The 2020 Olympics are Yesterday

By Lloyd Graff

I am a real sports enthusiast. Basketball, track, swimming, lacrosse. Bring it on. 

Yet I didn’t even know the Olympic Games were starting this Friday night. I couldn’t care less. 

Why is an avid fan, lover of sport, somebody who still reads the sports pages in the newspaper, so oblivious to the 12 million hours of Olympic TV coverage over the next 16 days? 

Because it is corporate, bureaucratized, and packaged. It is a Nike blur. It isn’t the games that started on a shoestring in 1896. It isn’t even the political games of 1972, when 11 Israeli athletes were murdered in Germany. It isn’t the indefatigable Bob Costas, living on NoDoz as he somehow stayed on top of 50 Sports and 500 events.

Now it’s NBC and its 30 affiliate networks, including Fubu TV, Peacock and the Golf Channel. And who cares if the US plays Iran in basketball at midnight this Saturday. Even the mullahs will forget to watch.

The one thing we MUST remember about these games is who is wearing what footwear. It no longer really matters if the United States or Russia or China wins more gold medals. The only important issue is Nike versus Adidas in all of its permutations.

This is why I am so upset that the American Ninja Warrior semi-finals from the Tacoma Dome were shelved for a week to make room for Ivory Coast vs Germany Olympic soccer.

American Ninja Warrior is what the Olympics used to be. The athletes are real people, genuine amateurs. They have been practicing in local gyms and on improvised home designed and built equipment. They have no sponsors, most of them don’t even wear shoes when attempting to navigate the obstacles, and the seasoned competitors often fail to get past the first round. The participants root for one another. Many of them have other careers. Their personal stories are filled with trauma and tragedy, which makes us want to follow them year after year.

It is packaged television, and the obstacles are contrived to send the most Warriors into the water, but many of the obstacles are designed by devotees of the show.

Neither Nike or Adidas is a sponsor. Contestants sometimes have green hair and carry a few extra pounds. Women compete head-on with men. Gender is not an issue like in women’s weightlifting at the Olympics. 

American Ninja Warrior is apolitical. COVID-19 is not an issue. 

Fubu TV and Peacock can play backstroke all night for two weeks. Give me reruns of American Ninja Warrior. The 2020 Olympics start Friday night, but they are yesterday to me.

Question: What event do you care about at the Olympics?

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3 thoughts on “The 2020 Olympics are Yesterday

  1. John

    Actually, I gave up on watching the Olympics decades ago.

    They are not supposed to be political, yet they count the number of medals each “country” gets. And use math (about a million medals for swimming, only one for basketball) that drives a technical geek like me crazy.

    I want to see the best in the world, but the USA television coverage concentrates on events in which only American are in. (To be clear, I believe USA is the overall best country , but sometimes the best things do not come from here, as the “Greek freak” demonstrated in the NBA finals last night. We should see the top athletes no matter where they come from.

    When I watch sports, I want to see sports. Not five minutes of sports followed by a half-hour “human interest” story about how some weightlifter built his strength by carrying food through Iowa blizzards to his invalid grandmother.

  2. KimB

    Wow, I have the complete opposite view of professional sports and the Olympics. The Olympics is just about the only sporting event that I watch. I find myself drawn to your baseball articles because I just don’t get the attraction of professional sports and am curious to understand it.

    I was a decent athlete who walked on to the UC Davis track and cross country teams where (at the time) there were no athletic scholarships. (I wouldn’t have been good enough to get one anyway; later they moved up a division opening up athletic scholarships.) There was something uplifting about knowing my teammates weren’t there for the money as there was none to be had. I did meet a Davis alum who did make it to the Olympics, but she did have a regular job alongside her running career. I have a lot of respect for people who can do that. Though many in the Olympics have sponsorship nowadays it certainly isn’t all of them. Perhaps you are right that American Ninja is now the realm of truly amateur athletics rather than the Olympics, and I’m a bit sad to see that times have changed, but I do get it. It takes a lot of time and dedication to reach the elite levels.

    As a runner, I’ll watch some of those types of events, but I also like to watch other different events that you don’t normally see played professionally. I’ll cheer for team USA and for for my husband’s home country as well. It’s nice to see athletes from around the world compete.

  3. Ian Baxter

    Getting a bit cynical in your old age LLoyd? The Olympic athletes deicate their lives to becoming the best they can be. Beats boring baseball hands down!


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