On becoming short-term fans for Winter Olympics

My parents love watching the Olympics. Doesn’t matter what season it is, winter or summer. They’ll watch it all, and for a while, when I was a little kid, I really didn’t understand the appeal of watching a bunch of athletes that nobody had ever heard of play sports (how do you just become a ski jumper or a curler? Where do they even find people for that?)

I still watched the events with them, and, after my sister got older and was swimming competitively, it became a big event to watch the summer games, because, as a family, we finally had a reason to pay attention! My sister was doing the same thing that these big-name athletes like Missy Franklin and Michael Phelps were doing. It was the Super Bowl of swimming, so we all sat as a family and watched. I don’t know if that has anything to do with why I love the Olympics now, though, but the family sentiment probably plays a part in it.

So why do I love the Olympics? I’ve thought about it and boiled it down to a few basic ideas. The first is less about sports, and more about advertising, I guess? Look at the Super Bowl, though. The spectacle and smoke and mirrors to make everything look much more impressive than it is infiltrates every aspect of a pretty normal football game between two good teams. It ruins the game for me because you hear the announcers talk about things that don’t make any sense, and there’s a bunch of narratives weaved into the game that don’t really have anything to do with football.

With the Olympics, at least to me, the spectacle and showmanship is condensed into the first night of the opening ceremony, and then everyone wipes their hands off it, and it’s all about the sports. They get all the ridiculous pageantry and flash in when the host country does their opening ceremony, but after that it’s about the athletes and that’s what matters.

I also really enjoy watching sports that I’ve never heard of or know very little about. It’s a learning experience to piece together the exact rule set for a cross country skiing competition, and once you get the hang of it, you end up screaming at some German girl because she missed two of the targets she’s supposed to shoot, or you’re flipping your lid because some snowboarder from Canada lands his tricks incredibly well.

That point ties in to watching the games with family, for sure. By the end of the night, you and your parents are experts in judging the figure skaters. You know just how to point your skates if you want to get the most distance on a ski jump. You can tell just what the American team needs to do to kick the snot out of any other curling team.

So enjoy the Olympics while they’re here, everybody. Grab some friends and make an evening out of it.