Tuesday, October 02, 2012

COLUMN: Olympic Comedown

Man, I can't believe NBC cancelled that Olympics show, and just when I was starting to get into the plot. It had all the elements of perfect TV entertainment: dramatic tension, thrills, comedy (that dude who dived into a back-flop was pretty hysterical), heartache, tears, triumph -- and, most importantly, girls in minimal clothing playing volleyball.

Is anyone else having a bit of Olympic withdrawal? It was nice for a couple of weeks there to not have to worry about what to watch when you got home from work. Just flick on the TV and have Bob Costas lull you into a relaxing nationalistic fervor while people far more coordinated than you or I do absolutely terrifying things both to and with their impossibly fit bodies -- while we sit on the couch and munch on potato chips.

But now it's over -- and alternate entertainment options are slim, especially when we're in the heart of summer rerun season. I just watched fourteen solid days of the greatest athletes in the world competing under the most stressful of circumstances -- and today I'm supposed to leapfrog out of that into NBC's "Stars Earn Stripes" and somehow be entertained by Nick Lachey and Todd Palin playing army? Dude, I just watched Michael Phelps win more medals than he can CARRY. Gimme a break.

That's why there's only one thing we should do: Take all the world's medal-winning Olympic heroes and force them to compete every night year-round for our chip-munching pleasure.  Phelps, Lochte, May & Treanor, Kobe, Lebron, all the gymnast girls, Usain Bolt, the entire French team handball squad -- let's make them stars of the greatest reality show ever made.

Here's what I'm thinking: every week, they have to run, swim, jump, shoot, vault, sing for Cee-Lo, get judged by Simon Cowell, work for Donald Trump, live in the Big Brother house, get verbally abused by Jillian Michaels, cook for Gordon Ramsay, dance the cha-cha, become America's Next Top Model, and date at least one Kardashian.

I miss the Olympics every single time they end, but I think I'm going to miss the London Olympics most of all. Why? Because I'm a recovering Anglophile.

When you're young, you often find solace from adolescence in the cliques you fall into. Some become jocks. Some become metalheads, nerds, goths, punks, ravers, etc. Me? I guess I became British. An early love for the Beatles led me to discover British punk and new wave music at an early age. In high school, I moved on to bands like New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen, and the Smiths. In college, it was the Stone Roses, My Bloody Valentine, and -- the greatest band in the world ever -- Ride.

These groups were big names in Europe, but here in the States I may as well have been listening to tunes from Mars. But like-minded people find one another in life, and it wasn't long before I made lasting friendships with other Brit music obsessives. Soon we'd be car-pooling to Chicago for music runs, staying up til 4 a.m. to call London record shops, and trading coveted copies of import music zines. Some of my friends transitioned from the music to the culture. I had friends who spoke with fake Scouse accents and inserted words like "loo" and "petrol" into daily conversation. I had friends who could name the entire rosters of UK soccer teams despite never having seen them play.

As for me, I'll never understand the appeal of soccer -- but I DID think the jerseys were pretty sweet and I'll own up to driving to weird European-run sporting good stoes in Chicago just to get the latest and greatest Premiere League swag. There's no denying I grew up an Anglophile -- and that part of me wanted to spend the 14 days of the London Olympics immersed in British culture. Only one problem: NBC hardly showed any of it.

The first Olympics I remember watching in earnest were the 1984 Winter Games of Sarajevo. I couldn't tell you anything about the Games themselves, but the one thing I DO remember was suffering through TONS of human interest stories: Yugoslavian culture, Yugoslavian weather, weird Yugoslavian food that looked like pig feet floating in mud. And I hated ALL of it. 13-year-old Shane didn't care about Sarajevo. 13-year-old Shane just wanted to see a figure skater fall on his or her butt.

London, however, I was down with. I wanted stories about Abbey Road, Stonehenge, & Big Ben. I wanted to be told about Manchester United, Sherlock Holmes, and the white cliffs of Dover. A secret part of me screamed for Mary Carillo to give us a primer on Ride and the advent of Brit indie music 1980-present. Instead, we got the usual modern-era truncated and time-delayed NBC coverage -- big on events, light on human interest.

I suppose this is mostly due to the internet. Sarajevo isn't that otherworldly these days. Its population is 311,161, tomorrow's high is 91, and the trick to making a tasty batch of pasulj is to soak the navy beans overnight BEFORE you add the pig's feet. Who needs Mary Carillo when you've got Google?

Still, I couldn't help but feel a little cheated. I just spent 14 days staring at London, but were it not for the occasional Rolling Stone or Royal Family member in the crowd, these Games could have been anywhere. Patience DOES pay off, though. During the closing ceremony, sandwiched somewhere between the Spice Girls and The Who, a little band called Beady Eye rolled through a quick version of "Wonderwall." Beady Eye features a shy guitar player named Andy Bell -- who once upon a time fronted his own band -- called Ride. For those four minutes, my Anglophilia took over and my living room may have just seceded from the Union for a short while.

But now we're back to bad reruns, midseason schlock, and pretending America's Got Talent that doesn't rhyme with Nichael Nhelps. I'm thinking that maybe it's time to suck it up and take my own British vacation. Either that or I've got four years to turn myself into a Brazilophile. Come to think of it, there IS a great band called Os Mutantes...

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