Half-Baked Olympics Suggestions
Now that the Olympics are firmly a speck in our collective rear view mirror (which, coincidentally, might be one of NBC’s alternate slogans), we can all agree that we only watched about five events without a superstar athlete, and one of those was the opening ceremony with Tonga-man. It’s probably because about 90% of the events are uninteresting (beach volleyball), uncompetitive (basketball), don’t gauge human physical ability (shooting), strange (rhythmic gymnastics), or involve making horses jump and swivel (equestrian dressage – no, I didn’t make that up). And we haven’t even talked about the winter games!
Part of what can make events boring is a lack of appreciation. The first half of the 1500m race looks like something that you could keep up in without breaking a sweat. We don’t appreciate how fast they’re going because we can’t tell through a TV camera that’s moving as fast as they are. So why not put in an average person? Not an average American – that’s more the Seth Rogen type. An average fit person who maybe ran track in high school and still goes on the treadmill at 24 two days out of the week, perhaps. Or someone who flamed out in junior varsity basketball but still plays pickup games at the Y could participate in the high jump. Better yet – see how humans compare to other mammals. Take some money away from pH-adjustments in pools and spend it on CGI-ing a tiger to swim next to Phelps in lane 6.
And is it unreasonable to say that USA basketball doesn’t have to prove itself to anyone anymore? Only the United States would embark on a twelve-year revenge tour after getting spurned by another country in the early 2000s (see: The Iraq War). They’ve won 52/53 games since 2005, the only loss coming when someone decided it was a good idea to put Brad Miller on a national basketball team. Why even bother putting out all the best players when we just won by 30 points in the gold medal game? How about a 3-on-3 in an NBA street style – make-it-take-it, first to 21, with all shots counting for 1 point. Doesn’t anyone want to see Draymond Green and Kyrie Irving on a team with John Wall bitching about how much more they make than he does? What about having a six-person roster with at least two girls (one starting), and once a player comes out they can’t come back in. Wouldn’t Serbia be great with Nemanja Nedovic, Stefan Markovic, and Bogan Bogdanovic, with a female addition of Ana Dabovic? (At that point, you could just take the “ovic” off their jerseys).
Does anyone really understand gymnastics? Beyond the judgmental way we all guffaw when they take a small step after landing a quadruple twist double backflip (while we’re eating potato chips sitting on the couch, nonetheless), we don’t really know how well someone did until we see their score. Why not combine all of the gymnastics events into one mega obstacle course – with the exclusion of the pommel horse, because seriously what the fuck is that? It’d be one gigantic floor routine with the uneven bars, vault, and balance beam. Then define how exactly points are scored; gymnastics is one sport where the eye test never works. You can witness two people’s floor routines and come to a different conclusion about who was better each time you see it. What’s really the difference between a 5.7 and a 5.95? Or even put a piranha pool under the uneven bars to raise the stakes a little bit.
Most of the events feel oddly detached from one another, and that’s not just because of the tape delay. They’re in different stadiums, with different commentators, with the same mind-numbing advertisements. (sidenote: the ‘OlympiAds’ should be a competition to see who has the best commercial, in Superbowl fashion) One option: make it a reality show. Reality TV undoubtedly makes for a ratings hit (see: Survivor, Idol, Kardashians, Bachelor(ette), ANTM, Shark Tank, and the unappreciated Celebrity Apprentice), and hiring a team of writers to write storylines that parallel the actual events of the Games would make it the greatest reality event in history. Just take this Olympics alone: the North/South Korean selfie, Russian athletes doping (all of whom, by the way, have a wonderful upcoming career in major league baseball), hyperandrogenic athletes, the Phelps death stare, the El Shehaby handshake snub, bored lifeguards, stripping Mongolian coaches, and crowd boos for the French pole vaulter. Combined with the loads of sex in the village, it wouldn’t be hard to spin some narratives and get some more money for graphics packages. When presidential debates have cooler promos than you, you have to step it up.
One element that doesn’t get nearly enough attention is the torch. It’s a big deal in the opening ceremony, and then everyone forgets about it until they have the marathon to light the next one in four years. Give the torch its own role! In the bigger events – let’s say, the final of a team event, put the torch in the game. For basketball, you could add a fourth referee who has to carry the torch as he runs back and forth along the court. If the game gets boring, you could take prop bets on whether an errant pass or a bored attendee is going to be the one to snuff out the legendary fire. For basketball, mount it on top of the net, and make lighting the ball on fire worth an extra point. But the torch isn’t really an icon made for sporting events, and the Olympics really needs a mascot. If it’s not Zikachu, it can definitely be Drugtrio, Crackuna, or Jassaulteon.
It’s unfortunate that the NFL preseason started after the Olympics ended – the protest scene would have been incredible. We could have used Colin Kaepernick as a barometer for which countries treat people equally; just take Kaep to all the medal ceremonies and see which anthems he stands for (surely the team would sign off on it, it’s effectively a lunge workout). Bob Costas could have a running segment of protest updates, and we could keep a protestor count per country, kind of like the medal count! Anything so we don’t have to watch this bs again.