Homemaking: Olympic fever
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Every four years, most of this country drops everything and spends every weekday evening, and most Saturdays and Sundays, watching the Summer Olympics. It makes you feel good about your country, about how people from all over the world can come together in peace and harmony, and about the triumph of the human spirit. Mostly, though, the Olympics makes you feel bad about yourself, you slob.
Let's face it. Even if you drop everything right now, and train round the clock, you're not ever going to be an Olympic contender. If you really push it, you're more likely to end up in the emergency room than at the top of the podium.
Don't worry. I'm not either. I'm too old, lazy, untalented and have a body type (really long torso and short legs, like a human Corgi) that's the perfect physique for sitting on a couch but not much else. I couldn't even be a flag bearer unless they gave me a little wagon to pull the flag around the track in. (As a matter of fact, I think even marching in the opening ceremonies, which I've heard involves hours of standing around beforehand, seems kind of excessive. I would bring one of those canes that have a fold-out stool.)
I'm not completely immobile. I run and use the workout machines at the gym, but my running speed is so slow when I pass someone walking his dog (even a Corgi) a couple minutes later, if I look over my shoulder, they're still right behind me. And I set the weight levels so low on the gym machines that the guy who uses the machine after I do probably assumes that an old lady just finished her workout.
Of course Olympic athletes put in years of work, but they clearly have a genetic leg up. If Michael Phelps had never dipped a webbed toe in a pool, he'd probably be a pretty darn good swimmer, anyway. And those little female gymnasts look like they could probably do a cartwheel from birth, right in the delivery room.
During the Summer Olympics, you can feel especially bad about yourself because swimmers, runners and beach volleyball players, among others, show up wearing close to nothing, just to show off. Then the network plays slow-motion replays of their glistening, straining muscles as they strive for Olympic glory. The caption on the screen should say, "By the way, this is not you. It never will be you." The only thing I'm straining is my belt. I move once in a while to take another sip of beer from the coffee table, but I'm not sure that counts as a sit-up.
The TV ads make me feel even worse. Most this year are about parents of Olympic athletes. The ads show the parents taking little kids out to practices, showing the years of family sacrifice -- as little Breanna goes from doing somersaults on the back of the couch to a handstand on the balance beam -- necessary to achieve that gold medal moment. All these ads really do is point out that not only am I not exactly Olympic caliber, but also my kids won't be Olympians, either. (Yours won't either. Take a moment, gaze at junior sitting on the couch playing video games and then be honest with me and with yourself. It's not happening, is it?)
I would probably enjoy the Olympics more if it involved people I could relate to. We could move to some sort of "Hunger Games"-like system, where all over the world ordinary folks would gather in their hometowns and they'd draw names at random. The guy who cuts your meat at the butcher shop might be picked to do the 100-meter butterfly. Grandpa might have to hop on a road bike. That lady in line at the supermarket buying 37 cans of cat food? She's got to learn how to do the uneven parallel bars, and fast. That dad around the corner who has a beer fridge in the basement and a belly so round you could paint it to look like a globe? He better limber up, because he's got to grab a pole and learn to vault. The person who gets picked for the marathon would fall, screaming, to the ground.
That would be the kind of Olympics I could get behind. I'd like to sit on the couch, scoff at a social studies teacher from Omaha lumbering down the track toward the finish line in the 100-meter dash, wondering whether he would even make it, and say, with all pride and honesty, "Hah! I could do that!"
First Published August 11, 2012 12:00 am