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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Sunday, May 19, 2024

Despite criticisms, Olympics still exciting, relevant for sports fans

It's time for me to level with you, dear reader: I really don't know a damn thing about the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Okay, to be fair, I know more about Team USA women's hockey than most people, but I'm clueless when it comes to figure skating, curling and bobsledding. As I write, I'm watching moguls and to be entirely honest I'm lost – is it about getting down the mountain the fastest? Or having the best jumps? Or some combination of both that my math-averse mind cannot possibly understand?

Despite these questions, what I do know is that I love watching it.

With the exception of hockey, I don't think I've cared about a winter Olympic sport since the games left Torino four years ago. That's the point of the Olympics, though: hardly anyone fully understands the sports, much less knows the athletes. But for two awesome weeks every four years, skeleton, skiing and biathlon outshine any other major sport. Honestly, who was glued to their TV last weekend for the NBA All-Star Game?

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Every time the Olympics come around people throw out the same tired arguments. The games are irrelevant, it's a bunch of nobodies, no one cares about the sports and the Opening Ceremonies are a drawn out, four-hour wait to watch someone light a glorified candle (and, as we learned this year, that doesn't always work out).

What the anti-Olympians miss is that this is exactly what makes the games so fantastic.

Obviously none of us knew who Hannah Kearney was before she won America's first gold medal Saturday, nor do we give a crap about nearly all winter Olympic sports outside of those two weeks. And yes, the Opening Ceremonies are basically a marathon of countries marching into an arena and Bob Costas giving us a tidbit of information about each of them.

But if someone from Team USA women's hockey scores a game-winning goal in the overtime of a gold medal game against Canada are you honestly going to tell me you won't be cheering ""U-S-A! U-S-A!""?

The games inspire and captivate us for the same reasons that so many people hate them.

I know this sounds cliché, but the Olympics truly are about humanity reaching the height of its ability; trying to see who among us can jump the highest, run the fastest or skate the best.

Any true sports fan stood in awe when Usain Bolt shattered a world record without even trying for the last quarter of his race and got up to cheer when the U.S. swimming relay team beat the French in Beijing. Part of that is because of the hype surrounding the games, part is because of the built-in drama of people competing on the world's greatest stage and, yes, part of it is some good ole-fashioned nationalism.

When Michael Phelps and that American relay team beat those shit-talking Frenchies up and down that pool, I know I wanted to go to the nearest pretentious café/mime workshop/beret factory, find a Frenchman and shout, ""What now, chump?? USA in this bitch!""

Canada might be our friendly neighbors to the north, but if you don't want to beat their flannel-loving, polar bear-fearing asses at everything from the biathlon to speed skating you're not a real American.

The Olympics mean caring about every sport you don't understand in the hope that you will see some 20-year-old from Wyoming mop the floor with the rest of the world. When they do win that gold medal and you see some kid live the greatest moment of their life watching the American flag rise it's damn near impossible to stay uninspired.

Yes, the Olympics are antiquated and filled with unimportant sports played by unknown athletes. But the games are all about the anonymous heroes who come from nowhere to inspire a nation, whether it's a group of college kids under Herb Brooks defeating the Soviets in 1980, or whatever story emerges from this year's Olympics.

So even if you can't hope to understand curling and think the games are pointless, give them a shot—I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Still think the Olympics are a waste of time? Well you're wrong. But if you want to share your incorrect opinion with Nico, e-mail him at savidgewilki@wisc.edu.

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