09 February 2006

olympics, irony, memory, politics

two summers ago, the olympics got me started reading king kaufman's sports column on salon. sure, i follow baseball enough* and when made to watch other sports i can competently follow, but i've never been close to the sort of person who would actually ever read a sports column. (especially when there's so much else to waste my time with - i mean read when i'm not at work - on salon, including the best television writing in the world.) before i got sucked in, i didn't even know i loved the olympics, let alone king kaufman's writing. it felt a lot like thanksgiving** - every year i spend the morning at the parade or watching the parade on tv,*** catch some of the dog show while getting dressed and doing my part of the cooking, and then i sit down at the table completely caught off guard by how incredibly much i love that day. the olympics being half (or a quarter****) as frequent, it's harder to remember, because as i cast my mind back they end up much more quickly in earlier, harder-to-remember years. so i don't know if i've always loved loved loved the olympics - i don't think they ever before consumed two weeks of my life - but i have lots of oddly sharp memories from olympics of my wee days,***** so it seems like another case of thanksgiving amnesia that when the games started that summer, i was so surprised to discover (remember) that i fucking loved the olympic fucking games.

maybe something about living all adult-like gave me the chance to immerse myself more than in any previous games - no homework to distract me, no sister to fight for the tv. i could stay up watching rowing rebroadcast on espn2 as late as i wanted, and i think i even remember having it on the tv at work. so this was more than just gymnastics and michael phelps' impossibly long torso. of course, i don't remember any of the specifics now,****** but i got wrapped up in all of these delightfully strange events - archery, shooting, triathalon, fencing, rowing, modern pentathalon - and king was right along there with me. poor guy had literally more hours of footage to watch than there are hours in the day, but his wintertime love for curling translated to the summer, and he did all this fabulous elucidating of the finer points of the more obscure sports. sure, he wrote about volleyball (blah blah) and gymnastics (blah blah - but remember the controversy about that blonde boy with the really high voice? well, me neither of course, but i remember there was one), but he knew how to mix it up - a little swimming, a little bit about whether or not shooting's a sport or some other more obscure thing that's so obscure i've forgotten by now, and all with that great salon snark and humor*******. it kept me right there with him after the olympics, till baseball season was over, and he's kept me coming back for every season of a sport i even remotely follow. once he starts writing about basketball my neck starts to cramp with memories of junior high school gym, and king and i take a hiatus, but baseball, football, and any sort of drama - helloo hockey strike! - and i am there.

so as he transitions from superbowl (bleh) to torino (!) i'm not falling for my mind's little tricks - i know i love the olympics, dammit, and i can't freaking wait. okay, so we have iphigenia auditions during the opening ceremonies, and the insanity of the next two weeks will probably allow for, like, one skating routine to be watched and nothing more, but my heart is there! james and i even prepped with the skating nationals (okay, i was getting geared up - james wasn't so much prepping as was proudly declaring his homosexuality), and i watched some snowboarding stuff at the gym one day when the personal tv's sound was out, so i couldn't watch anything that required me to listen. and then, with his first post-superbowl bit about torino, king kaufman catapulted (pole vaulted!) up the i-love-you list in my heart, by not only mentioning, but devoting an entire article to, this, the possibly Best Thing Ever:

The District of Columbia Olympic Committe, and their Curling Team.

i don't want to entirely rip off king's column, which, either with a salon subscription or by watching an ad to get a day pass, you should read here. but basically, this guy mike panetta, who works for a bipartisan publicity firm, was hit with his inspiration when last olympics, the u.s. men's basketball team lost to puerto rico. why, panetta wondered, when the residents of puerto rico and the district are all u.s. residents without voting rights in congress, pr should have its own olympic team, but not dc?

king quotes from the DCOC's press release (which, he reminds us several times, got his attention, and a column devoted to it, not just because the idea is cool and interesting, but because the press release was good and well-written): "if the district is going to be lumped in with the other red-headed stepchildren of american representative democracy, we should at least be able to compete with our own olympic teams like other territories."

the brilliant thing about the DCOC is that it's a valid, logical idea. i mean, this works on every level: first of all, it is moronic that dc doesn't have a congressman. i could get into the politics, cite numbers and precedents, but i'll be lazy and leave it at that - moronic. next level: the DCOC and their curling team is a clever, smart, interesting way to raise awareness of the issue. they're even writing articulate, engaging press releases, so bully for them. but what makes the whole thing brilliant is that, fine, if dc isn't going to get a rep, the logic is sound - there's no reason they shouldn't get their own olympic teams. now i know, there are probably plenty of reasons they actually shouldn't get their own olympic team. with my weak grasp of the issues at hand, it actually seems more like puerto rico and other american territories shouldn't at all. it's a tricksy line to draw. but it seems to have been drawn with dc caught in the middle. (weird mixed metaphors/images, i know. i also acknowledge the weirdness of saying "weak grasp of the issues at hand.") but even if the DCOC isn't right about dc being able to have their own teams, it's an intriguing argument intelligently made. and they've already gotten labatt blue to sign on as a sponsor. they're either going to really raise awareness about this issue, or they're going to find themselves curling in vancouver in four years. which also might not be a terrible thing.

*okay, the yankees. james has all but entirely turned me to the dark side. this summer i will strive valiantly, aided by allison and ben, to know what the hell is going on with the mets, but it's hard when there's a yankee game on my tv almost every night. but dad, i promise, i will try.

**until this most recent one, when i finally remembered.

***okay, or sleeping through the parade - teenage years anyone?

****do you remember when they made that switch, from having winter and summer olympics in the same year, to spreading it all out evenly, with two years between each? i don't know when exactly it happened (and what, you expect me to look that up while i'm typing??) but i know i was young, and i know it seemed like a huge change in the very fabric of the universe. (i also, talk about the accuracy of memories from when i was ten, up until about a year ago, though - remembered it being - that the USSR was officially dissolved overnight, possibly over new years eve of 1990. got a few things muddled about that.) i don't know if i think it was better the old way or not, if it's better to get olympics twice as often, to keep them a more prominent part of our lives - imagine how much i'd forget that i loved them between if it were four years! - or if we're losing some of the specialness, of an Entire Olympic Year, a whole year, jubilee-style but so much more frequent, devoted to celebrating... well, whatever the olympics are supposed to celebrate. world unity, or sports or whatever.

*****particularly vivid - in my dad's old apartment, the evening news warning us that they were about to discuss that day's women's skating finals, which were to be aired after the news. they played music and flashed the scores on the screen, so you could close your eyes and wait to be surprised, if you liked. (this was a kristi yamaguchi winter, i think.) i walked towards the kitchen so i wouldn't see, but i couldn't help but look back. here's where the memory gets iffy - it's a visual, snap-shot of a memory - i remember the context, but i can see the image, what i saw when i turned towards the tv. and in that snapshot, the tv's too blurry, turned to much away from where i am, for me to read the scores. so did i already need glasses, or is that just in the remembering? did i wait until they aired the finals to find out who'd won? i have no freaking idea.

******there is something wrong with my brain. i lose myself in the olympics two years ago, but i can't remember a single one of the exceptionally strange sports that bonded me to king kaufman, and then i can remember that in ninth grade nicole and jessica remembered that ortega was a communist with the phrase 'communist tacos.' communist fucking tacos but i was about three seconds from entirely forgetting about my doctor's appointment this morning.

*******example: "The other shoe dropped Thursday on the Sunday/Monday night football broadcasting story, and by telling you this on Friday, I've managed to get 57 percent of the way to mentioning all seven days of the week in the lead sentence of a column item, something I've always wanted to do, though I wouldn't cheat by just adding the missing days, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, for no good reason." the man's sentence structure makes almost as little sense as mine does - no wonder it's love.

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