Ithaca Blog

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Luckily, the Olympics Are Boring

As a big baseball fan, including televised baseball, I don't need any more reasons to waste my time, so it is lucky I find the Olympics impenetrably boring.

As far as I can tell, the Olympic games take place every day, all day, for an arbitrary period of time, once every four years. An untold number of athletes, more than you can imagine exist, participate in a cavalcade of games, races, and other events that are not that easy to categorize. The best three people in a competition stand on a box at the end of it, and get a medal on a string to put around their necks.

The Olympics reward excellence, which is part of the problem. Excellence is not as engaging as failure.

Baseball is based on failure. Even the greatest hitters fail two times out of three. A championship team can be one that only wins 4 times out of 7, which is just one better than coin-flipping.

There's a lot more to talk about with failure. And of course, more to anticipate. Maybe next time the ballplayer will get lucky. Luck doesn't play much part in the Olympics.

As a result, there's not much to say about an Olympic champ. How did Michael Phelps do? He swam very fast. Really? Did anyone swim faster? No. Okay. Anything else? Well, he did it 8 times. No kidding. Could he have done it 9? Yeah, maybe.

Horse racing is good because you can bet on it. Also, it is very difficult to predict who will win. Nobody wins 8 races in a row, ever. And of course, you don't know if the horse really knows what's going on, so there's an air of mystery.

Baseball is less like the Olympics than it is like soap operas. It's on every day. Nothing much happens. The interesting thing is the foibles of the players. Listen to baseball fans talk sometime. It's like they're talking about Melrose Place. "What the hell is wrong with Billy?" "Do you think Willie is going back to the Yanks?" "These guys got no chemistry."

What baseball and the Olympics have in common, of course, is the aspect of much ado about nothing. But baseball is a lot lighter on the ado. Not so much flags and fervor. Certainly, no surveillance and military. In the 7th inning, you all get up and stretch together, and sing - not an anthem this time, but a sort of lullaby. Soon you go home, and hope tomorrow will be about the same, if you had a good day, or maybe a little better, if you didn't. And that maybe Billy will work out his problems, soon.

Steve Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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