Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a hopeless addict. I get like this every four years.
I mean, I can’t make it even a couple hours without a fix.
Maybe I need a support group where I could stand up and say: ‘My name is Dave, and I’m an Olympic junkie.’
In most sporting events, I’ve gotten sufficiently cynical that I can hit the remote after a quick progress check. I have too many things on my ‘to do’ list to just sit in front of the tube for hours.
But not when I see those Olympic rings and hear the familiar trumpet fanfare. There’s something about the purity of the Olympic ideal that draws me. Whether that ideal is always the reality is another issue, but I love the concept.
My bedrock connection with the Olympics goes back to my participation in track and field. One of my childhood heroes was Jim Ryun, a phenomenal miler from Kansas, who was the first high school miler to run under 4 minutes, a dominating runner at the University of Kansas and the one-time world record holder at 3:51.1.
In addition to his incredible athletic abilities, he was a role model for kids like me who admired him from a distance both for his running abilities as well as his character. Today, he’s a U.S Congressman, representing his home state of Kansas.
I remember watching him in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Like all the distance runners in that Olympics, he struggled with the rarefied air of the city’s altitude finishing out of the medals.
Later, when I was in college, I was fortunate to go to the Montreal Olympics (as an observer) and see University of Illinois runners Craig Virgin and Mike Durkin (whom I’d competed against) test their mettle against the best in the world.
Being in Montreal with several of my teammates from the Drake track team was an incredible first-hand introduction to the magnitude of the Olympics. It’s simply unbelievable that so many of the world’s greatest athletes are assembled in one place. And the international crowd that attends the Olympic Games was a real eye-opener for a young farm boy from Iowa.
We were able to get tickets for several sports, but spent most of our time hanging around the track.
I’ve been hooked on the Olympics ever since.
This year, it’s been the Michael Phelps show. Never before has an athlete won so many gold medals in a single Olympics running the table as he won all eight events he entered, and establishing seven new world records in the process. An unbelievable feat! He has secured his place in Olympic history as one of the greatest ever. He’s also destined to be a very rich man.
But there are so many other highlights beyond Phelps the American gymnasts, the American beach volleyball teams, the American basketball squads. The Jamaican sprinters (especially Usain Bolt; an amazing athlete, even if a bit of a hot dog). And the list goes on.
I even watched the Japanese table tennis team defeat the Germans as I munched my peanut butter sandwich at lunch on Monday. And I enjoyed it! There was some strange sport on the other day team handball, I believe they called it that was pretty bizarre. It was like water polo on land. But I still watched it.
With Beijing halfway around the world from us, there’s always something on TV whether it is live or tape-delayed from the previous day.
Every time I can steal a minute, I’m checking on NBC or MSNBC to see what’s going on. It’s on in the mornings while we’re eating breakfast. It’s on while I’m home for lunch. It’s on throughout the evening, until I drag my sorry, sleep-starved carcass up to bed.
Of course, I would never, ever check msnbc.com while I’m at work, but I’ve heard that people have done that while they’re on the clock. Shame, shame.
It’s a crazy existence, but it’ll all be over much too soon. Meanwhile, I’m feeding my Olympic addiction and hanging out with my new best buddy, Bob Costas.
My support group will just have to wait for me to hit rock bottom and ask for help.