Giant on the move
Welcome to the Stretchy Pants Olympics
No? How about Saturday Night Fencing? Or maybe: Welcome to The Kayak Bowl!
The big U.S. broadcaster is paying a fortune to televise minority sports such as these from the Beijing Olympics, but don’t expect it to remake its fall TV sports schedule, no matter how many Golds Americans win at them.
We would have asked NBC why they go to the trouble of showing things like judo and rowing, but our top researcher, Keanu, already had a response: “They’d give you a boring answer, dude.” Then he went back to talking to his girlfriend on his mobile.
“So I was like…so he was like…so I was like….”
But, it’s no secret anyway. As everyone knows, track and swim and bike and gym have the lion’s share of gold medals, celebrity, television close-ups and cool stuff at the Olympic Games.
Gymnastics (18) has nymphs in glittery leotards and husky dudes in wife-beaters doing turns on dangerous gear. Cycling (18) has shaved legs and spectacular pileups. And check out the paint jobs on those bikes!
So far, so good. We know why we’re watching. In addition, that is, to the display of skill, strength and endurance from long years of selfless commitment by the athletes.
It’s okay then if, every four years, folks like NBC and the other big media help shine a light on the furthest corners of the world of sport, and even provide commentators to can explain it.
But are the interests of the great masses being sacrificed in the name of elitist sports for the middle classes, who can afford to buy specialist clothing and high-tech gear? Are the world’s most popular bat, stick and ball games being short-changed?
You judge: basketball and football get only two gold medals each. Baseball gets just one. But there are 14 for judo and 14 for rowing and 11 for shooting.
Okay, football and basketball and baseball have their own separate World Cup and NBA playoffs and World Series. But it’s still not clear whose perfect Saturday afternoon sports lineup the Olympic Games is supposed to reflect.
“Thanks, I already got ringside at synchronised swimming (2 Golds) and after that we’re on standby for tickets to the archery (4 Golds)…”
Olympic wrestling (18 Golds) has come a long way from the jaggedy-assed wool combination suits the guys used to wear. But no amount of lycra can make up for the lack of lace-up leather facemasks, Indian headdresses, silk capes, oiled locks, weird tights and horrible fouls we’re used to seeing on Worldwide Professional Wrestling Federation night. There are no tag teams and no hair-pulling.
Jack Black knows that shunning showmanship won’t work. As he secretly transforms himself from monastery cook into successful wrestling pro in his movie ‘Nacho Libre’, Black explains the exigencies of pro sport to a puzzled orphan.
“When you are a man,” he says, “sometimes you wear stretchy pants in your room. It’s for fun.”
PHOTO: Daigoro Timoncini of Italy (in red) fights Kenzo Kato of Japan during their 96kg men’s Greco-Roman wrestling qualification match at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 14, 2008. REUTERS/Oleg Popov