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Faster, Higher, Stronger, Longer, Sleepier

Going for the gold in sofa sitting.

 

Are the Summer Olympics over yet? It seems like I spent all last month watching the Olympics, and despite those nifty closing ceremonies I confess I'm not 100% sure that my quadrennial duties are really over. Isn't there some men's croquet or women's 100-meter foosball I should be watching over on NBCASAP or online at www.waytoomucholympics.com? I'll feel guilty if I miss one of our indomitable Olympic athletes swimming the 135-meter freestyle dog-paddle for a new world record. Surely, the interminable diving competitions — with one event after another invented for no apparent reason other than to keep the Chinese in the medal hunt (and let's not even mention synchronized swimming) — are still splashing on somewhere in London? There's got to be a freestyle hang-10 70-meter catapult dive that can send one more medal to Beijing.

I take my Olympics-watching seriously, you see. I figure the summer games come along only every four years, and after all the arduous training those athletes endure, it seems the least I can do to medal in the sofa-sitting marathon and TV-clicker toss.

This year the Olympics were also streamed online. I think I read that by the end of the first full day, more hours of coverage had been transmitted than during NBC's entire first Olympics telecast. (I believe this was in 776 BC. The Olympic flame was first lit, legend has it, using tail feathers plucked from the NBC peacock, which way back then was an actual bird. But I digress.)

We even managed to see a few minutes of Olympics coverage broadcast in 3D. I am here to tell you that seeing Chinese divers win gold medals in 3D looks remarkably similar to viewing in 2D. When those Olympic rings come flying at you, though, you duck.

 

Despite the ocean of Olympics coverage, however, I confess we fell a bit short of our own personal bests in keeping up with the action. Did the main evening telecast always last until 11 p.m. in previous Olympic years? These days, that's past our bedtime, and some nights the strain showed. I'd be commenting about the latest gold medal won by the Chinese in the 152-meter triple halfpipe diving finals, and my wife's only response would be a gentle snore.

When we did last through the night's broadcast, the post-Olympics kitchen cleaning suffered from our sleepiness. I'd shamble in the next morning to start the coffee, and the big salad mixing bowl would be sitting on the counter still damp with dressing and limply wallpapered with leftover lettuce. Or a wine glass might still be perched on an end table by the sofa, as if the living room had been the scene of a wild party instead of men's 77-meter volleydiscus, and Jay Gatsby had just departed instead of Bob Costas.

Thanks to the miracle of Tivo, we naively thought we could skip the commercial onslaught during the Olympics while also keeping up with a few favorite summer shows. (From what we couldn't escape seeing, more minutes were given over to commercials than even to the gymnastics "Fab/Fierce Five." I had to blink to make sure the Allstate guy wasn't facing off against the GEICO gecko in the pool, instead of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.) We did manage to watch "History Detectives" and still catch up with Bob and the Fab/Fierce Five (and, regrettably, the Allstate guy and the GEICO gecko).

But 11 o'clock is still 11 o'clock, no matter how many hours of fast-forwarded TV you've crammed into the previous four and a half hours. Watching it all meant staying up — or, as we resorted to one mid-Olympics morning, reading the Sunday papers while catching up with the last 90 minutes or so Tivo'd from the night before.

As Olympics fatigue began to wear us down (how does Costas do it?), we even stopped caring about the "spoilers" spitting at us from all directions. Every few minutes, the USA Today app on my iPad would bleat with some fresh Olympics news that wouldn't air until prime time. ("Chinese win 4,000th diving gold!") Even Brian Williams, on NBC, broke his own network's code of silence when high-profile gold medals were awarded and records broken.

Fine, we figured at last, at least we can go to bed knowing that Gabby won the all-around gold. (If you'd taped that particular final and still hadn't gotten around to watching it, scrupulously avoiding all news coverage like a sequestered juror in a high-profile murder trial, I apologize.) Take the rest of the night off, Tivo — we know what's coming.

 

Nonetheless, I think I still have a bit of an Olympics hangover from all my loyal viewing of the games. When a worker at the post office in Silver City tosses a package into a bin and hits the target cleanly, I have been known to chant, "USA! USA!" in appreciation. That was me at the Taco Bell the other day, loudly insisting that the woman who made my gordita deserved at least a bronze medal. And honestly, there's nothing creepy about hanging around the Silver High gym if your motive is only a glimpse of balance beam competition.

At home in front of the television set, it's even worse. I'll numbly surf the channels (Golf, Travel, Food, History, all the other nouns) in search of women's beach racquetball, the hexadecathlon, one-handed rowing with javelins or any of the other obscure sports I found myself captivated by during the Olympics. (Strangely, you couldn't pay me to watch any of them the intervening three years.) Heck, I'd even watch those damn Chinese divers if only they'd visit my TV again.

My itchy clicker finger pauses hopefully whenever I hear Bob Costas' voice. There's good old Bob, our host from London, prepared to introduce a thrilling previously taped hour of the 127-meter slingshot finals! But no, these days Bob is only talking about football.

I find myself missing NBC Olympics announcer Mary Carillo, and wondering what the heck she does with herself when there are no summer or winter games to sportscast. Maybe, if she has time on her hands, she could stop by our house in Silver City and stand in front of our TV, and we could all pretend the doubles surf badminton finals are on. All together now: "USA! USA!"

I've even had fleeting fond thoughts about British food, a term some might argue is an oxymoron. My wife refuses to bake me a kidney pie, however, and my fish and chips turn out greasy (which may be how the Brits like them, I realize — who knows with a people who'd eat something called "kidney pie"?). I'd tuck into a pint of English ale instead, but I'm afraid it would just make me long more for the London games.

Watching reruns of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" on Netflix turns out to be a poor substitute for reliving the opening ceremonies, by the way, though there are some stylistic similarities. I'm pretty sure the "silly walks" sketch was sneaked into the ceremonies somewhere between the Industrial Revolution and the salute to the British healthcare system. I watch episodes of "Top Gear," the British car-enthusiast cult favorite, while droning through my morning exercise routine, but it's just not the same when it's me lifting weights instead of some 400-pound guy in a sparkly unitard.

I'll have to make due with football, I guess, rooting for Peyton Manning in his new Denver Broncos uniform instead of Michael Phelps in what's hardly a uniform at all. (Apparently plumbers are not the only ones to display butt cracks…) And, after all, the 2014 winter games — held in some place in Russia no one but the Russians has ever heard of — will be here before we know it. ("Sochi" sounds like a Japanese name for a soft drink, not a noble Olympics venue. "Would you like another glass of sochi?")

Hmm, I wonder who's the favorite in the women's 1,503-meter uphill slalom? And just let the Chinese try to dive into all that snow!

USA! USA!

 

 

In-between Olympics, David A. Fryxell edits Desert Exposure.

 

 

 



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