Bolting through the Olympics

And so, here we are, at the end of NBC’s Olympic noodlefest, where strand after strand of competitive pasta gets fired up against the wall in a continual effort to find a few that would be compelling enough to stick. In the end, the answer was, as always … well, there are some.

I developed a surefire way to cull the Olympic menu. I would play a kind of Olympic roulette, where I sat down, turned on the tube, saw what was on, and then asked myself, “Do I give a bleep about this?” It worked well. For example, water polo between Poland and Hungary? Nope. Soccer between Nicaragua and Vanuatu? Neg. Fencing, between anybody? Later. Beach volleyball, no matter how attractive the glute factor? Sorry. Gymnastics, men’s or women’s? Sure, it’s a big hitter for many, and there always are moments of strength, drama and beauty, but I had to admit the presence of a persistent indifference as to finding out who’s the world’s greatest ring wrangler or vaultist.

Using this selective screening approach, I found I was spending a great deal of time not watching Olympics. That was OK. My TV time, lo and behold, was not being dominated by Phelps, Kobe and Gabby, but instead by my main men Jon, Steve and Walt. As in Walter White. Great to have America’s favorite meth cook back on the air this summer, and Breaking Bad keeps keeping me all caught up in a very stitchy soap opera goin’ down in Albuquerque.

But then, it finally happened. An Olympic event where I asked myself “the question” and finally answered in the affirmative. Certainly not a surprise that my first genuine “yes” of the London games came in response to the men’s 100 meter final.

Old-school Olympics. There’s just something pure, supreme and elemental about the 100, the race that determines the fastest human being on our planet. The adjective “electrifying,” like all superlatives these days, is overworked. But here, in the 100, it actually fits. This race is the essence of the entire Olympic everything, boiled down to a race lasting less than 10 seconds. Two weeks of sprawling competition, with everything from synchronized swimming to team judo, condensed to one simple and thrilling footrace.

It’s not like watching the 100 has any kind of nationalistic juju going for it. Anybody who’s halfway conscious knew who would triumph. Usain Bolt is just a freakin’ star, a guy who is to track and field what The Three Stooges are to aggressive expressionistic touch therapy. The charisma positively drips off the guy, from his name to his totally perfect “Bolt-throwing” victory pose. Usain gives the planet the total Olympic buzz it wants and yearns for, and I even forgive NBC for making me stay up through all those endless 1,500 meter heats to get it.