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The Olympics are great to witness the bizarre and obscure

So help me, I can't quit the Olympics. I have no logical explanation for why I get so involved and excited about a sporting event that, in many ways, seems archaic and unnecessarily over-the-top.

It might be because of the fond memories that the Olympics conjure up from my childhood as we would spend hours digesting NBC's neat and tidy coverage in the pre-spoilers era.

Maybe it's because of the reverence my father, who participated in the Olympic trials with the men's soccer team for the Mexico City games, had for the Olympics. He mentioned to me on more than one occasion that if could obtain one athletic achievement in his lifetime, he would place winning an Olympic medal above anything else.

But, recently, I think I may have pin-pointed why the Games continue to suck me in time after time even though the viewing experience is so profoundly different than it was 20 years ago.

When I watch a sporting event, aside from rooting for my team or individual of choice to prevail, I want to witness something I've never seen before.

And, with the Olympics, there's a heck of a lot of crazy stuff going on that I have never seen before, more so than any other sporting event on the planet.

In some ways, I miss the old days when it was physically possible to watch the Olympics' marquee events on tape delay without Facebook, Twitter, CNN, ESPN or hundreds of other outlets blaring the results ahead of time.

And yet, advances in coverage have made it possible to watch virtually any obscure event live on cable or the internet which I find fascinating.

Sure it makes for the occasional awkward exchange between my spouse and I as I try and explain why I'm watching women's weightlifting or two straight hours of archery but to be able to pull up anything from fencing to handball at any time is absolutely astounding to me.

And, in no particular order, here are a handful of things I have loved in my first few days of Olympic viewing.

The Opening Ceremonies:

What a bizarre tradition. I've always said that nothing commemorates the beginning of the world's greatest collection of athleticism than dramatic recitations of literature and dancing children.

But I have to give credit to London. They punched their weight. Nothing was going to compete with the spectacle from Beijing four years ago so the British stuck with what they knew. Playwrights, dry humor and rain.

Equestrian:

Like many events in the Olympics, I know that equestrian is something that exists but I have never, in 24 years of watching the Olympics, seen a minute of it. Until this year. I'm not going to pretend that I understood what was going on. I assume the gist of it is to ride your horse as quickly as possible without crashing it into dozens of jumps along the way.

But what stood out to me the most was what the participants were wearing. At first it seemed like standard equestrian garb... that is until someone fell off his horse.

All of a sudden, without warning, the rider's vest blew up like a human airbag in mid-fall. As he sheepishly stood up, he looked like an embarrassed Michelin Man. I was astounded by this technology which presumably protects riders from the impact of a fall and from the potential of getting trampled or crushed by your horse in the aftermath.

I instantly went on eBay to see if I could buy one of these. Why aren't these standard issue to every American citizen yet? As the father to a three-year-old and one-year-old boy, airbag onesies would have been the first and only thing on our baby shower registry.

Table tennis/badminton

My own personal Heaven will consist of one of two scenarios. I will either obtain the hand-eye coordination of the world's greatest table-tennis and badminton players or I will get to sit in front of a TV watching high-quality badminton and table-tennis for eternity.

I'm sorry, but these are the most impressive participants of the Olympics. When I watch basketball or track, presumably featuring the world's greatest athletes, I have a basic understanding of how they are achieving what I am watching. I can comprehend the basic physics behind a breathtaking dunk or a world record 100-meter dash.

I can not comprehend how the world's best table-tennis players can do what I am seeing on TV. Maybe it's because I've always been drawn to feats of hand-eye coordination simply because of my own athletic limitations but the skill displayed at this level in badminton and table-tennis is breathtaking.

The scandals

Previous Olympic scandals have been awful and frightening ranging from acts of terrorism to illegal drug use to the doctoring of athletes' ages to gain a competitive advantage. This year? The biggest headline grabber so far has been the slightly hilarious scandal involving a handful of badminton teams who allegedly lost games on purpose to set themselves up better in bracket play and they were apparently so abysmal at it that everyone in the audience booed them off the court afterwards.

Other controversies have involved various athletes bickering back and forth on Twitter. When your biggest Olympic scandal involves tweets and badminton, things are going pretty smoothly.




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