As I wrote last week, I LOVE the Olympics!
I don't think my wife – who wasn't married to me four years ago during the last Olympics – knew just how much I love the Olympics, but now she's kindly taken to pouring water on my head while I watch an endless stream of events on the couch to ensure I don't wither away. A sun lamp purchase probably is forthcoming.
Having watched at least a bit of just about every type of event, even I'm surprised how much I've enjoyed a few of the lesser-followed Olympic activities. Below are the ones that top that list:
1. Archery – The most stressed I've been watching an event so far was on the second day of the Olympics watching the U.S. take on Italy in the men's team archery final.
After stunning top-ranked South Korea the round before, the Americans were being trounced before staging a furious comeback in the final two rounds of shooting. In the end, an Italian was shooting with the gold on the line. An 8 – the Americans win. A 9 – a tie. (Who knows how it would have been broken – wild boar hunting? One can hope.) A 10 – the Italians win. I was on the edge of the couch rooting for a 9 or below when the Italian – of course – hit the bullseye.
But despite the U.S. lost, it was great to feel such exhilaration for a sport I thought I was done with for life after getting an archery badge by successfully holding a bow and arrow at the same time without sending anyone to the hospital. And I'm not the only one to feel that way. In an article extolling the newfound popularity of archery, a Yahoo! Sports headline writer described it as the new curling – which I guess is a compliment in much the same way "You don't look that old" is.
2. Canoe – Canoeing is boring. You either float along and end up stuck on a bank or you try to direct it and your arms get tired. The end.
Olympic canoeing, however, is more like awesomesauce canoeing. I don't even understand how it's feasible for these people to do what they're doing, paddling away like they do on a whitewater course of sorts, trying to go through sets of poles without touching them while swinging around a large paddle.
And at the end of the race – if you win the gold (or silver if from the same country as the gold-winning team) – you get to jump into the water and splash around like Labrador puppy until race officials kick you out. It doesn't get much better than that.
3. 10,000-meter run – I'm not usually into watching distance running. Any race that takes more than a minute is way too much running. And in future years, maybe I'll go back to that. But the men's 10,000-meter run this year was one of the most fun races this American fan has watched so far.
Training partners Mohamed Farah of Great Britain and Galen Rupp of the U.S. ran a perfect race to beat out the usually dominant African runners for gold and silver. It was a gorgeously run race, much more so because the people I was rooting for won.
And on a side note, I can't wait for a buddy cop film starring Farah and Rupp in the vein of "48 Hrs." to be released. I'll be the first in line to see it.
4. Fencing – I love watching fencing, because the participants have the best celebratory reactions in all of the Olympics.
Every point and touch is cause for a vigorous celebration comprised of a guttural yell and a pumped fist thrown recklessly into the air. EVERY point. And – mind you – there are about 60-85 points in a match. Some might find this annoying. I find it wonderful. You earned that point! Celebrate it! It makes me want to celebrate with them. I might just start celebrating like a fencer at work after every task I accomplished. My co-workers will love this, I'm sure.
5. Water polo – Also known as the sport most likely to result in men having their groin injured, water polo can be fascinating to watch – mostly because the mystery of it.
Competitors are regularly sent to the side of the pool like little kids kicking around too much in the park district pool. I never know why they are sent of – as I lack the ability to see under water – nor do I probably want to know. But the resulting power play is usually the best chance to see scoring – my favorite of which is the skip shot that bounces off the water and into the goal.
In the end, water polo combines two of my favorite things in the world – swimming and throwing a ball around. It also involves one of my least-favorite things in the world – groin injuries – but, like I just wrote, at least I can't see them.