Let the Games Begin!

Summer in sports is a lot like summer in Southern California: dry. Well, maybe it’s always dry in SoCal, but in sports, with no football or basketball, all we have is the long middle stretch of baseball during the summer months. Mercifully, every four years we get the Summer Olympic Games. With 204 countries in this year’s London Olympics and over 14,000 athletes in about 300 events, the Games can be exciting, but a little overwhelming at the same time. So here is a little breakdown of the biggest stories so far during these Olympic Games.

Let’s start with the Opening Ceremonies, naturally. (They say naturally in the UK right?) After the Beijing Games four years ago, this year’s Opening Ceremonies were the most hyped in Olympic history. Unfortunately, everyone (myself included) forgot that the Opening Ceremonies are almost always overly politicized, historicized spectacles, with an incredibly boring two hour stretch when each countries’ athletes march through the stadium while Matt Lauer lets us know some pointless fact about the country. Seriously, the most interesting part of the whole thing was finding each country I hadn’t heard of on Google Earth. The huge creepy baby was a close second though.

Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte. The defending champ faces off against the young gun. The duel in the pool. On July 28, it seemed that Lochte was ready to take over the mantle of Olympic champion from Phelps when he took first in the Men’s 400-meter individual medley while Phelps finished fourth. However, on the following day during the 400-meter freestyle relay event, Phelps swam like his 2008 self and secured the lead for a non-favored US team. But Lochte anchored the race, got beat by the French and ended up finishing second to earn silver for team USA. Personally, I’m not a big fan of Lochte. He seems too cocky, which is especially grating when he doesn’t deliver on his promise of taking gold medals in each of his events. Plus, what white guy, let alone a swimmer, wears a grill? I thought that was Kanye/Lil’ Wayne territory. Although, it would be intriguing to see Lochte pursue a rap career once he’s done swimming. I could see his first single being something like “Can’t Handle the Drizzle in Londizzle” by Lochteezy.

Gabby Douglas has emerged as the new star of these Olympic Games, winning gold in the women’s individual all-around event in gymnastics, in addition to helping the US win gold in the team event. I’ve heard figures of her making around $90 million dollars in endorsements after London. Oh, and by the way, she’s only 15. I can’t imagine what a high school sophomore would do with that much money (actually I can, I just don’t want to commit those thoughts to words), but I say, good for her. Literally overnight she has become a household name and multi-millionaire, set up for life.

Then there’s the time delay of the major events, which are shown in primetime on NBC. I don’t really care if it’s time-delayed or not, but you can’t go anywhere – Facebook, Twitter, ESPN, any news site – without seeing the results seven hours before it’s on TV. I guess that’s just the insanity of the 24-hour news cycle environment we live in, but it’s really unfortunate. For me at least, most of the enjoyment of watching sports comes from the anticipation of who’s going to win, which makes sense since that’s the point of the game! Analysts have said that hearing the results early doesn’t affect TV ratings, probably owing to the patriotic nature of the Olympics. But wouldn’t it be much more of a communal experience if the whole country is watching (yeah yeah, I know there are time zones), rooting for the country, experiencing every win and loss together? Healthy or not, there’s a reason some of the strongest relationships we form is with our sports teams – we live and die with our teams. If we’re living and dying alone in front of a page on ESPN.com, that dynamic is gone.

It might be fun to make fun of some things about the Olympic Games, but they really are some of the most entertaining sporting events in the world. I’m glad to have them, especially to save me from a summer with no sports.