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Watching the Olympics

If you see someone marching around my parent's house over the next week, don't be alarmed. It's just a sign of the sporting times.

One of my favorite events has made its return. Sorry, I'm not talking about Thomson High football. I mean the Summer Olympics, this time in the birth-place of the games, Athens.

In my family, the Olympics is a big deal. We try not to miss a minute of them. And during the famous "Olympic song" that is played as coverage of the games goes to commercial, we march around humming along, with flags waving.

I have been an Olympics junkie for longer than I can remember. I was watching in 1988 when Matt Biondi won a truckload of medals in swimming and as Karch Kiraly helped the U.S. volleyball team repeat as gold medalists.

I was even watching when Mary Lou Retton became the first American to win gold in the women's all around of gymnastics in 1984. And who could forget Carl Lewis' four-gold performance in track and field.

I was in Atlanta in 1996 and saw Michael Johnson run in the 200 and 400 meter races on his way to the first-ever gold in both. I watched from the rafters of the Georgia Dome as the women's basketball dream team put away opponents.

My lifetime is filled with memories from Seoul in 1988, Barcelona in 1992, Sydney in 2000 and especially from Atlanta in 1996. Now a whole new batch of world-class athletes is adding another file of memories to my already huge stash.

To me, the Olympics are the greatest sports stage in the history of the world. I would watch Olympic badminton all day long if I could. So if my eyes seem a little glazed lately, it's because I stay up to the wee hours of the morning taking in all I can.

Why do I love it so much? Because it's as pure as athletics for adults can get. I have not watched a single baseball game since the strike of 1994. There's just something about multi-millionaire ball-hurlers whining to make more money that turns me off.

With the Olympics, money doesn't play into the athletes' performance. In most cases, they do it because they love to. And they strive to win simply to be able to say "I was the best in the world at my sport, and here is a medal to prove it."

I, for one, wonder why the Olympic sports are not shown on television more often. They seem to be popular for a couple of weeks every four years. I would watch kayaking or Greco-Roman wrestling year-round if it was available, but because I can never find them, I have to get my fix quadrennially.

Maybe I love it so much because I dreamed of winning a gold medal at something. I guess I'll just have to settle for writing about people who win them. But as long as I can continue to watch, that's enough for me.

Web posted on Thursday, August 26, 2004

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