who will the judges pick? Titian or Van Gogh--ooo, tough call!

Look, I'm not saying these people aren't athletes. As I said back in 2000, Kerri Strugg, all 85 pounds of her, could kick my ass. But what she doesn't isn't a sport. It isn't even a game. It's an art--an interesting one, to some people, I suppose, but let's not turn art into a competitive event. Because art is inevitably, ultimately subjective. In a world in which an otherwise quite intelligent friend of mine admitted that he rather liked Battlefield Earth--a movie that makes Ed Wood's Plan Nine from Outer Space look like the work of an auteur on the level of Bergman--what kind of faith can we have in the judgment of a panel of assholes? None, that's what. And yet, thanks to their whims, somebody gets to stand and cry while the band plays his/her national anthem. It's Bullshit, folks. Pure, farm-fresh Bullshit.

So watch the games, if you want. But when the Bullshit starts, just ignore who wins and who loses, and enjoy the art. 'Cause that's what it is.

Except for Synchronized Swimming. That's just Bullshit.


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