I don’t know about you but I am in trouble. I keep putting off my homework and staying up too late. I haven’t cleaned my room or folded my laundry. I’ve been putting off going to the grocery store and I have been a couch potato watching TV for almost a full week now. The source of my issues: I can’t stop watching the Olympics — hockey, skiing, speed skating, biathlon, figure skating, snowboarding and even curling — it doesn’t seem to matter what the event is, I am hopelessly captivated. The part that baffles me the most is the sports I just listed. Curling? Biathlon? Figure Skating? The Winter Olympics are the only time I would ever even think about these sports, much less take the time to watch them.
Of course, I don’t think I’m the only Olympic crazed person. I had a friend in high school whose parents let him skip two full weeks of school so he could sit at home and watch the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. He was gone so long for no apparent reason that rumors began to spread that he had run away from home and died. When he did return, he had so much makeup work to do that he had to scramble to pass his classes and graduate on time. Fortunately for me, my parents were wise enough to not let me do this at the time, even though I would’ve done it myself if given the chance (the staying home part, not the running away and dying part). Now that I am in college and a “responsible adult” I guess I will have to figure out the balance on my own this time around. I decided I could compromise by studying in the hour break between NBC’s daytime and primetime Olympic broadcasts. When I sat down to start studying the differences between film theory and penetration theory (yes, those are concepts in a real upper-division class I am taking), I decided instead to come up with the three biggest reasons why the Olympics captivate us. My grades are doomed.
The first reason the Olympics are so captivating is the same as something I touched on last week: they have come to represent human unity, human achievement and the human spirit. Of course many would argue that this has been tainted a little more in recent years as the Olympics have become extremely commercialized (at least here in the U.S.) and some of the athletes are not amateurs, but rather well-paid professionals. While I agree this holds true, these athletes represent something we all aspire to be, as they represent hard work, dedication, and striving for the best in their given sport. While most of us will never come close to being Olympic-level athletes, hard work, dedication and the striving for our best is something we can apply to whatever we do in our own lives. In short, watching these athletes compete and try their best, regardless of sport, is inspiring. For some people, cross country skiing is not very exciting at a base level but to see the way the athletes push themselves, like when they sprint to the finish even though they are exhausted after 18 grueling miles, makes the sport exciting and inspiring for us all.
The second reason the Olympics are captivating is the representation of country. The Olympics are not just a collection of great independent athletes but rather individuals who put on their country’s colors and compete on behalf of their home people. This makes competing in the Olympics a great honor and all the more polarizing. By virtue of where you were born, you have a team to root for in the competition; it is hard to be neutral as a spectator. Canada, for example, received an enormous sense of national pride when they defeated the U.S. in hockey at the Vancouver Games. The Olympics are a place where healthy rivalries between countries can take place, which is a much more beautiful outlet for competition than the many wars between nations that have plagued our world throughout history.
Finally, it is easy to get hooked on the drama of the Olympics. The drama on the Olympic stage is immense, fueled by the reasons I gave above, in addition to the fact that these Winter Games only happen once every four years. Four years is a long time and many athletes only get one or two shots at an Olympic medal in their careers, depending on their sport. They spend a long time working hard to be at the peak of their sport and there are many who don’t even qualify for the games. Those lucky enough to qualify will only get one shot per event at Olympic glory during the games. There are no redoes, no next week, no next year — the only time is now, making falls, injuries and screw-ups all the more tragic. This extremely slim margin for error creates enormous pressure; and that pressure combined with a worldwide stage creates pageantry like no other.
There are of course many more reasons why we enjoy the Olympics and they are truly a viewing treat, as they don’t come around as often. Of course, I know my professors won’t buy that if I miss a homework assignment or fail a test, so I better get back to studying absorption columns and strippers (same class as above, don’t ask). Oh who am I kidding? The next Winter Olympics aren’t until 2018, and I’m going to watch every moment of these Games I can. Responsibility can wait for four years. Go Team U.S.A.!