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.

A Blockbuster Christmas

Every Christmas I usually have most of my presents mentally chosen whether or not I’ve hit the store. But every single year I struggle to buy my brother something that isn’t a DVD.

At 16, there’s so much he could be into, but I just have no clue other than he really likes sci-fi. I usually break down and buy a season of Stargate or similar fare that is only shown on cable – which has always been non-existent in my parents’ house.

As we’ve gotten older, Christmas, while joyous in some sense, has gradually become a let down for my mother. When we were younger we knew she felt guilty that she couldn’t offer us these elaborate gifts, like it seemed with our friends’ received. I knew though, they had fewer children and more income, it just made sense that our Christmases wouldn’t be an even match.

But as the request for bikes and toys have become fewer and fewer, the practical presents of dorm room supplies and household needs have become more abundant. In return, my parents get a, “Thanks guys, I needed that” instead of the “Wow” face.

I never really understood her disappointment until I started struggling to buy for my brother. We’ve always butted heads, but when he was little, I loved hanging out in the toy aisle and getting the temptations that someone else hadn’t splurged on. In return, I got play time making Lego castles and pretend battles of Spiderman vs. Batman in our back yard. One Christmas he received walkie-talkies and we stayed outside all day sending Morse code to each other from different sides of the house.

The slippery no-present-idea slope started few years ago when I bought him Dick Tracey for his birthday thinking it was part of the comic-book type movies he liked but didn’t own. His reaction was, “I don’t like this movie, you guys do.” It broke me. As much as we don’t get along, I thought he would have at least feigned interest. On the other hand, we’re so honest with each other that his lack of tact shouldn’t have shocked me. He deserves a present he wants. But in my own gift-buying experience, the things I choose for others are always something I would kind of want for myself.

As the holidays and birthdays have passed, I keep thinking in the back of my head that if I even choose the wrong movie, it’s not going to be OK. It would be just another reminder of how close we aren’t.

What’s funny though, is without movies, I don’t think any of my family would be as close as we are now. Christmas mornings are no longer spent trying out new toys, brushing a doll’s hair or attacking army men with the new BB gun out back. Instead, we spend our day watching movies.

We ALL get each other DVDs of some kind. For my mom, it’s Elvis and Doris Day. My dad receives Westerns and modern-day shoot-’em-ups with humor that’s bold enough to downplay poor word choice from the actors. The three of us girls receive indie flicks or classics that we’ve come to adore in the last year. And for my brother, modern-day shoot-’em-ups to sneak past my parents and anything he should watch to be cool. The past few years, we’ve caught up on our blockbusters on Christmas Day: Iron Man, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean 1, 5 and 12, etc.

It’s how we bond. It’s not exciting on the outside, but memories of all post-high school Christmases for me include the couch, movies, coffee and all of us wandering in and out of the kitchen to sneak ham before lunch. We don’t talk, except to make fun of the same things and rewind the parts we laughed too loud at or to catch my brother up on the plot when he says, “What just happened,” because he was too busy paying attention to the technique of the fight. It’s also the one time that we can manage to share the space on the couch and our blankets that we’ve drug into the living room before opening presents. Whenever I view the movies later, I remember my family’s reaction and their commentary. Without them, Princess Diaries 2 wouldn’t be as funny, I wouldn’t notice the volume change during the first major fight sequence in Pirates 2 to make the audience sit up, and I wouldn’t know that my dad has a secret crush on Michelle Pfeiffer.

This year, I’ve settled on a gift to accompany a big-ticket item my parents chose for my brother in an attempt to avoid purchasing yet another DVD. While I know I’m not as close to him as I am my sisters, I really hope that when he pulls out a movie he received from me, that it reminds him of watching it with all of us so it ends up being more than just a movie, but a memory.

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