Sunday, August 17, 2008


I'm as jaded as the next guy, if not more so. I usually find the Olympics boring (except the men's track events from 800 meters on down) and a brief interest in the Dream Team back in junior high.

I was a little irritated a couple times earlier this month when I was forced to sit in a living room with Olympics coverage on, though within an hour I found myself as patriotic and absorbed as the next guy, cheering on the USA women gymnasts in the prelims and feeling really sorry for that Nastia girl since her dad seems to be such a mean douche.

Anyway, last night I'm at a terrific show at the Beachland, with back and forth shows starting in the ballroom and tavern every 30 minutes. The whole night was ostensibly a Dreadful Yawns cd release show, but they'd invited a Chicago band named Big Buildings to play before them. Big Buildings stole the show, as they fucking blistered. They played what might have been the best 30 minutes of rock I've seen in a while.

Even so, as much as they rocked, during their second or third song, I notice to my right a little crowd growing in the back corner of the bar. I look over and see the TV has been turned on to the Olympics. At first I roll my eyes, then realize Michael Phelps is going to swim for what could be his record-setting 8th gold medal. I start switching my gaze back and forth between the band and the tube, but soon the band loses out and as the race starts I walk over to the TV and watch. The race was a great one, some relay/medley thing, and though the USA team consistently was in the hunt, the lead kept changing hands between Japan, Australia, and us. At every length hipster girlfriends were grabbing their boyfriends in delight and the enormously tall bartender was pointing out to the growing crowd which lane the Americans were in. Going into the final leg, the Americans surged ahead and kept it all the way. When the last guy touched the last wall, the crowd let out a muted cry of cheer, a combination of latent patriotism and salute to the unparalleled achievement of Mr. Phelps.

That guy really is a stud. I found myself dismissing his achievements a few days ago, telling someone that yeah, he may well be talented, but that's all he does, by his own admission. If I picked one thing and focused every second of every day of my life on it, I'd be pretty good, too. Maybe not Olympian, but pretty good. But, you know, I have a life.

That seems both petty and weak of me, and I knew it then, when I said it, but I still think there is some degree of truth to what I argued then. But I find myself today as impressed with Phelps as anyone else. I'm not impressed just with his great swimming skills - though he is admittedly unbelievably awesome in the pool - but rather his ability to excel throughout a long and stress competition. Dude had to know the eyes of the world were on him, that literally every single person who knew him was keeping tabs, and he didn't waver a bit. I guess he can be disappointed that he didn't set a world record in every single race (only 7, right? Yeah, only.).

So anyway, here's to Michael Phelps, all-universe class sportsman and new American hero.

If only he'd grow a Spitz-esque mustache.

Go USA! Beat China!

(Sorry, couldn't help it.)

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