Friday, February 14, 2014


Chills. Fitful dreams of ice. A restless sleeplessness keeps me up into the wee hours of the morning. I am seized with paroxysms of nervous tension. Glassy eyed, strange rashes of interlocking rings break out in my flesh. Yes, I have contracted a serious Olympic fever. Not my worst Olympic fever, it's only about 101 or 102 degrees. Wait, I can't believe I just did that! This is the Olympics! My Olympic fever is not 102 degrees! Fahrenheit is not international and Olympian! My temperature is an Olympic standard 38 or 39 degrees, CELSIUS! Anyway, I don't come down with Olympic fevers every Olympics, but I am, historically, prone to them, and I've got one now.

My first Olympic memories go back to 1972, and I can note how I was not all in yet at that point by how I still remember my bitter disappointment when my Saturday morning cartoons were interrupted by reports of how Gorillas had taken hostages at the Olympics. I found this very confusing. I consider my confusion of the word "Guerrillas" to be justified not just by my young age, but also by the fact that the only footage was of blurry, distant men on balconies in full black masks. They didn't look exactly like gorillas, but they could have been gorillas. It was a reasonable interpretation.

By 1976 I was glued to the the TV for every shred of the Olympics, a complete drooling fanatic. The 1984 Olympics were actually in my city, Los Angeles, and I went to several events in person. L.A. was a fairly crappy city to grow up in, a fairly crappy sprawling and smoggy city in the seventies, but the 1984 Olympics were a first blossoming. The city became international, was decorated beautifully, and everyone stayed home due to a hysteria of traffic terror, and if they went out they used mass transportation created just for the games, which was the only place besides work that anyone went to anyway for a couple weeks. It was a glimmer of what a great city L.A. could be, and, in a lot of ways, what it has become. I saw Carl Lewis win gold medals, and I met the Chinese basketball team. These were very large people who were only pretty good at basketball.

My adult recognition that TVs and I were closely analogous to hand sanitizer and obsessive compulsives, made for much more complicated relationships to the Olympics over the years of my adulthood. I haven't owned a TV in 25 years, but for occasional Olympic games I borrowed a TV. As an adult engaged in other things I usually only managed to watch coverage of events shown at midnight, which gave me a narrow frame of reference. I still remember with deep fondness following closely a Czech hockey team's thrilling run at the gold over the Russians in a year I saw absolutely no other Olympic sports.

I am still without a TV this year and have long since had no interest in borrowing one for any reason. There is a good deal of coverage on the Internet, but it is set up with hostility toward American, non cable users like myself. NBC will not let you buy a pass to their coverage, you have to have a cable subscription log in. International web coverages are blocked to people from other countries. But, despite all this, I have found a work around. A roughly legal thing called tunnelbear allows me to disguise my computer address as coming from any country I want. This has allowed me to watch Canadian and BBC live feed web coverage. Once again I am forced into post midnight watching. Both of these services are largely concerned with live feeds, so I have to wait until the events start, which is usually around 12:30 a.m. my time. Also my glitchy, funky city wireless service suffers from weak winter signals that only get strong enough for video streaming late at night anyway.

But it turns out these strange restrictions are mostly a bundle of blessings in disguise. So much of what had started to drive me crazy about Olympic TV coverage over the years is, in one broad sweep of the slate, gone. I disliked the Nationalist boosterism. It is gone now, or in such a different context that it's charming, like the (naturally) not very good Great Britain team causing the BBC announcers to go into paroxysms of ecstasy over a miraculous bronze metal for an English skier. I also hated the human interest stories that TV features, which always created an unfair identification with certain chosen athletes and a lot of produced drama at the expense of getting to watch the actual events. Everyone out there has a great reason for wanting to win. Why wouldn't they? This too in internet viewing is all gone. I just get the sport, and some shots of very excited or disappointed athletes after their runs. I like what that tells better than anything colorfully manufactured into stories. All of those stories are there in their faces anyway, in their tears and exultation. I never much liked all the colorful features about life in the Olympic Village, the various controversies, politics, what it's like there at the Olympics. There isn't anything wrong with it, just, there are like 6000 hours of the sports. I don't have time to watch athletes eat and recreate! Nor do I want to see the travelogue stuff about where the Olympics are located. For me these Olympics could be anywhere where there are mountains and snow. That's how the Olympics should be, a taste of a dream of International harmony. Finally, I dislike the idea of comprehensiveness in the TV coverage and the illusion that everything notable is being covered. I love being forced into my time slot that corresponds with the morning events and seeing just what I see in its full, languorous reality. It's more like being there. It's more like someone gave me random tickets to 20 events. Would I go to a lot of Curling on my own? No! Am I delighted to have been forced to watch a lot of Olympic Curling while waiting for the Downhill to start? Yes! It is chess on ice! Chess on ice!

So, yes, look for more Olympic posts these weeks. I can't help it. That fever? I think it's up to 40 now, in beautiful, beautiful Celsius.

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