Darkside of the Sun: Is it over yet?

 

Mike Corrigan

Mike Corrigan

By Mike Corrigan

BN Columnist

I guess the Olympic Games are going on in Russia now, or they’ve just ended. I’m not keeping up, due to the Great Olympic Disappointment of 1940, when I was all ready to represent the United States in the Out of Control Combined Downhill (cross-country skiing over a frozen waterfall, one-wheeled toboggan and freestyle waxed cardboard box.) But, I was told there was some sort of war going on in Europe then and so I had to stay home. By 1948, I was too old (high school) to compete. Olympic-style winter athletics in those times were all like the current “women’s” gymnastics; if you were older than 13, some younger kid could split his or her body completely in half and keep right on performing.

World War II wasn’t the only experience that soured me on the Games, however. My last truly good Olympic moment came in 1980, when a bunch of American college ice hockey players beat the Russian professional “amateurs.” Since, nobody’s an amateur; downhill skiers sport more logos than NASCAR drivers. I’m surprised the wind resistance doesn’t slow them down.

Not only are the athletes all professional now, training in state-of-the-art facilities with state-of-the-art coaching, but each one performs under the burden of the insatiable dreams of victory for his or her country, and to a crippling extreme. Sports you never heard of — Downhill Yodeling, the Two-Man Icicle Bob — are treated as reverently as real sports, like chess or lacrosse. (I’m waiting for the United States Olympic Flossing Team to star in the next Summer Olympics. Even the Russians will be outgummed.) And then, 10 minutes after the Games are over, you can’t remember which Olympic curler was your favorite, and so you put up your broom and dustpan and go back to your vacuum cleaner. You have fallen out of training. Next diversion, please!

Anyway, there has never been a better occasion for rampant flag-waving on TV than the modern Olympic Games. I guess it’s less bloodthirsty than outright warfare. How is Afghanistan doing in Sochi, anyhow? Thought so.

And that’s another thing: back in my day we didn’t have “Medal Standings.” Heck, we didn’t even have metal medals; ours were made of Oak, Maple and Pine. My Dad claimed to have medaled in the 1912 heptathalon (Nordic combined, plus underwater skating, skeet shooting and competitive ale consumption) and that’s why his “medal” was falling apart, he said. It was old, and only made of maple. My brother, Bob, smelled a rat when Dad said his Games were held in North Conway, and in any case we knew his medal was just a cutting from the birch tree in the backyard. We let Dad have his dreams, though. After all, he let us have ours.

It’s no surprise that the Olympics have become so commercialized and insanely patriotic, since everything else these days is so commercialized and insanely patriotic. Patriotism and TV were made for each other, and sports have found there’s money in a triple partnership. The Super Bowl pre-game this year reminded me of those old May Day parades in Red Square, there was so much military hardware roaring overhead and so many flags marched around in the glare of the public arena. I’m surprised Peyton Manning didn’t break out a real shotgun, to keep with the theme. The way things turned out he could have used one, just to motivate his offensive line.

Well, the Games are over for another couple of years. At least, I hope they are. I’m afraid to turn on my TV and find out.

For weeks, Mike has been training for summer by not even leaving the house when it’s cold.

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