I Tried to Resist: Every four years, amidst controversy and stories of rampant materialithansm (Atlanta, 1996), human rights violations and corruption (Beijing, 2008), security concerns (London, 2012), economic issues (Athens, 2004), or all of the above plus dire predictions of a public health catastrophe (Rio de Janiero, 2016), the Summer Olympic Games take place and in almost every case, the concerns tend to go largely unjustified. This year I was intent on avoiding the event, turned off by reports of over promising and under delivering by the Rio organizing committee, not to mention the rampant bribery of IOC officials to win the bid to host the Games. But there I was earlier this week, tuning in to watch the U.S. women's rugby team trying to upset New Zealand to get to the quarterfinals. Really? Women's rugby? Then there's archery, the cycling road race, beach volleyball, synchronized diving and it goes on and on and on. And I'll be watching.
It's an amazing sports phenomenon, the world getting together to compete in an almost unending variety of athletic events. Smiling faces of competing athletes, disappointment of those who just miss out on a trip to the medal platform, nervous parents and family members, stunning scenery and enthusiastic fans are shown every night on what has proven to be an excellent prime time production by NBC. Sure, the coverage is heavily slanted toward the United States teams and individuals, but the last time I checked, we are living in the U.S. and it's fairly safe to assume that interest in our the competitors from our own country would be significantly higher than those from other places. But if you want to see every second of every event, NBC has that for you as well, streaming all of its coverage live on their NBC Olympics app.
The Americans at these Games have fared very well to date. The men were even able to grab a silver medal in the platform synchronized diving competition. Why not a gold? Well, because the Chinese divers were so good that even their poor dives were perfectly synchronized. Go figure. Then there is the U.S. swimming team, an entertaining mix of rookies and grizzled veterans, like Michael Phelps at age 31 and Ryan Lochte at 32. They both swam on the gold medal winning men's 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay team. That's a combined 63 years old. That's probably older than the total ages of the entire Russian women's gymnastics team. But on a more serious note, the Americans have put on a clinic in the pool, with Katie Ledecky looking like a unisuit clad assassin. Then there was Lilly King calling out and defeating Russia's Yulia Efimova, a repeated doping offender, in the 100 meter breaststroke.
There's disappointment for the U.S. as well. The men's volleyball team has managed just a single set in two matches, one against a Canadian team that shouldn't have been able to stay on the floor with them. Sloppy play and a lack of cohesion have victimized the squad that despite its youth and inexperience, was expected to at least compete for a medal. In the men's team competition, the U.S. gymnastics team got off to a horrrendous start, suddenly forgetting how to stay on the competition section of the floor exercise mat. As they move on to the individual apparatus and all-around competition, they need to remember one thing: white good, green bad. Of course the contrast with the women's team couldn't be any clearer. In winning the team gold, they obliterated the competition with almost perfect routine followed by perfect routine after perfect routine after...well, you get the picture. I've been following the Olympics since the 1964 Games in Tokyo, and even the great Soviet and other Eastern Bloc teams lacked the depth and precision that the U.S. women demonstrated in their dominating win.
Can the quintet add to there medals, will the U.S. women's soccer team follow up their World Cup win with a gold, can Michael Phelps possibly continue to do well enough to consider returning for another Games? I don't know, but I'm sure I'll be tuned in. And guess what? We haven't even started with track and field, golf or medal rounds in basketball, volleyball and beach volleyball. I just hope I have something left to walk in, uh, I mean watch the closing ceremonies.
Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" and my first two, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel" and "Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel", available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords. Tune into www.WPFLRADIO.com at 8:40 am EST every Friday for my Beyond the Commentary segment on "Lou in the Morning" with Lou Vickery and Jonathan McMath.