If the 2014 Sochi Olympics and I had been dating, I would’ve been a bad girlfriend. My confession would’ve been “I like you a lot, but I’m not in love with you.” My lack of commitment to the winter games led to no shows, few dates and when I did show up, divided attention. Days in I remembered the picture-in-a-picture (PIP) function on my remote control. I didn’t have audio, but at least I could see what was happening.
Over the years, my interest in watching the winter (and summer) Olympics has waned, but it’s still strong enough that when I saw NBC commercials announcing their start I got a little excited. I made sure to be home for the opening ceremony. I’ll admit that I’m grateful for the announcers’ fun facts and explanations because I often have no idea what I’m seeing. I see a giant spectacle that I can appreciate a lot of thought, practice and money went into executing, but I had no idea that clowns and bears were a big deal in Russian folkore and culture. Some of the commentary I could do without, for example, former The View and Today Show host Meredith Vieira telling me to “Google it” if I wanted more information on the Cyrillic alphabet, which is how the nations came out during the Procession of Nations.
Sitting alone in my one bedroom apartment, I root the loudest for the American athletes, but cheer for them all. I squirm and gasp when athletes fail to qualify for finals and semi-finals, fall or crash. I felt an inexplicable wave of sadness when Lindsey Vonn announced months ago she she wouldn’t even be able to compete because of her injury. Like most people, my favorite event to watch is figure skating; close second is speed skating and then the skiing events.
I don’t know if some of my favorite NBC shows–Parenthood, Law & Order: SVU–were pre-empted because of the games coverage or if they were still on winter hiatus, but they’re coming back this week. The first week of the Olympics was the final week of Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show featuring Jimmy Fallon, which during the regular season I would watch on an on and off basis if I happened to be awake or would DVR when I knew a specific celebrity would be a guest or performer. During the games I stayed up to watch both shows, also DVR’ing them as back up in case I fell asleep. Because of the momentous occasion of one era ending and another beginning, I preferred to watch them live because the next day I encountered spoilers all over the web.
I encountered the same spoiler issue with the Olympics. At least some sites would warn with a spoiler alert, but when I logged on to the homepage of MSN.com there was a photo of the Olympic ring that failed to open. Also, I didn’t bother to watch the night when the favored Shaun White was set to compete because morning headlines already proclaimed that he had failed to medal in the halfpipe.
I find it discouraging that most Americans don’t watch the games, despite all the news coverage, commercials and seemingly Olympics fever (created by the media). When I tried to talk about it with co-workers and family members, they scoffed and said “I don’t watch them.” My cousin happened to catch a glimpse of the opening ceremony while at a restaurant. She sent me a text asking “What is this Olympic weirdness?” She was referring to the part where the little girl was floating through the air with a
balloon. I agreed that it was weird but when I pressed her to admit that she was at impressed by the Swan Lake performance she said she had already stopped watching.
I’m not a follower of any of the events during the regular season. I don’t watch try outs (are they even televised?), nationals, X games and other events in which Shaun White, Shani Davis and Gracie Gold compete while counting down to the next Olympics. Once I know about the American frontrunners thanks to media hype, I tune in to root for them, and I suppose, indirectly my country. I enjoy listening to the commentary of Olympians past, like Apolo Ohno (my crush), who years ago my goddaughter and I jumped up and down on my bed as he competed in multiple speed skating races. I even enjoy watching the Mastercard commercials with the Morgan Freeman voice-overs.
Let’s be honest, although cringeworthy, the wipeouts and the inevitable montage and slow motion replay of the wipeouts are fun to watch, but the real reason I watch the Olympics is for the sheer fascination factor. I have tremendous respect for these athletes who are dedicated and disciplined to train for hours on daily a basis year round to chase their dreams of competing at the games, and possibly to medal. I admire the athletes who are the sole representative for their country. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gone ice skating. I’m sure I resembled a baby deer learning to walk. I was happy to complete one full lap around the makeshift rink without the aid of a person or wall. Attempting a triple toe loop never entered my mind even as I saw children doing them. I’ve never been skiing, but I’m sure when I do I’ll be sticking to the bunny slopes, so I salute the Alpine, Slalom and other skiers.
Farewell, 2014 Winter Olympics. We’ll carry on our lukewarm relationship in four years in South Korea.