humor, life, sports

Why taking pride in the accomplishments of people you don’t know in sport you don’t understand is the most American thing ever

The Winter Olympics begin in two weeks.

I contain my enthusiasm with ease.

Some people get Olympic fever. I get Olympic apathy.

Part of it is the “winter” part of the games.

It snowed 11 inches over the weekend. I use a walker to get around and ask friends to help dig out my car so I can go to work.

Forgive me if I find little interest in watching able-bodied people playing on skis and skates.

Most of the events feel like variations of pulling down your pants and sliding on the ice. I fall on the ice and spend a month in physical therapy.

There’s one major sport, hockey, which has a professional league almost no one watches.

I liked the EA Sports NHL video game on the Sega Genesis, when you could smash Wayne Gretzky into the boards, and he would fall and bleed on the ice.

But that found 16-bit memory from the 1990s fails to inspire interest in who wins the Olympic gold in hockey.

The big competition in the Winter Olympics is women’s figure skating.

Almost no one gives a flip about the men’s figure skaters; they enjoy the same disinterest as men’s gymnasts. Huzzah for gender equity.

Women’s figure skating went from something I didn’t care about to something I actively disliked because of the 1994 games.

That was the year goons in Tonya Harding’s circle whacked fellow American Nancy Kerrigan on the knee with a police baton and turned the entire games into a reality TV mystery that lasted for months.

ESPN produced a documentary about the incident for the 20th anniversary in 2014.

I was at a sports bar eating dinner and people my age and older crowded around the TVs.

I am a nostalgic person. My home is a monument to the popular culture of my child from “Star Wars” to “Thundarr the Barbarian.”

I lived through the Harding-Kerrigan story once. I have zero desire to relive it on replay. I feel the same way about recent documentaries about the murder trial of O.J. Simpson.

These are not things I feel good about remembering. The point of history isn’t always to study that which we enjoy, but the point of entertainment, I thought, might be.

For example, I watched the ESPN documentary about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls’ last championship with great enthusiasm.

Then again Jordan and the Bulls played basketball, which is a winter sport I enjoy.

Basketball is played in the summer Olympics, which is silly.

The one Winter Olympic sport I find mildly interesting is the biathlon, which combines cross-country skiing with rifle shooting.

This feels like something James Bond would be good at. In fact, I’m pretty sure one or two Bond flicks had scenes that involved skiing and shooting.

I also enjoy the biathlon because the United States has never won a medal in the event.

This means I am not inundated with biathlon coverage. I can just check in on it occasionally rather than follow it as if the fate of our nation depended upon it.

The NBC coverage of the Olympics, regardless of the season, focuses on Americans.

This makes sense. Americans are only interested in other Americans.

It confuses us when we learn that there are other people in the world who are good at things — and sometimes better at — things than we are.

We mostly cope with this by deciding the things the rest of the world are interested in don’t matter, like soccer and the biathlon.

Most Americans only care about one sport: football.

We will pretend to care about Alpine skiing, bobsled, luge, and snowboard for a few weeks in the name of patriotism and a nice diversion before the NFL Draft.

During the Olympics, the most patriotic thing you can do is take pride in the accomplishments of people you’ve never heard of who participate in events you don’t understand, like international relations, geography, and economics.

Bonus patriotism points are awarded if you pretend like you were an expert in the event the whole time.

In the summer games, people suddenly become expert women’s gymnastics judges.

The same goes for women’s figure skating in the winter.

I’ve lost all sense of what patriotism means.

Everyone seems to lay claim to it, but most of the people who are loudest about it creep me out.

The loudest seems very sure that if you don’t follow their brand of patriotism, your evil and should be destroyed.

I only participate in three patriotic things.

I vote.

I attend the annual July 4 picnic of Parents 2.0, the kindly east Des Moines couple who raised me after my parents died.

And I dissent.

Dissention created America. The Declaration of Independence was an especially long Tik-Tok script for dissent from King George.

I dissent a lot, mostly for fun rather than patriotism.

During the Winter Olympics, my dissent is rooting for Sweden in the biathlon.

Hanna Oberg is a favorite for the individual gold. Sweden and Norway are top contenders for gold in the men’s relay.

I don’t know what that means. I just looked up on Olympics.com, but it read like I knew what I was talking about.

I’m so American.


Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
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