Gold rush

Even though NBC's coverage can be exasperating and even though everyone knows the key results before they air tape-delayed, I am, as usual, addicted to the Olympics on television. Every night, after an exhausting day of viewing appalling apartments costing more than I'd pay to rent a four to five bedroom house in Seattle, I've been watching the Olympics until NBC's prime-time coverage ends, almost as a form of visual comfort food (NYC is on the East Coast but operates on a West Coast time schedule, so I don't have any body clock adjustments to make; people go to work at 9am or later, eat dinner at around 9pm, go to bed around midnight or later). Perhaps I also feel the need to watch so as to lend some dignity to what must be the least-attended Summer Olympics ever. I haven't seen so few fans in the stands since the last national broadcast of a Montreal Expos game (which also took place the last time the Olympics were held in Greece).
I love volleyball (indoor sixes), swimming, and gymnastics. Volleyball because I learned to love the sport when I was in school, swimming because the sport drags out the suspense of close finishes just long enough to leave you out of breath, and gymnastics because there's always one competitor on each event that is freakishly superior to everyone else, all of whom are physical freaks in their own way. In men's gymnastics, some of the haircuts are atrocious, adding to the carnival freak factor. It's as if the guys all think to themselves, "Well, they're going to put us in these ridiculous outfits, what's the use of getting a stylish do?"
The women gymnasts, by virtue of their immense musculature, Spartan diets, and harsh training regimens, are nearly all midgets. NBC always plays short musical interludes introducing each team (where are the voiceovers by Dick Enberg this year?). Of course, for all the Eastern European and Asian teams, the soundtrack is stentorian, martial, and the images always depict abandoned training facilities that resemble prison gyms. As if the American gymnasts suffer any less horrific an upbringing.
These teenage girls, none of whom ever appear happy, then have one opportunity to capitalize on an entire lost childhood, after which they may finally grow beyond 5' 2" and 80 pounds, rendering them useless in the sport. In no other sport is the anticipation and dread of failure on the part of the audience so awesome, with the exception of perhaps figure skating, where once a skater loses his/her nerve, almost every routine seems to contain some mishandled jump. The frequency of errors in other sports may be just as high, if not higher, but the stakes for the competitors in gymnastics and figure skating are usually fatal, and the physical awkwardness of a gymnast falling off the high bar or missing a landing, or a figure skater tumbling onto his/her butt on the ice is difficult to exceed. Rick Ankiel unable throwing every ball to the backstop was unbearable to watch, but he's the exception in the baseball.
[Random note: in this year's Olympics, they're using a new unisex vault called Pegasus in gymnastics. Supposedly it's been tested for years and provides superior safety. I'm not sure why I'm noting this other than the fact that it was noticeable enough that everytime it appeared on television, someone would ask, "What's up with the vault?"]
True, the Olympics seem to include more and more obscure sports each time. The same people who complain about, say, synchronized diving are the same people who will tune in and watch an entire season of Fear Factor or The Apprentice or Survivor or The Bachelor or Average Joe or Celebrity Poker Showdown. I can picture myself competing and doing well in many reality television shows (except American Idol and that model show hosted by Tyra Banks).
Not so with even the most obscure of Olympic sports. In fact, I'm puzzled by why and how anyone picks up sports like the discus. How many people in the world throw the discus? Who would have started them on such a sport? How does one spot discus-throwing potential? The start-up costs seem too high. I picture young children spinning out of control and throwing discii wildly, through car and home windows, or worse, beheading innocent bystanders. Ditto with the hammer throw (is that still an Olympic event?). The mastery of such obscure and specialized arts provokes an odd fascination.
The thought of another day of apartment hunting is unbearable. Perhaps I'll mix things up and respond to a different sort of Craigslist ad. True, I lack nearly all of the qualifications. But isn't that what special effects houses are for--look at what they did to Andy Serkis in The Lord of the Rings. And surely the suspension of disbelief is already stretched to the limit. This is a movie that asks us to believe that through the use of a pair of glasses, Superman is unrecognizable as Clark Kent. I've seen better disguises from four year olds at Halloween.
Me as the next Superman or me as an Olympic gold medalist in the Trampoline (yes, it's an Olympic sport). Either way, it's a long journey.