I am not a very dedicated sports fan. I like sports as an excuse to get out and be with friends, but overall I prefer to make small talk about the weather (politics too volatile) than batting averages or quarterback controversies. I don’t know anything about either of those topics anyway. I like hockey.
But I found myself unable to stop watching the Olympics last night. A horrible date I must have been because at one point I had suggested that the athletes were as fit as race horses and she suggested that the rest of us — not she or me, of course — were built like hamsters.
Hamsters! I love it. And it is true.
What do hamsters do all day? They munch on stuff, occasionally get up for a run on a wheel, then munch more. If you look at the bar crowd they tend to be slouched over the bar nibbling and sipping just like hamsters. Some of them are breeders, too, which is what hamsters are good at. Gerbils, doubly good at it. I know. We supplied the school with gerbils for the class boa constrictor.
Ah, yes, there is some sport in bar watching, too, no doubt. Identifying the swingers at the bar is as good of a sport as watching men’s rowing, for example. Young guys from the suburbs on bad dates make for good viewing. And every once in a while, there’s just plain simple bliss and happiness.
There’s some sadness in this bar watching sport, too, especially when you’re getting deep into your second bottle of Brunello di Montalcino. There always seem to be the girls — I use that term in the broadest sense — who appear willing to give anything — and I mean anything — for some affirmation and attention.
There are many boys like this, too, but they either hide behind various manly facades or just look desperately drunk. The phrase ‘wayward” rings entirely true. These people catch my attention, and I watch from a distance, like a Wim Wenders angel, forbidden to contact until their time has come.
Anyway, no need to let the sadness of humanity get a guy down. I like watching the bar stool hamsters as much as the Olympic race horses. I do think my friend is right, though; we are indeed more like the hamsters in the bar than the monomaniac athletes on television. Until the rise of reality television I always thought that’s why we like sport, because those people were achieving something most of us cannot. So why watch reality television when everyday blandness mixes with storied train wrecks right in your own back yard?
Often contrast is the best way to see and understand. When seeking affirmation — remember the boys and girls? — in the familiar, people lack contrast and so fail to see and understand. In this way I think this sort of populist entertainment — reality television, especially — that exists today is a factor in the “dumbing down” of American culture. What can we learn from making celebrities of “reality”, especially our most mundane and sordid? Maybe I am being snobby and short-sighted, but I can’t help but feel grateful for something like the Olympics,
something rare that goes over the top to celebrate achievement. There is something good in that, isn’t there?
By the way, you can find me later at the bar eating a pizza with a mug of beer. I will be celebrating achievement!
- Are the Olympics Absolutely Fabulous? (thevibes.me)
- Barnsley stages Olympics for hamsters and gerbils (guardian.co.uk)
- Let the games begin: Eight great ways to get into the Olympic spirit (swrnn.com)
- Does Reality Television Portend The Apocalypse? (emmiemears.com)