High Definition: Confessions of an Olympic Junkie

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I was in Munich during the Olympic Games of 1972. Of course, Mark Spitz’ record, the three extra seconds ridiculously awarded to the Soviet basketball team, even my fellow Munich-born American Frank Shorter winning the marathon—none of these left much an impression on the eight-month-old version of me. But when the Games found me 24 years later in Atlanta, I was hooked. For 17 glorious days, my city was transformed into a giant party. I swapped pins with athletes and fans from more than a 100 different countries at The Varsity, watched the dress rehearsal of the Opening Ceremonies at what would become Turner Field and drove up to Sanford Stadium to see an unbelievable soccer game on the same field (sans hedges) where my beloved Bulldogs play.

I began following the Olympics like your stoner friends followed Phish. I peddled Olympic pins to support my habit, first in Nagano, then Sydney and Salt Lake City. I watched sports like fencing, badminton and freestyle skiing. I had a friend I made in Japan show up at my doorstep unannounced, suitcase in hand. He didn’t speak much English, but he cooked us a delicious meal. I climbed across the top of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge and taught the fans around me the rules of baseball as we all watched Tommy Lasorda’s Team U.S.A. beat Cuba for the gold medal.

But by the time I went to Utah in 2002, we were already scheming about the launch of Paste magazine, an effort that would make taking two-and-a-half weeks off to go to the Olympics virtually impossible. During the Athens Games in 2004, I experienced them like most everyone else: on NBC. This may have dampened my obsession, but it didn’t extinguish it. If I can’t be there, Bob Costas and his Moving Human Interest Stories will have to suffice. I’m currently watching highlights videos at NBCOlympics.com and calling it research.

I’m more passionate about the summer sports, but I love the ridiculousness of the Winter Games. On Sunday I watched biathlon, a sport that inexplicably marries cross-country skiing with shooting. I can only imagine the Summer Games equivalent: Carl Lewis circling the indoor track with a bow and arrow strapped across his back, like an overgrown Cupid. I also watched luge, a sport that involves lying on your back and trying to make gravity faster. We had spent most of the previous day sliding down hills thanks to a rare Georgia snow, and my daughter remarked that she didn’t know sledding was an Olympic sport.

My favorite of the Ridiculous Events, though, is curling, the sport that, as NBC puts it, “delivers excitement with a bump.” I may be twice as old as the new crop of figure skaters, but I figure as long as curling is on the Olympic docket, I can hold out hope to one day compete as one of the guys that brushes the ice in front of the curling stone. Because if Bob Costas and his fellow NBC announcers have taught me anything, it’s that I should always keep my Olympic dream alive.

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