Feel free to whack me in the knees (metaphorically): The Olympics are just a terrible idea.
It's not that world-class athletes shouldn't gather every once in a while for all of us to watch. They should — if only to remind us self-absorbed Yanks that there are countries on the globe besides America and the United States. For instance, there's Latvia, a country I can guarantee most Americans don't give a second thought until talk turns to that Latvian delicacy, smoked flounder.
I think I rest my case.
Anyway, the problem with the Olympics is not that the Latvians get there and start hogging all the smoked fish, or the Norwegians get there and start hogging all the gold medals. It's that the gold medals exist at all. (And that, this year, they look like CDs. The hole is supposed to represent Italy's piazzas. But couldn't they keep them whole and have them represent Italy's pizzas?)
Gold medals, silver, bronze - it just kills me that you can spend your whole life preparing for the Olympics, becoming better at the triple lutz than almost 6 billion people on Earth, and then you get to Turin and trip on a snowflake or land one-eighth of an inch from the place you have landed perfectly 68,089 other times starting well before (delayed) puberty and, BAM!, you're a Latvian snack.
One little mistake in front of ONE crazy judge who hates zee Americans anyway and there's your Danish Doppelgänger, who also spent every dawn at the skating rink, standing on that top step, grinning a Katie Holmes grin, while you have plenty of time to go get yourself a hot chocolate.
Sure people say that just being at the Olympics is honor enough. Well if everyone believes that, why not make it official? You GET to the Olympics, you GET a gold medal. Think of it as a lifetime achievement award. Or, in the case of curling, an award for enduring a lifetime of ridicule. (Merited or not.) The Games can still go on. There just won't be any official losers.
Now, true, all of the people I've mentioned this idea to seem to think it's even dumber than the idea of curlers shoving a teapot around the ice.
They love the competition. The tension. They point out that the athletes themselves love the chance to sink or soar, so why am I so worried about their egos? Sports is all about winning and losing.
And as my good friend Jim also pointed out, "Losing builds character, too — possibly more character than winning. So perhaps the losers take away something even more valuable."
But, couldn't we just give them, like, a consolation prize? A bright, shiny one with a hole in the middle to remind them of Italy's glorious piazzas?
Or at least a free pizza where the anchovies spell out, "WINNER!"?
Or a nice, smoked flounder?
I'll await the Olympic Committee's decision.