The Olympic Hurdle

The 2008 Summer Olympic Games are less than a month away. It is one of the most anticipated events on television and will be watched all over the world. So, why am I so uninterested? Why can’t I name more than two athletes who don’t play in the NBA? Why do I know more about the potential protests of the Chinese government than star athletes from other countries? Am I the only one?

The first Olympics I’m old enough to remember were the 1972 games. They were horribly scarred by the tragic murders of eleven Israeli team members. There was also the controversial first “loss” by the USA Men’s Basketball team, where the Soviet Union was given three attempts at the final shot and Mark Spitz set world records in swimming. The impact of these and other stories was huge and cemented my interests in all future Olympics. So I thought.

I can’t figure out what’s different this year. I’m a huge sports fan and enjoy almost any physical competition. I say almost because there are several sports that continue to be a mystery to me. Take cricket for example. Beyond the basic rules and objective of the game, anything that can take days to determine the winner, seems more like asking me to serve jury duty than be a fan.

Could it simply be an issue of time? In addition to everyday life, could it be that I’m so invested in our presidential election, watching CNN, MSNBC, Meet the Press, This Week, The McLaughlin Group, FOX, (yes, I keep an eye on them too) and all other things political, that I’ve just overlooked the Olympic coverage?

So I did some research. Did you know that there are 38 different Olympic sporting competitions? I must confess to being surprised by that number. That gave me some insight. Even if there was tremendous promotion of each star, in each event, that would be a full time job keeping up with every storyline. I usually associate the summer games with Track and Field, Swimming, Diving, Basketball, Gymnastics and Weight Lifting. There would be the occasional peek at other events like Table Tennis and one of my favorites, fencing. But those were not the glamour sports.

In pursuit of the biggest, strongest and fastest, you looked to the track, the pool and the clean and jerk. I can still picture the famous belly on Vasili Alexeyev, the first man to clean and jerk 500 pounds. Stars like Carl Lewis, Flo Jo, Michael Johnson, Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, Greg Louganis, Olga Korbut, Ed Moses, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, The ’92 Dream Team and many others, made the Olympics appointment television. It seems like Michael Phelps is the only bona-fide star competing this year. And of course, my comrade in blog, Urban Thought Collective’s very own Shawn Crawford.

Perhaps all the steroid and HGH stories that have surrounded athletics for years have eroded mine and the general public’s belief that that what we are watching is “fair” competition. Maybe the protests have undermined the promotion of the games.

Whatever the cause of my lackluster attitude, I’m going to work on taking an active interest. This party only comes to the world stage every four years and I’m sure there are great stories waiting to be told that I will not want to miss. I think I’ll begin by finding out who’s the favorite in Trampoline. No kidding! That’s actually an Olympic sport!

Let me get my remote!

Darryl Bell is an actor and Chicago native, best known for his role in classic TV series “A Different World” and Spike Lee’s “School Daze.” His unique television commentary is exclusive to Urban Thought Collective.

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