Olympics update


I used to know nothing about athletics, but I know all about them now. Over the past year I have employed a gymnast and two football players in my office, and I just hired a lacrosse player, and they have all taken great pains to educate me in their various sports. Partner, naturally, still tries to instruct me. And now, with the Olympics, my education is proceeding wonderfully.



Here’s what I now know:



        Synchronized divers do not have to be exactly the same height. To be frank, I didn’t know there was such a thing as “synchronized diving” until Tuesday morning, when I saw two adorable young Mexican athletes execute a simultaneous quadruple mid-air flip. But one diver was an inch taller than the other, and it offended my sense of symmetry. Shouldn’t the shorter one have been wearing flip-flops, or something?

        Trampoline is an Olympic sport. I learned this on “Jeopardy!” the other night, and I told my student assistant Gunnar about it, and we both thought it was pretty funny. I’m sure it takes loads of strength, coordination, etc., etc.; it’s just that I associate trampolines with kiddie parties and circuses. Gunnar found a video of the Canadian trampoline finals online, and we watched a bit of it, giggling quietly. “This guy’s actually pretty good,” Gunnar said. “Until he breaks his arm when he falls off the side,” I said. And then we started giggling again.

        A North Korean weightlifter just lifted three times his own weight. This has only been done twice before in Olympic history, and it’s pretty amazing, apparently; Gunnar (who’s a football player in training) was blown away by this. The North Korean, Om Yun Chol, is five feet tall, and he weighs only a little less than I do (and I’m almost a foot taller than he is), and he’s adorable. Look how happy he is in the photo above! Apollonia, who doesn’t like short men, called him a “nasty little troll.” I pointed out that he was extraordinarily strong, which is always a selling point (we all like men who can lift and carry), and she grudgingly took her insult back, and we are now calling him “our pocket Hercules.”

        Swimmers are almost never attractive. Swimming develops all the wrong muscles. A classically well-built man is not, how you say, hydrodynamic. Champion swimmers are built more like otters or harbor seals. My friend Cathleen told me that she can’t help noticing the Olympic swimmers’ hugely developed trapezius muscles, which look eerily unnatural.

        Road cycling is very dull. Watch the replays if you don’t believe me. Pedal pedal pedal pedal pedal; curve straightaway curve straighaway curve. I mean really. 

        Women’s beach volleyball is more or less soft-core pornography. Yes, Misty May-Treanor, I’m looking at you. 

        An athlete from Niger, Hamadou Djibo Issaka, who only learned to row a few months ago, came in last in the single sculls event. Shades of “Cool Runnings”! And good for him! And the crowd cheered him on! (This is what makes the Olympics (at its best) feel like a world event: cheering for someone who’s in last place, or someone from a different country, or someone who isn’t a consummately-trained athlete.  Or all three.) 


And we’re only a week into this!  And I didn’t even mention the badminton scandal!


Why I should learn to swim


I don’t think anyone in my family really knows how to swim.  I think my brother Leonard can swim a little, but that’s it.



We didn’t have a pool when I was a kid.  Nor did we live near placid clean bodies of water.  The local swimmin’ holes – the Lewis River, the Columbia River, Battle Ground Lake – were either too brisk or rocky for swimming, or big bowls of tepid water and bacteria. 



During Peace Corps training in Puerto Rico, I tried to learn.  There were fifteen of us in the training group: twelve other guys going to Morocco, and two women going to the Turks and Caicos Islands.  One of the women was a very nice happy lesbian and didn’t care about the guys at all, except as friends; the other was straight and moderately attractive and was being peppered on all sides by offers of sexual congress from fellow trainees.  She and I liked each other, and I think she found my company peaceful, as I wasn’t trying to get her into bed.  Anyway, she tried to teach me to swim in the Caribbean, with the barracudas darting around our feet, and the straight guys in our group were very envious of me as I was being held in the water by my ladyfriend.



But I can’t really swim, to this day.  (They tried to teach me to float.  Depending on what I happen to be wearing on any particular day, I may be able to float.)



Years ago, when I was a kid, my family went to Copalis, Washington, to dig clams and play on the beach.  I was left alone to play.  Apparently the tide came in very rapidly.  I remember (vividly) playing in the sand.  I remember the water coming in rapidly, but I wasn’t worried about it.  Then I heard screaming, and my family ran through the rapidly-deepening water and scooped me up – and then I was concerned. 



My memory is in black-and-white, but very sharp.  I wasn’t scared until I heard the screams and the people running toward me.



Ah well. Here I am today.



Let the chips fall where they may, kids. 



Here’s to another hundred years of foolish heedless living.




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