Somewhere along the line, the idea that it takes 21 days to form a habit became accepted as conventional wisdom. Frankly, I think that’s a bunch of hooey, rubbish, malarkey and many other phrases from the 1940s. Because the Olympics lasted only 17 days, and their end has me twitching, vomiting and considering checking into a methadone clinic.
OK, so maybe it’s not that bad. But I really did have a moment of, “What the heck am I going to watch tonight” on Monday and Tuesday. In case you were wondering, I settled on High School Musical – Parts I and II. It’s astounding and sad how many of the lyrics are committed to memory. Also, I’ll argue that Zac Efron, whether on a golf course or an empty high school, rivals Kevin Bacon in terms of angry dance aptitude. (Respect.)
I wish I had been keeping track of how many hours I dedicated to the Games, whether watching, reading or discussing. Had to be 5-8 hours a day. Easy. Despite the whole tape-delay controversy. And I can’t think of a single occasion where I felt cheated, the way you might after the inevitable lame episode of your favorite scripted show. (Related note: I’m allowed to enjoy the late-night work of Mary Carillo, right? Right!?)
The closing ceremonies, however upbeat, always make me feel genuinely sad – why do we have to wait four more years for this summer extravaganza? That question is followed quickly by the answer: Because the Games wouldn’t be nearly as great if they were held more often. In my opinion, that’s a huge selling point: You cannot question the dedication of the competitors, some of them trading four-year chunks of their lives for maybe 30 seconds to prove themselves on the world stage. (I feel overwhelmed at the start of a new school year, and therefore cannot fathom what it’s like to have 3-4 years of intense training and sacrifice ahead of you. That’s got to be one daunting calendar.) Most of these sports have annual world championships, but comparatively few folks pay attention; that’s not a coincidence.
If anything, it’s right to wonder if these people are too invested. One medal winner has already tested positive for a banned substance. Olympic opponents often use that as support for their stance – the Games are rife with cheating and corporate interests and don’t properly compensate the participants. And they’re mostly, right. But, let’s be honest, aren’t pro and college sports in this country essentially guilty of many of the same things?
I’m not a fan of that stuff, either, and admit to flipping from astonished to cynical in less than 3 seconds after a 16-year-old Chinese girl swam a race faster than multiple-medalist male Ryan Lochte. That made me feel gross. On the other hand, the Olympics are one of the few events that seems to soften even the surliest sports journalist, a crusty lot if ever there was one. That has to mean something.
I dig the variety of sports, the gathering of nations, getting to know the host country, the triumphs, the tragedies, the sentimental stories, the firsts, the records. It was surprisingly inspiring to see Great Britain rally behind its athletes and in some cases (Mo Farah, for one) carry them beyond what they thought possible. The Royals were there for seemingly every event and came across as being genuinely interested. Same with the members of the U.S. men’s basketball team, a multimillionaire boys club if ever there was one; they appeared to make a point to meet and support other athletes, to admire diverse greatness.
The lot of the London Games felt likely poetry, (fitting in the land of Shakespeare) and I’m a sucker for a dramatic writing.
As for what Rio has in store? The city’s teaser to the 2016 Games during the closing ceremonies in London included Pele, a Victoria’s Secret model and Carnival dancers. Those Olympics seem destined to feel like a samba.
In a few days, my withdrawal symptoms will stop and I’ll practically forget about most Olympic sports for three-plus years. Sad, but true. It’s part of the process. It takes that long for athletes to build themselves up and separate the best from the really good. It takes that long for fans to work up appetites for unfamiliar events and athletes.