These have become the Feel-Bad Games. Like any sports fan, I like my agony of defeat mixed in with generous portions of the thrill of victory. So far in these Olympics there’s something askew — there are moments of triumph, but there is an overabundance of pain and anguish. There are so many grim faces of athletes who have seen 10 years of training obliterated in a single misstep. See Liz Clarke’s great story today on our front page, about the changing nature of gymnastics (“with the sport’s difficulty escalating so rapidly, it’s no wonder the ‘game face’ of modern-day gymnasts tends to be a clenched jaw rather than a radiant smile”).
The story echoes what we discussed on this blog the other day. The gymnasts don’t seem to be having any fun. It looks like torture. They're judged against perfection and always found wanting. Sure, the U.S. women’s team won gold with a flawless performance, and we can feel great about that. But can I just point out that as we speak the Russian gymnasts are still crying.
Even the Michael Phelps feel-good story of the week strikes me as a little false. Yes, he’s now won 19 medals, the most ever, making him the surely the greatest swimmer ever and maybe the best Olympican. I feel good about that. But .... ahem ... he’s faltered a bit in the individual competitions. I’m still shocked that he got out-touched in the 200-meter butterfly when it looked like he had the thing in the bag. And Ryan Lochte? You’ve heard of “all hat, no cattle.” Well, at certain key moments this guy is all grill, no teeth. Did my eyes deceive me or did he get tracked down by the French guy on the final leg of the 4X100 relay as if he were swimming in a pina colada? I am planning on feeling bad about that as soon as I figure out how it was even possible.
I like the beach volleyball women a lot, and they’ve been aweseome, but I can’t keep their names straight because they’re over-hyphenated. I feel bad about how I am with names.
Today could be a feel-good day, so let’s watch and see. But if it gets grim and anguishy again I’m going to retreat to baseball tonight.
Although ... the Nats just dropped two to the Phillies and if they lose three in a row you know how I’ll feel about that.
Must read: The Internet is making us crazy. Maybe you should print it out and read it, just as a precaution.