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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The tragedy of the Olympics

As the world gets ready to view the 2008 Olympics in China, it's worthwhile taking note of why this edition of the historic games is likely to be among the worst in modern times. It's not as if there's just one reason why the Olympics simply aren't what they used to be. It's that they've become just about everything the Olympics weren't supposed to be.

For one thing, the Olympics have always supposed to be about amateur athletes. The up and coming guys. The promise of the new generation. Check your history and you'll find that in days of yore, none other than American great Jim Thorpe was denied his Olympic medals for accepting something less than $50 associated with one race in his career before his participation in the Olympics. Talk about playing by the rules. In those days, the Olympic committee showed no mercy. Any kind of gift -- cash, stock or trade --was considered remuneration, which defined you as a pro and out you went.

Not today. If anything, you have the exact opposite, with clowns like Kobe Bryant prancing into spotlight yet again, robbing the global public of the Olympics' true purpose. Hey, if I want to see Kobe jumping around on TV, I can turn on ESPN, or alternatively, any hotel room's closed circuit television tapes. He's already made his bucks. He already has his endorsements. And he gets more than his share of media attention. Does nobody care about the unsung amateur hoopster, somewhere out there, practicing endlessly in hopes of getting his shot at fame? Now that all the professionals have crowded out the amateurs, what's left for them?

What would have happened if an amateur Cassius Clay had been bumped to allow a professional Sonny Liston to compete in the Olympic games? I'll tell you what would have happened: you wouldn't know who Muhammad Ali is today.

The Beijing Olympics are going to bomb out for another purely non-Olympic reason: politics. Hey, I don't care what your opinion of Tibet is, but it has nothing to do with track and field or women's volleyball. Take it outside the building, we're trying to play ball here.

You know, there was a time when people weren't media hogs. You could actually go to the Academy Awards and see genuine professionals accepting gratitude from an adoring public who benefited from the celluloid escapes provided by movie studios. That all changed in the 1970's, when Marlon Brando dispatched an Indian chick to the stage in his stead, in order to dramatize the plight of Native Americans. Nice sentiment, and one swell peach of a way to destroy a fun, carefree celebration by dragging people into the depths of depression with a misplaced, selfish agenda.

Look, I can understand the implied statement of Jess Owens' victory against Hitler's Aryans in 1936. That was a pure, unspoken moment in world history that everyone understood without anyone mentioning a word. Watching Hitler storm out of the Berlin stadium said it all.

But in 1968's Mexico City Olympics, we had to endure the public spectacle of black medalists raising their fists as America's national anthem was played to celebrate their victories. It may have been effective, but it was shameful -- and I might add, ungracious. After all, they were there to represent all of us, not just a few of us. Four years later, in 1972, mentally-defective pro-palestinian terrorists invaded Munich's Olympic village and murdered the majority of Israel's athletic representatives. The games haven't been the same since.

If you want to kick back and watch corporate America foist even more unnecessary fast food between replays of professionals you've watched a million times before, have at it. As for myself, I'm going to download all five seasons of Get Smart.

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