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Olympian Week

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fake Olympics: Bake Olympics edition

Posted By on 08.10.12 at 02:19 PM

Olympian macaroons
I was immune from having a profound experience of greatness until this year. Did it start when my roommates bought a DVR to watch the games? Was I ultimately collateral damage of fraternal excitement? Or was it that, for the first time, I watched the games with commercials?

We developed an Olympic routine at my apartment. "Vigilance," we called it. Watch every event without flipping, commentators unmuted, no abandoning ship during commercials. Olympic advertising is high-powered, though it doesn't get the same hype as Super Bowl fare. The Super Bowl deals in overblown consumerism and bravado for one night; the Olympics sustains the pitch for patriotism and celebrating the superhuman for weeks. And I'm starting to think these ads do America a great service. Their flag-waving baked into motivational videos topped with big earnest dollops of genuine good feeling for humanity is pure propaganda. Every one is a 30- or 60-second pep talk for Americans.

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U.S. women's soccer team coasts for the gold

Posted By on 08.10.12 at 10:11 AM

Hope Solo: What, you were expecting Carli Lloyd?
Well, nobody expected a game as good as the Olympic semifinal when the United States played Japan for the gold medal in women's soccer Thursday at Wembley Stadium in London. How could it be?

And it wasn't.

It was still mighty satisfying, however, for various reasons.

Yes, the U.S. women atoned for their loss in last year's World Cup to a Japanese team inspired by the earthquake and tsunami, and who could have begrudged the Japanese that?

And yes, they simply completed the deal after their semifinal win over Canada in a back-and-forth grudge match that was just maybe the best soccer game I'd ever seen. (And yes, you're welcome to read that with damning faint praise.)

But the way they did it was stylish.

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Reflections of an Olympics junkie

Posted By on 08.10.12 at 06:43 AM

The Olympics: a great time to revisit dreams of being a world-class archer
  • shutterstock.com
  • The Olympics: a great time to revisit dreams of being a world-class archer
I always get a little bummed out when the Olympics end. After the buzz of nonstop drama for two and a half weeks, I'm forced to acknowledge that it'll be four more years before I get to watch canoe slalom races or revisit my childhood dreams of being an Olympic archer (which, for all practical purposes, ended the afternoon I shot an arrow through a neighbor's screen window). On the upside, there will be a lot less of Bob Costas in my life, and for that we can all be grateful.

As we head into the last weekend of the games, here are a few of my own highlights, lowlights, and other scattered thoughts from the unique vantage point of my couch:

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Babe Didrikson: the greatest Olympian

Posted By on 08.09.12 at 07:06 AM

Babe Didrikson
  • Charles Geckler
  • Babe Didrikson
Do you think you're seeing some incredible athletic performances in this year's Olympics? I thought so too, until I started reading about Babe Didrikson and what she did right here in Evanston one afternoon 80 years ago, just to qualify for the Olympics.

On July 16, 1932, at the National AAU championships at Dyche Stadium (now Ryan Field), the 19-year-old from Texas showed up as the lone representative of the Employers Casualty Company Club—the insurance company she worked for as a clerk. She was competing against teams of from a dozen to 22 women.

For three hours, in oppressive temperatures, she rushed from one event to the next, quickly changing shoes when necessary. She won the shot put, the javelin, the broad jump, the 80-meter hurdles, and the baseball throw, and tied for first in the high jump. She totaled 30 points for her "team"—eight more points than the runner-up Illinois Women's Athletic Club, which had 22 members. She set four world records. "There were other encouraging performances," the Associated Press reported, "but the Texas girl's achievements came in such rapid succession that the crowd of about 5,000 had little chance to pay attention to any one else."

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Take that, Olympic tape delay—oh, nuts

Posted By on 08.08.12 at 01:09 PM

Megan Rapinoe: What, you were expecting Alex Morgan?
If NBC is going to tape the entire goddamn Olympic Games and air them when they offer the so-called Peacock Network the best bang for the buck in prime time, well, I'll just crank up the old AT&T U-verse DVR and watch them any time I damn well please.

At least, that's what I thought Monday night when I sat down to watch the U.S. women's soccer semifinal against Canada.

I don't even know when or on what channel the game "actually" took place. I only know my soccer-playing daughters had scheduled it to tape, and somehow we got back from dinner without hearing the final score. So I watched Canada go up 1-0 on a goal by Christine Sinclair, then took a break to watch the end of the White Sox game and the ten o'clock news upstairs. When I got back down, the U.S. had tied it on a goal by the scrappy Megan Rapinoe. Then somehow Sinclair scored again. "Put somebody on her!" I yelled. And then Rapinoe scored again to tie it. Only Sinclair scored again. "What! Put two people on her!" And just when it looked the darkest, the U.S. was awarded a penalty kick and Abby Wambach scored to put it into overtime.

It went through one 15-minute OT session, then most of the way through the other, and just when it was about to go into penalty kicks—the recording shut off.

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Earth to Morrissey: sit back, relax, and try to appreciate the Olympics

Posted By on 08.08.12 at 07:06 AM

Still to come: swimming, horseback riding, and shooting guns
  • Tim Hipps/Wikimedia Commons
  • Still to come: swimming, horseback riding, and shooting guns
If I had read Morrissey's rant last week about the "blustering jingoism" of the Olympics, I would've sat him down for a soothing decaf and ardently spouted off about the gold-medal match in women's archery between the Republic of Korea and China. I would've recounted how I marveled at the archers' composure slinging arrows from high-style, intensely complicated bows during a dead downpour of rain. Then I would've impressed him by noting that it was the Korean team's seventh consecutive gold in team archery—a stupidly unfathomable accomplishment.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Kate the Great: Don't laugh at the javelin

Posted By on 08.07.12 at 06:45 AM

Kate the Great
  • The one, the only
When I was a kid I wanted to be Billie Jean King. I bought a pair of blue Adidas with money I'd saved from my paper route, and took to thwacking a tennis ball against the wall down in the basement. My parents didn't appreciate this abuse of their paneling. But at least I stopped short of trying to emulate one of my other heroes, the javelin thrower Kate Schmidt, aka Kate the Great.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Olympian Week: why no Olympics competition for golf?

Posted By on 08.06.12 at 06:44 AM

Good enough for gold?
  • Good enough for gold?
While struggling through a round of golf this weekend, I wondered: why isn't golf an Olympic sport?

It turns out that at one time golf was Olympian, in 1900 in Paris and 1904 in Saint Louis (those games both coincided with world's fairs in those cities). In 1904 Canadian George Lyon won the gold medal over Chicagoan Henry C. Egan. In the 1904 games the United States and Canada were the only competitors in golf. Maybe that's why it was dropped. Not international enough.

It also turns out that golf will be reinstated as an Olympic sport for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. (What's "fore!" in Portuguese?)

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