Is it worth caring about the Olympics?
I remember being home when the Olympics were on and everybody in my family watched it. Getting everyone to agree on something to watch was a rare occurrence growing up. The Olympics have a unique air of prestige similar to the World Cup. Plus, it’s pretty easy to follow; figure out the rules of the event, root for the U.S. athletes and if Usain Bolt is out there, you root for him.
But over the past two weeks, I think I watched the Olympics twice. It surprises me because every Olympics before, winter or summer, I would watch somewhat regularly. But now, in college, I just don’t find myself making an effort.
The Rio Olympics happened in August 2016 and that made it easier to watch; it was my first summer break at UB so it was easy to find the time.
Now, four weeks into the semester, there is no way I could start to care. I’ve got stuff to do between school and writing for The Spectrum; the last thing I want to do is watch bobsledding for two-and-a-half hours to see which country wins a gold medal.
I’m not saying I don’t have free time either, but even then I choose to do something else. When it comes to sports, I have been paying far more attention to the NBA, teams on campus and MMA. As I am writing this, I am more excited to watch my beloved New York Knicks get smacked by the Golden State Warriors tonight than watch the closing ceremony.
Despite my previous endearment to the Olympics, even as a kid I knew some sports were duller than others. There is a reason curling is only watched in this country once every four years. Oddly, I would still get excited for these more obscure sports, but I think that was tied to an early sense of nationalism and wanting to see the United States win every event.
It also helped that my parents love the Olympics. They would always have it on at the house and no matter the sport, they seemed to know the best American in it.
It also doesn’t help that NHL players cannot play on the Olympic teams. Talk about taking all the fun out of something from the party poopers at the NHL. I understand that a major sports league taking two weeks off mid-season so their best players can play elsewhere is a bad business model, but I miss the country-based super teams.
In years past, I hoped the U.S. team would defeat Canadian rivals and the evil Sidney Crosby. I remember the heartbreaking loss in the final at the Vancouver Olympics and I have wanted revenge since. Sadly, the men’s team was made up of college players and retired NHL players, who despite being great athletes don’t really represent the sport at the highest level.
Luckily, women’s hockey was there to show the sport at the highest level with the U.S. taking the gold, baby. I will admit I wasn’t following the team that much in the early games, but I did catch their amazing shootout win over Canada. It was almost movie-like to watch a five-set shootout that saw them finally beat Canada and win the U.S. the gold.
But does that make me care about the event as a whole? Nope.
I am not trying to say the Olympics suck now and will never be the same. It just seems obvious that being a college student is not the optimal way to watch a two week multi-sport event.
The only real complaint I have with the Olympics is athlete pay. A lot of these sports don’t have the money to pay athletes on a consistent basis. So I would hope when competing on the biggest sport stage of the year, somebody who has to work jobs on the side could at least be paid for making it.
Besides that, the Olympics are a pretty amazing feat. A bunch of athletes coming together to represent nations that throw petty insults to each other does not seem easy to pull off in the current political climate.
Hopefully for the next Olympics, I can watch the event again and remember what makes the Olympics great –– rooting for Usain Bolt.
Thomas Zafonte is the senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org