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Arm chair Olympian

Arm chair Olympian

Posted: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 8:00 pm
By: By Lisa Smartt

I love to watch the teams march in at the opening ceremonies. But I’m not afraid to admit my confusion. A lot of Olympic activities are completely over my head.
Be honest. You don’t know who should win the diving competition any more than I do. Unless the competitor does a belly flop and screams for his mamma on the way down, he’s a gold medal contender in my book. I hesitate to say it. But every dive looks pretty much the same to me. Impressive? Absolutely. Better than the last guy’s dive? I have no idea.
I don’t understand the rules to Greco-Roman wrestling either. By the end of the match, I know for certain the guy in red won. The judges say the guy in blue won … and by a long shot. See, I’m not smart enough to even be watching the Olympics.
My parents must not have given me a quality education in that I couldn’t tell you one thing about water polo rules. What good did it do for my dad to stop to read every roadside historical marker during the first 18 years of my life, if, in the end, I didn’t even know the rules to water polo? Synchronized swimming, handball and field hockey leave me feeling equally inadequate.
That’s why I love the track and field competition. If you cross the finish line first, you win. If you can pole vault higher than the other guys, it’s gold medal time. I need to feel a sense of complete order in the universe.
One thing I do know. If I were going to be an Olympian, it would have to be in a sport in which the winner is clearly determined by a stop watch or a point board. The fact that synchronized swimmers are judged by “artistic impression” and “effortlessness” is a sure sign of disaster in my book.
I hope you don’t think less of me but I haven’t watched much of the Olympic coverage this year. The reason I haven’t been able to watch is that, at my age, I literally can’t take the pressure and the crying. The television commentary is too dramatic for my tender soul. “And now we see young John Smith’s face as he prepares to do the floor exercises. John is 17 years old from Portland, Ore., and has spent the last seven years, 11 months and 23 days doing nothing but preparing for these next two minutes of his young life. Yes, show that close-up of his aging grandmother who said she wanted to live just long enough to see him win a medal in the Olympic Games in her native Great Britain.”
I can’t take it, people. I’m crying before young Jim even stumbles out of bounds. Maybe I’m not sure any young person should spend years and years preparing for a two-minute anything. Too much pressure. A gold medal in the right sport can yield millions of dollars. A third place finish can send you back to Topeka hoping to work for your dad’s mail order marketing company.    
I’m proud of our Olympians who won medals and I’m proud of the ones whose names we will soon forget. Gold medal or not, life is still bright with possibilities.
For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website,

Published in The Messenger 8.15.12


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