At our house, the countdown to the Olympics provokes two distinctly different reactions. One of us sits poised, panting with excitement on the edge of her seat in anticipation of the opening ceremonies. The other one huffs and grunts and hunkers further into his favorite corner of the couch, declaring that under no circumstances is he biologically capable of surrendering the remote for a mere two weeks. To the chagrin of the one waving the flag and sporting the five special rings, feverish phone calls to the insurance company requesting approval for an emergent remotectomy have been met by outright guffaws and rude hang-ups. It’s so unprofessional.
As long as I can recall, the games have held a special fascination for me. I remember watching Nadia Comaneci, the famous Romanian gymnast, back in the seventies and wishing I could be like her. The same is true for the figure skaters who have always enchanted me with their grace and daring.
There are few pictures that provoke more patriotism in me than seeing a sweaty, triumphant American athlete atop the podium, bending to receive the gold medal as the flag is raised overhead and the national anthem plays. When he or she starts to tear up as the camera zooms in, I’m a goner, crying into my red, white, and blue napkin. If that scene doesn’t put a tear in your eye, then call a mortician because you have obviously assumed room temperature.
The only thing that can spoil my Olympic joy is watching it with a party pooper. Or two. During the winter games two years ago, my brother and his wife were visiting us. Every night we would tune in to get the latest medal count and to cheer for our athletes. Well, two of us would cheer.
The other two were suddenly armchair coaches, well versed in every sport, shouting instructions and holding up placards with hastily scribbled scores after each ski jump. As we women sat enthralled during the figure skating competition, they harrumphed and made snarky remarks about men who wear spandex. Never mind that neither one of them possessed the wherewithal to lift a 100-pound bag of cement, much less a grown woman, overhead on one hand while skating across the kitchen floor in tube socks. This, in their world, was not a disqualifier. When we delicately pointed this out, they only snorted again and went to look for more potato chips.
It is a sad reality that at my age, there just isn’t a spot for me at the games. When it comes to track and field events, I run in one place for too long. Yes, I realize that doggy paddling will never get me on that poolside podium. And there isn’t a chiropractor gifted enough to make me a well-adjusted competitor again if I tried out on the balance beam or attempted to leap and pirouette on the ice. I can, however, think of several events in which I and a few family members could truly shine and make you, our fellow Americans, proud.
Take diaper changing, for instance. Having been responsible for four prolific little colons in my career, my skills are so finely honed that I am now fully capable of diapering a crying, thrashing toddler in a blinding rainstorm with one hand tied behind my back. The reigning Brazilian champion who diapers her babies in banana leaves fastened with pincher ants doesn’t intimidate me at all. I can diaper her under the table.
If the Olympic committee would recognize the ability to produce earsplitting shrieks that can shatter crystal from here to Tupelo as an official sport, my cousin Rhoda would win. Once, during a tense cousinly game of hide and seek, she shut down the power grids on the entire eastern seaboard and sparked a tidal wave off the coast of Florida. She could be a medalist, that one.
For Mr. Schrock, it’s his nose that could take him to the gold. I have never in my life met anyone with a keener sense of smell. His olfactory abilities would make a beagle patently envious. If the IOC would stage a contest wherein the blindfolded participants would be asked to identify objects solely by smell, he would win hands down.
“That is the dung of an Arabian camel who recently passed through the Saharan desert,” he might say as the first object is passed.
“This is an extremely rare orchid only found in the rainforests of Papua, New Guinea,” he would proclaim.
“And this is a coffee bean grown in Costa Rica, medium roasted and infused with Jamaican and Mexican liqueurs,” he would assert to gasps and applause from the judges.
I’m confident he could parlay his gold medal into some lucrative endorsements. Please pray with me that the U.S. sniffing team doesn’t have to wear tights, or I’ll never get him to Beijing.