Spectator Sport

Bad clothes, cheesy music and drama. It’s my perfect sport. Source: dailymail.co.us

Football and golf make for a good afternoon nap. Basketball is a favorite, but only during March Madness or the NBA finals when a bigger paycheck is on the line and players seem to get past locker-room grudges and actually play.  The same goes for baseball, except for when there are extra innings and the manager’s been ejected from the game. They are all great during a Thirsty-something night with cheaper drink specials, and a side of people watching.

When I’m asked my favorite sport, I usually find myself rationalizing why I don’t watch typical “American” sports. Sitting in the sports department hasn’t helped my efforts at all. My response is also the way I sheepishly hide that I don’t have just a favorite sport, but a sporting spectacular that rotates from summer to winter every two years.

Yep, I’m an Olympic-holic. Those Visa “Go World” commercial epitomize everything I love about a two-week sleepless fest. If I had cable my life would be even more disastrous. I even have a tab on my iGoogle page that updates links to stories, has an event schedule and a medal counter. Seriously.

Athletes that truly would never become household names feel like family members by the time Bob Costas and NBC finish up with their stories. I love it all. One personal faves includes ragging on a TV reporter’s awkward manner of recalling facts of previous games and trying to make post-event interview relevant and riveting. (How many times can you ask, “How does this moment feel?” before someone snaps, “You wouldn’t understand because you’re not an Olympian.”) I love past Olympic standouts coming back to offer commentary on the sport they dominated. I love failures and triumphs. So many of these athletes give up a medal for the chance of landing a new trick or setting a new record to just improve the sport. Most importantly, I love feeling that staying up late somehow really roots on the athletes to do well. I’m a pro at watching the games and remember the dumbest facts.

I realize there’s so much about the games that can be criticized. I hate when winning medals becomes political. I do, however,  love when moments teach you about how different cultures view respect and success. Not being a world traveler, I’ve unfortunately learned a lot about the world through the Olympic games.

I get really giddy when that time comes around for both the summer and winter games. It’s the one time I truly am a sports fan. Without them, I also wouldn’t have found my favorite sport – figure skating.

Is your snickering done?

What about now?

OK. Ready to continue reading? Part of the appeal of the Olympics as a child was that events ran so late into the evening. Knowing there would be no reruns and internet wasn’t a common thing yet, I could usually push for my bedtime to be later so I could watch “the moments.” My first memory of the games came from Kristi Yamaguchi clenching the gold medal in the 1992 games. I don’t remember her skate, but I remember being so proud of her. I fell in love. For an 8 year old, the glitter and glamour was intoxicating. Plus, I could easily put on my white socks an re-enact my own routine on the kitchen floor. I even learned how to complete “spins” and “single jumps” without running into the kitchen chairs. Throw in a white cheerleading skirt and a floral bathing suit, and I was ready to go. I just only lacked ice.

Not being athletic, the best I could honestly ever hope for in any sport is to be a great fan though. Kristi was the first athlete I became a fan of and wanted to follow her career.  I was a tad bit upset when she went pro the next year, but I watch those televised events just as fervently.

WHY?!

Four years later, my new love was
Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. It was the perfect love/hate relationship. I just hated that I actually loved Tonya Harding. She had French braids, what could I say. My grandmother even knew how much I was looking forward to those 1994 games and taped the Nancy & Tonya story that aired while we were at church one night and made a trip from Aiken to Lake View for a “visit” but it was really to deliver the goods.

Unfortunately, bed time called and I didn’t actually see Oksana Baiul perform Swan Lake and ruin both Americans’ gold medal hopes. I only had my mom’s recount to go on. But during those games was when I actually became a tad bit obsessed and started learning the names of jumps and spins so I could offer my own expert commentary.

Four years later, my new fave gal, Michelle Kwan came along. So did my fave villain, Tara Lipinski. I still get tickled when Michelle’s on TV. I’m still upset my mom made us go to Wednesday night church instead of seeing her with a tour when they came to Columbia, S.C. I also still love trashing Tara’s looks and bad hair.

While the sport itself is all about artistry AND athleticism, it’s the characters that make it appealing. The Vancouver games alone are the perfect example of why the sport has to come around every four years and make headlines that draw in even non-enthusiasts. Ice dancing costumes and facial expressions were insanely bad, the men’s silver medalist renamed it the “platinum” medal to make himself feel better and the women’s event was all about Korea triumphing over Japan, and in turn rising above decades of oppression. I can’t make that stuff up. What I really love more than anything is a good story, and every year skating has one. I wasn’t even a true fan of any of this year’s skaters, and I was still a sucker and stayed up well past midnight to watch post-event commentary.

To this day my dad still calls on Saturday and Sunday afternoons to remind me if a professional tour or amateur event is on. Even though he doesn’t “watch” figure skating, he also still calls to comment when he sees a bad fall or silly routine. I’m a dork, and while I love the sport every season,  what I love more is the chance to be a dork about figure skating every four years.

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