At long last, it’s time for that display of peace, unity and brotherhood that arises every four years – namely, coming together to hunt down the creators of those presidential phone surveys and dropping them off a cliff.
No, I mean the Olympic Games, of course, brought to us this year by Rio de Janeiro and about a zillion mosquitoes. Athletes have been taking steps to protect themselves from the Zika virus ranging from long sleeves to tent-enclosed beds, though no one went further than Russia, who thoughtfully arranged to get their weightlifters disqualified in advance to ensure their maximum protection.
But despite all the controversy – and really, what’s a Games without controversy? – it’s still the Olympics. That glorious time when we sit on the couch with specially branded cans of Coke, cheer on the Parade of Nations, and then decipher the television schedule to find the five sports we’ve actually heard of.
Granted, the Summer Games are easier to follow than the Winter Games, which for most Americans could best be described as “Skating, gymnastics, hockey, and everything else. Oh … and skiing, right?” We know basketball and soccer. We recognize the track events from long-ago gym classes. In fact, most of the events are pretty straightforward, even if they’re things that, at any other time, the typical U.S sports fan would only happen on by accident while hunting for “Family Feud.”
And of course, there’s always the fun of discovering what’s been added. Every four years, the organizers experiment with something new, whether it’s tae kwon do, beach volleyball, or (this time) rugby. This time out, though, I can’t help feeling the Brazilians missed a chance to garner some good press by making the Olympics relevant to today’s generation. Imagine the viewership and camaraderie if the organizers had also thought to include:
The Pokémon GO Obstacle Course – Cheer on the players of the world’s most popular virtual game as they attempt to walk across four lanes of traffic, through thick woods, and past strategically placed manholes for the gold medal. Gotta catch ‘em all!
The PotterChase: Held inside a bookstore, this track event requires passionate fantasy fans to climb over every obstacle in their path, including each other, to claim the last copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Bonus points for costumes, of course.
Wrestling with the Facts: Get ready to merge grappling with the fact-check generation, as the wrestlers come armed with speeches from today’s headline politicians. Victory requires pinning your opponent for a three-count and logically refuting at least two of their arguments. (This may be the only Olympic event that gets better with the sound off.)
The $5 Billion Dash: Runners race at top speed while being pursued by an Olympic torch bearer. The loser has to start saving up to put on the next Games.
These could add relevance. These could add ratings. These could add to the joy of discovery that we so often feel when watching the event of the moment, cheering on the best of the best and enjoying a bright moment of hope in the midst of the world’s usual drama.
Or as much of it, anyway, as we can see through the mosquito netting.