I wish I could say I wasn't watching the Olympics out of some kind of solidarity with my LGBT brothers and sisters as the political climate over there is truly appalling, but really I'm not tuning in because they're boring. I find the Olympics are particularly dull because, in the case of many events, the act itself is less than ten seconds long. I'm talking about ski jumps, high dives, archery, 100 metre runs or swims, and no more examples because I'm not sure how solid this "less than ten seconds long" theory is.
It's snarky and a little too easy to assume that I would be dismissive of athletics because I'm no good at any myself, but it's also correct. Rather than be inspired by our seemingly limitless physical potential, I am dismayed. If someone can do a backflip with a half-turn on a balance beam, how come I can't walk to the back of a moving bus without falling into an East Indian woman?
The only current Olympic event I would like to know how to do is the uneven bars. Something about that event is especially satisfying. Perfect, undulating, limber bodies, using nothing but their own strength and flexibility, take one bar at one height, another at another, and create magic. There are videos on YouTube of Nadia Comaneci performing her uneven bar routine in slow-motion, and they are breathtaking. I would like to learn how to do the bare minimum of uneven bar work. It would be my greatest joy to let go of one bar and catch the other, but if that's an impossibility, I just want the ability to hold one bar and flip myself round and round. What a stress reliever! "Where's James?" "Oh, he's twirling."
I think the appeal of the Olympics for some people is the idea that, in most cases, the competitors aren't rich, famous sport stars, but common folks that trained really, really hard and finally made their way to the biggest competition in the world. We think to ourselves, "Man, if things had gone a little differently, that could be me going round and round." It's not true, of course, but it's a nice thought. But what if it really could be you competing out there? Or, to put it another, more self-centered way, what if it could be me?
Dream: Create, compete, and win gold in the Jameslympics
Goal: Achievable. I read somewhere that, from a television ratings standpoint, if CBC in Canada and NBC in the States weren't able to broadcast the Olympics, these networks wouldn't survive (apparently, Sean Saves the World and Little Mosque On the Prairie do not networks make). If that's the case, another version of the Olympics could only be a boon to broadcasters. Also, the current, real Olympics are sponsored by Coca Cola and McDonald's. Why not show two weeks of competition where the competitors actually drink Coca Cola and eat at McDonald's? I had a short time yesterday between a day at new job and an evening shift at old job and so grabbed a Big Mac in between. It didn't give me the energy to complete a 12 work day with vigor, but would've earned me a bronze for time spent in the bathroom.
Plan: Create a series of events in which we slovenly sort could successfully compete. Here are my suggestions for Jameslympic Events:
Pedestrian Crossing. You know how you're at a crosswalk and a car slows down to let you go, so you do that dumb little courtesy jog across? It's not a run, it's slower than a brisk walk, but you kind of pump your arms and give the impression that you're hurrying so the driver can get on with their day.
Shower setting. You get to set the taps for your shower only one time, no adjustments. You and three international judges scrub up together, and the most comfortable, not-too-warm-not-too-cold shower setter wins Gold.
Slipping on the Ice. I compete in this event every winter. Competitors are judged on speed, degree of injury, and flair. Flair's a lock for me. The other day, I slipped on the ice so flamboyantly that the Westboro Baptist Church showed up.
Chip Dip Ratio. Nobody can finish the chips at the exact same time they finish the dip. Or can they?
Hot in the Cold. I live in a very, very cold place this winter. One of the things I miss about living in a slightly warmer place (though the Big City in the midst of its own deep freeze at the mo) is that you can wear something form-fitting, but light enough to still be stylish. I have a fabulous tweed coat, for instance, that is no match for these temperatures. This Christmas, Jon bought me a huge, puffy tan coat that is perfect for these freezing days, but makes me look like a four year old bundled up by his Mom before sledding. I don't care how I look because I am warm, but I marvel at the people who somehow still look really attractive and figure-flattered in full winter gear.
Urination Preparation (Male). Forgive me, as this event has a distinct gender bias, but I can't figure out what the female equivalent of this particular activity is. There are men who, when using public restrooms, especially in bars, time the urination sequence perfectly. What I mean is, they might enter the bathroom already undoing their belt. Without breaking their stride, they start walking to the urinal while simultaneously unbuttoning or unzipping their pants. When I witness this (using all possible discretion, mind you), I always think, "That idiot's gonna take his dink out before he gets there! We're all gonna have to deal with his dink!" But he does nothing untoward. So precise is his pacing and undress that he ends up peeing at just the right time. I wouldn't even place in this event. I'm so self-conscious in a public bathroom that I will approach a urinal, assume a defensive, obscuring posture, then intricately and methodically unbutton the least amount possible of pantaloons. Ladies, I don't think there's a comparable version. I feel like your pants are down around your ankles at a very specific time and there's no real prep involved. Maybe lactating mothers who can quickly unbutton, whip out, and position their breast in order to feed a human person could do that?
That thing where you stand on a chair, put your foot on the back of the chair, shift your weight, and tip the chair over. My friend Ryan used to do that, and it impresses the hell out of me. Actually, while we're talking minimal dexterity, let's throw in a cartwheel. I was in a play once where I was supposed to do a cartwheel and it was so important that they scheduled private sessions with just the choreographer and me to learn it, and I couldn't do it. So instead of the line being, "I'm so happy I could just..." (does impromptu cartwheel, hugs Denise), the sequence ended up, "I'm so happy I could just..." (stands still a moment, hugs Denise).
It's funny that we place such gravitas on the Olympics considering how lethargic and unhealthy most of us are. If we prized intellectualism the way we do athleticism, Jeopardy's Tournament of Champions would get the ratings of the Superbowl. This is a separate conversation, but did you guys read that piece about the winner of The Biggest Loser last week? She lost so much weight that now she looks like this. I suppose it proves that not all competition is healthy, but it also says so much about our society. We're either hopeless fat fucks or sickly with disordered eating or body dysmorphia.
Perhaps there is nothing so equalizing, then, as the physical challenge. No one cares how much money you have or how you look, all that matters is what country you hail from and whether you are harder, better, faster, stronger than everyone else. To that end, maybe we should divert attention away from the Olympics and even the Jameslympics to give due respect and admiration to the Special Olympics. There's no joke here. Some would argue that to be differently abled is to have the deck stacked against you, but these competitors prove that theory wrong with a drive, discipline, and attitude that most of us lack, and the Special Olympics aren't even televised. Keep your TV ratings, keep your medals, the accomplishments of these athletes are worth more than silver and gold, they are simply the best of us. No contest.