I sat at my friend Erin’s house the other night, well into the early-morning hours, as a good citizen of the world must, drinking beer and watching the Olympics.
I’m not sure that’s a socially acceptable way to do things, but for Erin and I it was darn good humor; and who would have thought watching prime examples of human fitness and competitive excellence would be the perfect backdrop to a couple of beers?
Erin has a lovely flat-screen TV with HD, a cinematic experience that is a cross between actually being there and an acid flashback. Picture quality in “High Definition” is incredibly sharp and allows the viewer to see every hair, every mole on a person’s face/body. The other night was the first time I'd ever watched anything on a TV with HD, and it was both uncomfortable and exciting, like a new glasses' prescription - you just can't get over how much clearer every thing is.
Remind me to never be televised in High Def.
I’m pretty sure Erin and I spent most of the evening with our jaws hanging open - not in the adenoidal and embarrassing mouth-breathing kind of way, but in sheer amazement. The scissoring legs of the pommel horse! The gravity-defiant vaults! The teeny-tiny female gymnasts, little bullets of muscle in shiny body-hugging suits, cute little barrettes in their hair! At one point, we held our breath for a full pommel horse routine - evident only by our loud gasps for air at the athlete's dismount - and then burst into applause. Erin was so excited I thought she was going to hug me.
In no time at all we were saying things like “she really stuck that landing” and “he kicked it in at the end”, as if we knew what we were talking about. We don’t, of course. And such is the beauty of the Olympics. Suddenly everyone is an expert.
And why not? Because if there’s anything that fascinates human beings, it’s other human beings. The Olympics are the ultimate reality show; and we only need to know one thing about these human beings: that they signify everything that is good about the body and the spirit. Me? I know that I could never be an Olympic athlete, but knowing that others are and that they epitomize everything that is right with the world? That just makes me feel warm and tingly all over.
And then you add your funny friend Erin and some beer to it and you got yourself a party.
Nielsen Company has estimated that one-third of the population of the globe has tuned in to the Olympic Games. Just how they got that number, I have no idea. Don’t even care! But it's true enough for me. Every four years (according to my research) civilization seems to take a break from looking at each other with suspicion and hatred and competes against each other in a way that doesn't require firearms, to see who can swim faster, hit harder, spin and jump and fly more perfectly; and we try to see ourselves and those around us through the lens of what is possible, with determination.
We should try looking at each other that way more often and not just every four years. I'll bet everyone would be happier.
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