I'm riveted by the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Riveted to the precise same degree and to the exact extent that I am riveted by State Farm commercials. Actually, that isn't a fair statement. I might actually watch a State Farm commercial, whereas I can't be bothered to even glance at a screen displaying anything Olympic-related.
I know, that's a terrible, awful, unpatriotic thing to say. These athletes have spent their entire lives preparing for this event. Nations have put aside their differences to participate. Fortunes have been spent preparing for the games. I stifle a small yawn.
(To read this in the large print edition, click here).
Sorry, but for me, the Games are just a vast waste of time and resources. But keep in mind I'd make the same claim about most sporting events, all of which ultimately boil down to people chasing balls around. I just don't care who scores the most touchdowns during a tennis match, or which team manages the most home runs during the Super Bowl. American football has cheerleaders, which is nice, but the camera keeps cutting away from them to show the game.
I understand I'm in the minority in this regard. I don't begrudge people who do enjoy sports, although during football season everyone assumes I love them too, which leads to a lot of one-sided conversations about this quarterback's throwing ability or that defense's overall strategy. My neck gets sore from making the 'knowing nod' I've perfected over the years. I've tried politely saying "I don't follow football,' but that phrase is always met with a moment of confusion followed by the same 45 minute diatribe on football I always get.
The Olympics might be more interesting if the sports featured were more in line with the current geopolitical situation. Here are a few events I'd like to suggest.
1) SCAVENGER HUNT. Ignoring the filth and pollution of Rio's waterways is the wrong choice. Instead, embrace the environment! Instead of swimming and kayaking through the pestilence-ridden sludge, assign each team a list of items they must retrieve from the murky waters. Human body parts, dead animals, cast-off furniture, specific bacterial pathogens -- imagine the thrill of watching swimmers drag limbless torsos toward the finish line while their rivals struggle to push an old Barcalounger ahead. Now that's a dramatic finish.
2) RUSSIAN ROPE-A-DOPE. If there's anything the Russian teams enjoy more than vodka, it's a solid regimen of performance-enhancing chemicals carefully designed to maximize physical prowess and evade detection by pesky drug tests. Let's make a sport of that by allowing rival teams to simply beef up with good old-fashioned crystal meth before a special one-on-one matchup. Play Benny Hill background music during the meets.
3) MIXED MEDIA. Let's add the element of surprise to the Games by randomly assigning each athlete to a different team before the contests take place. Watch sprinters try to dive. See hockey players compete in bicycle races. Strap ice skates on weightlifters and fire up the Celine Dion tunes. I might even watch that.
4) MINEFIELD AND TRACK. I think the name says it all. Pole vaulting is a lot more fun to watch when explosions are involved. They needn't be lethal explosions, just ones designed to finally give these guys some real altitude.
5) URBAN ENDURANCE RUNNING. Forget the boring oval track -- send the runners right through Rio, after strapping belts filled with cash around their waists. What is it the Olympic ads always say? "Records will be set. And broken." Darn right they will.
6) ROCKET ASSISTED LUGE. Sleds sliding down an icy track. Boring! Rocket-powered sleds blazing up the icy track from the bottom before being launched into the sky? Now that's athletic. All right, all right. Give the teams parachutes. Way to take the fun out of everything, Captain Buzzkill.
7) DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS. A table, some dice, pens and paper. Just play D&D the way it was meant to be played, but with dramatic lighting and a John Williams musical score. Still better than curling, which is just bloody silly.
8) CALVINBALL. From the comic strip 'Calvin and Hobbes,' a game in which the players make up the rules as they play. Ghost bases! Invisible runners! Opposite zones! Scores of eleven hundred and sixty to blue. Listen, if people can get so excited about a game they'll actually sit still for three hours of soccer, Calvinball will take the world by storm. At least the inevitable post-game riots will be amusing to watch as furious crowds fight over whether a Phantom Double-Secret Fire Goal is valid if scored inside a five-point Silent Spy Zone.
9) FASHION FOOTBALL. Play soccer -- but play it dressed in the formal attire of each nation, right down to the dress shoes and the corsages. Play must be executed while weddings, funerals, and other somber events take place on the playing field. Include the players in these events as ushers, caterers, even celebrants. Seeing pall-bearers defend their goal while carrying a coffin would add drama to the match. Huddle up, bridesmaids!
10) ARMS RACE. This will really shake things up. Before each Olympics, a single nation must agree to surrender a randomly chosen military asset as the prize in this bout. Athletes might be competing for a North Korean rowboat fitted with an antique SCUD missile, or they might be vying for a US-built Casablanca class aircraft carrier -- but they won't know until after the winner is announced. Great fun, especially as the cameras zoom in on the faces of horrified diplomats as they realize they must now deal with a nuclear-capable People's Free And Very Much Yes Democratic Republic of Lower Violencestan.
You're welcome, International Olympic Committee. Please use any of these suggestions as you see fit, and as you have time to consider them amid the press of fraud scandals and bribe-laundering.