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 writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
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Will college football championship set new record for cliches?

Alabama plays Georgia for the national college football championship Monday night in Indianapolis.

I like football, but I don’t care for the playoffs.

I miss the old bowl system.

All the important bowls — Cotton, Orange, Rose, and Sugar — were played on New Year’s Day.

If a contender lost one of the early games, then the night game suddenly became more interesting.

The sports writers decided the championship, which was fine. Writers back then could study the game rather than punchout spreadsheets full of statistics and hot takes for Twitter.

We’re stuck with the playoffs.

We’re also stuck with lousy announcing. Keith Jackson is dead. Verne Lundquist is retired, and Brent Musburger only does radio for the Las Vegas Raiders.

Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit are scheduled to call the championship for ESPN.

Those fellows are fine, but most sports broadcasters can’t stop rapid-fire cliché. It drives me to mute.

See how many of these words and phrases you hear during the game:

Weapons to describe quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers. Weapons break things and kill people. These people are playing a game, although they sometimes break themselves and others.

In the trenches. What is this, World War I? My apologies to the late John Madden, who used this phrase to excess, but if there’s a trench in this field, somebody should fire the groundskeeper.

Ground and pound. I think they’re talking about running the ball, but this sounds kind of gross.

Imposed their will. This sounds like a wizard put a whammy on somebody. Is Dr. Strange at the game?

Curb stomp. I doubt Chris or Kirk will let loose this one, but it bubbles up on sports radio. Curb stomping is the practice of forcing another person to put their head on a curb while someone else smashes their foot into the back of their skull. The result is serious injury and often death. It’s a favorite tactic of white supremacists. It should never be used in relation to sports. I could go the rest of my life without hearing that phrase.

Cinderella story. This won’t come up Monday, either. Georgia and Alabama are perennial contenders. Cincinnati was the Cinderella story. I’m not one to body shame, but not one player on that team would’ve fit that glass slipper, not even the punter.

That’s one the quarterback is going to want to have back after an interception. He might regret it, too, which is a lot fewer words.

No love lost between these two teams, they hate each other, revenge game, rivalry game. Someone should tell them they’re playing a game that has no significance to most of the country and get them into therapy.

Playing their best football, throws the football well, runs the football well. Why do they keep saying football? Do they think we’ll forget what kind of game is being played?

Control the narrative, flip the script. Is this a football game or an English class?

Putting on a clinic. Clinic, as in medical clinic? Oh, no. Let’s not start a vaccine debate. Just say they’re playing well.

Supporting cast, putting on a show. Wait, maybe the game is a theatrical performance.

Not their first rodeo. OK, I give up. I don’t know what the hell we’re watching.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.

All rise! The ol’ Paragraph Stacker gets his hearing

I finally got a hearing set with an administrative law judge to arbitrate my eligibility for an extended unemployment benefits program. This is something I’ve fought for since August.

The hearing is set for the Thursday of my first week of student teaching — because of course it is.

When you finally have a breakthrough with the bureaucracy, don’t expect that to be convenient. I’ll make my best case that I’m meeting the standards the program requires. I know I’m getting the kind of training the state approves.

They said so by approving the training and removing the requirement that I apply for jobs while I’m in school. Arbitration means the judge will decide in my favor or not. That’s the end of it.

If the judge decides in my favor, I’ll receive back pay to a specific date and be eligible for weekly benefits until school ends. If the judge rules against me, that’s I am out of options.

Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

Until then, I’ve got to float two more weeks without income until student loans deposit to make rent, insurance, and so on. I put in some expensive-but-necessary car maintenance.

I have to drive about half an hour for my student teaching placement, so I want my car to be in as good as shape as we can get it.

I know things are tight for people after the holidays, but anything and everything helps. I always hope this will be the last time I have to write and ask.

I believe the day is fast approaching when I write the exciting news of a new teaching position and a new career launched by hundreds of hands holding me up in my most desperate hours.

Every one of you has shown me this unconditional love that is so beautiful it feels as if each of you are close, intimate friends or family. A lot of people live their whole lives without that feeling. I am grateful to all of you for reminding me what grace truly is.

The last lap starts soon. I start student teaching a week from Monday. We start a week earlier than Drake’s semester begins. My nerves are high. This is the time when I find out if I can do this job or if I’ve made a blunder. I don’t think I’m going to fail, but anticipation is the worst part of everything.

We just keep moving forward.

If you’re inclined to donate to the cause, the details are at: https://www.mealtrain.com/trains/5ek08z/updates/.

With love and hope,

Daniel P. Finney

Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: 515-371-9453.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.