The Olympics get under way in London Friday, and that means it's time for millions of Americans to spend the next two weeks rooting for athletes they've never heard of and becoming irrationally invested in sports they don't totally understand. It's the best.
For instance, I don't think my mom has ever seen an entire NFL game, but she will watch almost certainly watch every night of the Olympics. We all will, even if we say we won't. It's impossible not to get sucked into the Olympics. There's no spectacle on earth that's simultaneously so ridiculous and exhilarating, and it's all part of the charm. It's what makes the next two weeks fun for everyone.
So, to celebrate the celebration in London, here are a handful of reasons to love the Summer Olympics every four years. Beginning with...
-- USA CHANTS. There is never a bad time for USA chants to break out, but the Olympics give us the best excuse of anything. This year's games are in London, meaning most of the events will happen smack in the middle of the workday, meaning... OFFICE USA CHANTS.
Plus, as Yahoo!'s Dan Devine points out:
tell you this much: you can't measure the heart of a champion in metric— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) July 27, 2012
-- THE OLYMPICS THEME MUSIC. On par with the NBA on NBC, the CBS college basketball tune, and every other familiar jingle that makes me feel like a 10 year-old again.
-- THE OPENING CEREMONY. It's basically athlete cotillion in a stadium full of fireworks, and the execution is every bit as ridiculous as the concept. This will be the first opening ceremony with Twitter out in full force, and it should be spectacular. Spencer Hall is live-blogging the festivities for SB Nation, and it will be fantastic for the fashion commentary alone. Speaking of which...
-- TEAM USA'S BOUT TO CURATE SOME MUSEUMS, SON.
-- THE TORCH LIGHTING. Noted here only because it's always fun to root for something to go horribly wrong with the torch lighting. Anyway, onto the events...
-- SPORTS ALL THE TIME. As SB Nation's Tom Ziller explains, "Waking up in the middle of the night to live sports is extremely underrated. On the West Coast, men's basketball will be starting at 1 a.m. That sucks if you have to cover it. But as a fan, walking into the house or waking up to something like France vs. Argentina at that hour is just amazing. It's like found money. It's even better when it's a totally random sport like handball. That makes it more like a lucid dream than a viewing experience."
-- MEMORIES WILL BE MADE. Did you know that like half of SB Nation's writing staff has lived in Atlanta at some point? Well, last year all the ATLiens got together to remember the Atlanta Olympics in '96, and Spencer Hall remembered his visit to one event:
We got high in a port-o-let before the Australia/Nicaragua baseball game. It was my girlfriend's idea -- the getting high part, not the Australia/Nicaragua baseball part. Tickets were either very easy to get, or impossible. International baseball was one of the easier ones. This is because international baseball is horrible and bad to watch. We decided to get high to properly enjoy Australians playing baseball. The people we were with told us the little vent at the top looked like a miniature factory stack belching smoke into the air. Someone clapped when we exited. It was all very subtle. ... The mercy rule ended the game sometime in the fourth inning, but being high meant it took a few minutes for us to realize that.
Me: What the hell is this?
Girlfriend: Are y'all just out there hugging and shaking hands?
Me: This is like a cuddle break.
Girlfriend: More sports need cuddle breaks.
Me: Could complicate boxing.
Girlfriend: How so?
Me: Like, what if you liked hugging him? You're all like, "Well, he smelled so good, and now I have feelings for him. This is awkward, right?"
Girlfriend: It might help, though. You could punch him for being so handsome.
Me: You're brilliant.
Girlfriend: No, YOU'RE brilliant.
-- RAPPERS. "Stick my landing in a freak's drawers / I have her bouncin' back like Dominique Dawes." -- Lil Wayne in 2008. Just think: 12 years from now, there's no telling which random star from London could end up on some random rapper's mixtape. DREAM BIG, OLYMPIANS.
-- YOUR MIND WILL BE BLOWN. Again from Ziller: "It may sound cheesy, but because most of us aren't watching track and field every summer, the feats we see during the Games -- like Usain Bolt in 2008 -- can just blow us away. We have to look harder and harder for truly mindblowing moments in the major American sports. In the Olympics, they happen almost every day."
-- 2PAC VS. BIGGIE IN A POOL. Lochte. Phelps. WHAT'S BEEF?
-- HUMAN INTEREST STORIES. Don't even try to act like you don't get sucked in every time NBC runs one of their six minute pieces on an inspirational athlete. I'm not too cool to love this stuff, and neither are you. We're ready. Just throw on some Rudy-ish music, grab Costas from the Shire, and tell us everything we need to know about this blind archer from South Korea.
Legally blind South Korean archer Im Dong-Hyun sets first world record of London Olympics: yhoo.it/QkzklP 699 pts from 72 arrows.— Yahoo!(@Yahoo) July 27, 2012
-- SUPERHUMAN INTEREST STORIES. How many future Olympic superstars will be conceived in the Olympic Village this year?
-- CORRUPTION! The Olympics always bring with them a fresh batch of stories reminding us that the IOC is the shadiest organization on earth, and I'm sure this summer will be no different. But you know how we can be absolutely certain the IOC is corrupt? Because four years ago the Olympics were held in a city with the worst air quality on earth, and now the sequel is ... Beautiful London!
This picture's from Friday afternoon there.
-- ON THE OTHER HAND. Kate Middleton. KATE MIDDLETON.
-- SOMEONE WILL LIFT SOMETHING VERY HEAVY. From SB Nation's Bill Hanstock: "World's Strongest Man competitions are awesome, of course. The Crossfit Games are cool if you have a kettlebell-and-box-jump fetish. But for some of the most unbelievable feats of strength, you gotta go with the Olympics. Someone is going to walk up to a bar with an absolutely absurd amount of weight on it. They're going to make this face, they're going to scream, then they're going to lift that sucker over their heads.
"If you think men's weightlifting is awesome, women's weightlifting is twice as awesome. Take Sarah Robles, for instance. She's 23 years old and can lift more than 568 pounds. She can do stuff like this. I remember when I bench-pressed 225 for the first time and I felt like a golden god. Sarah Robles can bench-press me bench-pressing 225. I can only imagine what she feels like when she's lifting. Maybe she feels like Galactus? Probably like Galactus.
"Weightlifting often gets glossed over at the Olympics. It's shown in the daytime, usually. I think weightlifting would be a lot better -- immensely better -- if the announcers for the event were not so jaded by weightlifting and actually took a moment to actually think about what is actually happening. These people are stretching the boundaries of what the human body is capable of, because they lifted something heavy, then the next day they lifted something slightly heavier and so on, for years. That is how we accept "getting stronger," but do you even realize HOW COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS IT IS? Imagine if someone snatched 400 pounds and the announcers actually considered the physicality of that act and were like OH MY GOD HOLY JESUS WHAT AM I EVEN LOOKING AT. So do me a favor and react that way at home. You'll be glad you did."
THE RULON GARDNER RULE. We can laugh at Olympic absurdity all we want, as long as we also remember that there'll be at least a handful of stories from the next two weeks that really ARE inspirational and really DO remind us how amazing sports can be sometimes. There's nothing cooler than seeing a triumphant athlete crumble to the ground in tears, covered in his or her country's flag, completely overwhelmed by the moment, with a hundred thousand fans going nuts in the background. These are the moments that give us chills, and they happen at the Olympics every day.
When in doubt, remember that most of these Olympians get paid almost nothing and have dedicated their entire lives to some two hour window over the next two weeks. And remember Rulon Gardner at the 2000 Olympics, because sports really don't get any better than that.
FINALLY ... The last word goes to SB Nation's Olympics expert and/or social media emperor, Ryan Hudson: "There is no way to explain the Olympics are awesome without sounding like a completely naive 12-year-old, BUT ... For four years, as sports fans, we spend every day rooting against players and teams. We hope the Yankees don't add yet another arm with a deadline deal; We pray that the Cowboys don't make a late-season run to win the division; We root for LeBron to miss the jumper in the fourth quarter (because we are horrible people).
But then the Olympics come around, and for two weeks, we don't really care so much about trade rumors, or CBA negotiations, or Wild Card standings. Instead, we put all of our sports fandom behind the same team. For two weeks, we come together to care about sports we've never heard of before, and go crazy for events we hardly know the rules to, and root for athletes we'll forget almost as quickly as we learn their names. And it's awesome."
Now then: Let the games begin!