Friday, May 16, 2008

The Mill's Olympics

(My article this week from The Love Of Sports, in which I explore alternative possibilities to some of the Olympics more mundane events. These are unlikely to be sanctioned by the IOC at any point in the next 500 years, but I figured I'd put my opinion out there just for the hell of it.)

The Olympics.

Are we, the human race, really taking full advantage of this worldwide athletic showcase? I know the advertisers and sponsors are milking it for all it’s worth, but could our species make better use of this once-every-four-years event?

Seems like it to me.

So, for the purposes of unfairly picking on a few questionable competitions, couldn’t we come up with anything better than these?

- Canoeing
- 20 and 50 kilometer race walk
- Table tennis
- Badminton

These are all certified Olympic events. No joke.

We put a man on the moon, for God’s sake. And we can’t come up with anything better than competitions involving a very old mode of human transportation (canoes), and the MOST ancient mode of human transportation (upright walking)?

And ping-pong and badminton are great for the YMCA rec room, but less so for a worldwide celebration of high-caliber athletics.

Yes, the race walkers look hilarious when they’re doing their VCR-on-fast-forward penguin strut, but come on. Is it a true test of an athlete’s skill and endurance?

Frankly, I don’t know. All of these events actually look pretty hard to me. I’m sure I couldn’t speed walk for more than a mile or two. And I always come perilously close to tipping the canoe when I’m out for a little spin on the lake with my canoeing buddies.

The beer probably doesn’t help my sense of balance.

I am, however, pretty good at table tennis. If you don’t believe me, I’ll happily meet you in my uncle’s basement for a round-robin tourney. Loser pays the bus fare back home.

All that being said, I mean no disrespect to the athletes involved in these events. Heck, if I were the best in the world at something – anything - I’d relish the opportunity to display my skills on the world stage - even if for nothing more than the chance to hear our national anthem play in the background as that gold medal is draped around my neck.

Also, Olympic medals make outstanding paper weights and drink coasters. Just ask Amanda Beard or Michael Phelps.

So here are a few suggestions for replacement events for future Summer Olympics. These may not be “sports” per se, but I think they would really add to the worldwide spectacle of the Olympic Games. I hope to see these in place by the 2024 Olympic Games in Baghdad.

- Olympic Car Washing: Let’s put some idle hands to work, while encouraging competitive spirit, and attention to detail. This event involves upper body agility, hand strength, and resistance to “prune hands.” Cars to be cleaned are chosen by the IOC. In other words, the International Olympic Committee members’ cars will be washed and waxed on a daily basis during the competition.

- Olympic Children’s Dog Polo: In order to spread the popularity of the Olympics to the younger generation, we need to get them involved at an early age. Currently, there aren’t any events in which only children can compete. (I know, I know. There’s an entirely separate thing called the Junior Olympics – just humor me here.) I can think of no better spectacle than to see youngsters racing around on the backs of big dogs while hacking away at a little rubberized ball with a stick. Exciting. Adorable. Huge liability for insurance companies. Still, you have to admit it would be pretty damn entertaining.

- Olympic Staple Removal: Again, another way to get useful work out of Olympic athletes. I’ve got a stack of papers on my desk that would be perfect for practice, if you’re interested. Requiring nimble fingers, hand endurance, and tough, paper-cut-proof fingertips.

- Olympic Fantasy Baseball: The name speaks for itself. I’m adding this one only because I’m so totally dominating our league right now - and it might be my best shot at ever competing in the Olympic Games. Baghdad 2024, here I come!!!

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