Thursday, August 7, 2008

Let The Games Begin

Even though there were a few Olympic soccer games this week (with the U.S. men beating Japan 1-0 and U.S. women falling to Norway 2-0), the 2008 Summer Olympics officially kick off tomorrow evening (8/8/08) in Beijing.  

Unlike many of my blogging friends, I like to watch the Olympics, but usually skip the opening and closing ceremonies. They're like a five hour award show without any awards. This year's opening ceremony features Celine Dion, which is more than enough reason to find what else is on tomorrow night.

I'm also not down with the U.S. nationalism, so I stay away from sports like swimming that are dominated by Americans. Anyone who's ever endured an all-day swim meet (in other words, anyone who was on a swim team as a kid)  knows that watching swimming is really boring, but watching it on TV is even more boring. I hope Michael Phelps succeeds in winning his eight gold medals, but I probably won't be watching him win any of them.

The Olympic sports that I like to watch are all the non-standard ones like badminton, kayaking, field hockey, soccer, team handball, and water polo. Basically any variation on "put the ball in the other team's goal, and prevent the other team from putting the ball in your goal" is must-see TV for me. The marathon and road cycling events should also be interesting to watch, mostly because of Beijing's air quality. There will be lots of huffing and puffing.

The cable coverage for these non-marquee sports usually airs live as it happens, which in China means the middle of the night in the USA, but that's why DVRs were invented. The TV grid for MSNBC shows 12-hour "Olympics" blocks from 11pm to 11am PDT for the next two weeks, so it requires setting the timer manually, but you're saved from hours of flag-waving and annoying commercials and Bob Costas blathering about "the true Olympic spirit", so it's worth it.

And to answer a question posed by a fellow blogger wondering how "folks who normally watch baseball and football all of a sudden get wrapped up in, oh, fencing and water polo, and then promptly forget about them until the Games roll around again", we're now in August, so football (both the American and international versions) hasn't really started yet, and baseball is stuck in the mid-season doldrums, and sometimes you need a respite from that, especially when your team has just dropped their tenth game in a row. Also, you can watch baseball and football anytime, but there's only one chance every four years to watch fencing and water polo. They're really only on television during the Olympics.

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