Am I the only one who is just a little too happy that the Olympics are finally over? Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the summer games. They sweep in every four years and dominate our T.V. and social media lives. But there comes a time when it all must end, and thank goodness for Sunday’s closing ceremony. I almost can’t believe I am saying this as an avid sports fan, but as much as I enjoyed watching, I need a couple of years to recover from all of this Olympic fever. Some things need to change before we do this again.
As usual, this year had many record breaking moments that left us in awe of the human body and spirit. Gabby Douglas, Usain Bolt, and Michael Phelps are just to name a few. I am always so proud of the women and men who go before the world stage and “put on” for their states and countries. I especially love it when an athlete is from one of the places I call home (or just from a place I visited that I really like). I cheer on people from all around the world of different ethnicities, nationalities, body types, and experiences as they go for the gold. It is usually around this time that I find it highly ironic (and annoying) that Black people from everywhere are at once considered the greatest athletes and also the least physically fit people in the world. But that is another story for another time.
This is about something else I found annoying at this year’s games. It is also ironic, and in some cases down right deplorable, the way sports commentators simultaneously applaud and degrade Olympic competitors. They increasingly sensationalize and dramatize everything coming across more like Andy Cohen on a “Watch What Happens” reunion show rather than the quality sports journalism that I expect to be greeted with at such an event. I hated listening to the overly critical and tasteless voices of this year’s Olympic event commentators discuss success and failure without a shred of compassion.
It got to the point that I just hit the mute button, save for the moment right after an American wins for #teamUSA. Then, we are all encouraged to be proud as we mumble through the national anthem. Other than that, language equivalent to passive/aggressive trash talk is acceptable. Truth be told, the comments about an athlete during an event should draw upon the trial and errors that have brought them to this point. However, these Olympic Games have been riddled with condescending mockery and repetitious highlights of embarrassing moments like an episode of Bloopers. If I see the footage of Lolo Jones tripping over that last hurdle in 2008 one more time, I’m going to cut the cord.
It was also clear that the value of making the podium has diminished since I last checked. I feel bad for Silver and Bronze medalists. It was as if everyone bought into a Talladega Nights’ mentality: “If you’re not first, your last.” Since when? To make the podium in any position means that you are already a huge winner by beating hundreds of others to get to that moment. But if you listened to the commentators, you would think that a Bronze medal was really dried clay given to anyone as a “Thanks for playing” door prize. I get it. Gold is golden, but it is honorable to medal at the largest sporting event in the world. Right?
And then, there is the way the men and women are discussed differently. Excuse me, but when male runners are in the starting blocks and being called by country, this is probably not the right time to tell me about their doping disqualification in 2004. If they have been allowed to compete now, then let the man run! Please!
I started to also notice that men are considered stronger as they get older, while women are considered weaker with age. The oldest male to compete in gymnastics was celebrated for his contributions to the sport at the age of 39 years old with a full head of gray hair. But questions loom regarding the relevance of a female gymnast that commentators might suggest peaked in their career at 16. Really? (I will spare you any discussion here about the thoughtless and careless “nicknames” given to women such as a flying squirrel. Carry on!)There is a clear age difference between the men and women in these two events, but it’s not just on the mat.