At one point in the festivities I was asked to choose my favorite from a selection of Problems for which "1" ("one") represented "My phone has no dial tone". And--do not get ahead of me--after answering in the touch-tone binary affirmative I was next asked whether I was calling from that phone. I swear I'm not making that up.
I was fortunate, though, in that this weekend the "news" turned out to be exactly the sort of thing network teevee does best: matching the inspiring stories of young American athletes who have overcome all sorts of personal obstacles in order to become monomaniacal commercial pitchman candidates to sappy background music, while intimating that any other country's athletes which defeat them are cheating (it's possible--barely, I think--that there's some other country where Béla Károlyi would be given air time to declare, "But Chineses is exploiting little girls!" But it's dollars to doughnuts there's no other where it would be managed with the assumption that irony was not just lost on the audience, but totally unknown); assigning blame for the war in Abkhazia to Russia, on the grounds that no country which wants to become a US client state could possibly be at fault; John Edwards, of course, (sorry for assuming you've heard something about it; if not, do sit down first); and, finally, interviewing George W. Bush as though there's anyone left in America who wants to hear what he says, or tries to say.
(My Poor Wife had to watch the Opening Ceremonies with available, fuzzy, over-the-air reception; I peeked in from the other room occasionally, whenever her ooohs and ahs would crescendo. And here's a thought experiment for you: watch a replay while imagining you're an aphasic, and try to figure out why Matt Lauer and Bob Costas are buzzing over the whole thing. They never fucking shut up! Now imagine your aphasia is miraculously cured. Watch again and try to figure out what they were saying that was so damned important.)
I am, as I mentioned recently in the matter of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, a life-long Track and Field fan, from the days when the inspiring stories were Glen Cunningham and Wilma Rudolph, who overcame real obstacles, not the First Cousin Who Couldn't Stop Hiccuping For Seven Years or Beloved Family Pet Which Died variety, let alone the Rafer Johnsons and Jessie Owenses whose obstacles weren't the sort mentioned in polite society. My enthusiasm got dry-rot when choreographed flag strutting* became mandatory, lost structural integrity when professionalism replaced amateurism** (the Russians are cheating!"), and is all but gone in an era when the entire record book is suspect.† I will watch next week in the same way another man might pause before a display of GI Joes at a flea market.
Imagine what sort of world we'd have to enter if such behavior was not rewarded, where prominent, revenue-generating exposure of a sport's governing body was taken away for egregious misbehavior or unbridled greed, and handed to clean sports with competition for the love and beauty of Sport, not gilt. Imagine one where soft-core porn for the terminally repressed teevee viewer did not supplant real sports,†† at least during sports festivals. Try to picture what it would take to produce a global competition where every winner demonstrated respect for the other competitors, instead of turning the thing into a pantomime of martial superiority, with overtones of colonialism.§ Then you have some idea of what Change entails.
Fuck it. Just gimme somebody to answer the goddam complaint phone.
* How is it that the love of Sex, or Drugs, or Sex and Drugs, are psychological diagnostic categories, but the constant need for Reassurance by Bunting is not? Christ, if you masturbated as often as some people need flag displays you'd have no skin left on your hands, let alone Down There.
** I realize the Amateur Movement had a considerable number of problems, and was, in some instances, a complete sham, and that, furthermore, it was run, in the person of Avery Brundage, by the worst fascist dictator to not have his own standing army, but the idea that one corrects flaws in a system by throwing the damn thing on the landfill is simply beyond me; and the idea that one could advocate doing so and yet be unaware that the benefits would accrue to the very same people who were besmirching the old system beggars belief.
† I cannot understand how people excuse, condone, or even champion skullduggery in sport, especially those nameless leftists, cough cough, who do so when it's their ox whose abdomen has been exposed. How far beyond your own nose must you look to see how damaging that attitude is? It elected Ronald Reagan twice and George W. Bush once.
†† "Beach" "volleyball", the NASCAR of Olympic events. It's bad enough that the rules, and the point, of actual volleyball (now known as "indoor" volleyball to distinguish it from the slatternly, made-for-teevee impostor shaking its surgically-enhanced tits outside, as though the Catholic church started calling them "Female Nuns" to distinguish them from Sister Boom Boom) are, so far as I can tell, simply treated as minor inconveniences. I defer to no man in my appreciation of the female graces spilling out of half-hearted, minimally legal attempts at concealment, but this is the fucking Olympics, not a two-week Bud Light commercial (wait, what am I saying?). Women competing in pasties and a g-string is bad enough; everyone connected to the modern Olympic movement should be censured for that alone. But then the men, dressed as vacationing shoe salesmen from Ohio, are augmented by teams of precision pole dancers. This is the fucking Olympics! Reader, imagine you discovered, at a young age, a God-given talent for Team Handball, Canoeing, or Badminton. You hone your skills for a lifetime, giving up all other pursuits, free time, and the license of teenage hormonal insanity, granted only once, all to chase your Dream. You overcome all obstacles, including fourteen years sharing a room with your brother and his Uncontrollable Hiccuping. Finally you reach your place in the Olympic sun, only to be preempted by a Brazilian Wax competition put on solely for the enjoyment of people too repressed to buy porn. I ask you.
§ I don't have a footnote for that, you just don't get that many opportunities to type a §.