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Finn`s Wake: Done With the Games
An Irregular Column of All Finnish Things
© Mark Finn
August 29, 2004

We're on day one thousand of the Summer Olympics and having just watched Argentina skunk the American Millionaire Basketball team, I can safely say, I'm done with the games.

It's been bittersweet for me, because every Olympics I get caught up in the human condition—the athlete's struggles are a perfect story metaphor, and the press knows it. That's why we see all of the come-from-behind stories, the overcoming of personal tragedies and obstacles, etc. Even if the athletes aren't playing for team USA, if the story is epic and moving enough, we'll root for them.

I'm not saying this to make light of the achievements of the athletes, not at all. I think it's inspiring that 40% of the athletes are women, and that includes the Iraqi and Afghan women who are competing for the first time. Nor am I sneering at the universal spirit of brotherhood that typically envelops the games and the audience. It's nice to take a break from the political finger pointing and cheer honestly for our hopefuls as they compete in the caber toss. Really! That's at least more honest than who was or wasn't in a boat in Viet Nam.

No, what I'm through with is the unadulterated bias that occurs every year, without fail, during the Olympic games. For the American audience, the games are all about sex.

Think I'm wrong? Real quick, name the two winners of the woman's beach volleyball gold medal. Good job. Can you name the American who won the gold medal for women's saber? Yeah, I didn't think so. We had two women fencers win medals. And I never saw it. Oh, sure, I could have seen it if I wanted to add a hundred dollars to my cable bill. No problem. It wasn't until the games started that I noticed there was full coverage on every cable channel NBC owns. And of course, fencing got done right away, to get it over with. For that matter, I didn't see any boxing, either. Or any other martial arts. We have top-ranked athletes in all of these sports. So what did I see?

Well, I saw what we always get to see: swimming, diving, gymnastics, track and field . . . and this year, women's soccer (in case someone took her shirt off again, don'tcha know), synchronized swimming, and a new event: the trampoline! Oh yeah, this is exactly what I think of when I consider the majesty and grandeur of the Olympic games. If only Bruce Jenner had been able to compete in the trampoline.

It's no coincidence that the majority of these sports, by virtue of necessity or decorum, also feature lots of bare midriffs, tight shorts, and perfectly formed bodies. That makes for good TV, you know. That's just a fact, folks. It doesn't matter how cool a sport is; in Olympic terms, if they ain't nearly naked, they ain't getting that prime time coverage.

Boxing was on cable. Too violent. Ditto taekwondo. And fencing . . . well, come on, the entire body is covered from head to toe? Who cares how hot the chicks are if we can't see them? Now, with the trampoline . . . that's something else. Ten bounces, mind the plus sign in the middle, don't go off the edge . . . it really recalls the travails of the ancients, doesn't it?

Well, dammit, I want combat. I want more action. Screw the interpretive dances. We've got too many events, anyway. Let's combine a few and save some time, and up the action all at once. Take this trampoline concept, for example. Some of the gymnasts were getting maybe twenty feet high. Not bad. But think about how much more interesting it would be if they were being shot at. Skeet-Trampoline. Ten bounces, or two hits. Gymnasts flipping over shotgun slugs. Streaks of blood arcing off of perfectly formed arms and legs. I guarantee you, people would pack the stadium to see that action.

Maybe they should just take the clothes off of all the athletes and get it over with. Everyone competely nude. Most of the women competitors are pushing the envelope of androgyny anyway, so it's not like the competition would turn into a porno show. If we're going to go Greek, let's walk it like we talk it.

I don't think we need to make fencing, boxing, and taekwondo any more exciting. Just show them to us in the first place. Is that so hard to ask? Can't we give the fencers the Former Dream Team's spotlight, and just see if more people tune in? Let's experiment, NBC. You're subjecting us to all of the games, whether we want them or not, so why not take a few chances?

There are a lot of good reasons to watch the games, even if you aren't a fan. The stories are inevitably inspiring, and it's nice to feel a sense of pride for your country — it's nice to remember what that feels like. Bob Costas does a great job of keeping it all in perspective, and when they let him talk, he's a consistently great sportscaster, one of the few really good ones left in broadcasting. And admittedly, the high-tech aspect of the games has been fascinating. Those multiple superimposed shots, the moving cameras that pace the sprinters, and all the rest of it, really up the tension and the drama. Technically, the Olympics are cooler than ever. I'm almost excited about the Winter Games. Give me a ski-cam and I'll be there until the end.

You can play around with the Olympics coverage at www.nbcolympics.com, and this includes videos of Mariel Zagunis, the new womens' saber champion. And boy, is she a hottie . . .

Mark Finn is author of two books of fiction: Gods New and Used and Year of the Hare. To get the latest info, rants, and missives from Finn, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/finnswake.

Finn is Blogging now: http://www.livejournal.com/users/finnswake.

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