Normally, the Olympics are a non-starter for me. I've never totally understood the fascination behind being actively engaged in something that you would never tune in for during the other 205 weeks in between the Olympics. I can understand why people would tune in when we only had three channels, but now? Let me put it this way: If archery were on television one random Saturday afternoon during the summer at a time that wasn't the Olympics, would you really stop to watch?
Some would. Most would not.
In fact, I'd be willing to wager that if you had a friend boarded up inside watching archery on a warm summer's day when a million other things are going on, you'd probably laugh at them, and then tell them to go outside. You might even bust their chops, and accuse them of training to be Katniss. Or worse, Ted Nugent. But somehow, during a three-week span once every four years, overt jingoism and a passionate devotion to semi-obscure activities is socially acceptable.
I admit it. I don't totally understand this.
That said, I actually enjoyed parts of the Olympics this year. I enjoyed Michael Phelps kicking everyone's ass like he was a dolphin on roids. I'm convinced that Usain Bolt is actually a rare cheetah species indigenous to Jamaica. And despite the fact that he killed the Longhorns in the 2003 Final Four, I'm willing to forgive Carmelo Anthony after watching him cry upon winning his third gold medal in basketball. He became the first man ever to do this, and his post-game interview where he teared up proved to the world that he's not a completely heartless dick who screwed over the Denver Nuggets.
Still, there's way too many meaningless events in the Olympics. Notice I didn't call them sports. They're events. They are things that you'd never watch, never will watch, and things that should never be considered for Olympic gold mainly because there's only about 37 people in the world who actually contest for those events.
I'm pretty sure that my ideas won't make in time for the 2020 Tokyo games, but I think we can implement these for the 2024 Summer games. My proposal is to remove five events that have no relevance or reason to exist in today's day and age going in order from "Yeah, OK I could see the argument for having it in the Olympics" to "Oh my holy God, nuke that from orbit and bury it in Indiana Jones' fridge."
For the record, I actually like canoeing. It's a great way to spend a day, especially here in Austin during the late Spring when the weather starts warming up. Here's my big problem with canoeing, though. We already have rowing in the Olympics, and rowers take themselves way more seriously. In fact, here's a sample conversation that shows the primary difference between canoeing and rowing.
Friend: "So what'd y'all do yesterday?"
Canoeist: "Oh we had a blast! Sarah and I got up kinda late, but it was such a nice day that we went down to Barton Springs and rented a canoe."
Friend: "That's awesome!"
Canoeist: "Yeah, it was totally cool. We paddled around for a few hours, then went and had brunch over at Austin Java. Had some Migas and a Fireman's 4, man. It was such a great day!"
Friend: "So what'd y'all do yesterday?"
Rower: "Sarah and I went rowing."
Friend: "Oh wow. What time did y'all get up?"
Rower: "Around 4:30 AM. We actually got a late start. We got to the docks around 5:20, and there were already people out there. We rowed about five miles, then went home to have some black decaf coffee and plain vegan oatmeal."
See the difference? People that were on the rowing team in college were normally going to practice while many of us were stumbling in from a late night of hedonism. Even the football team during two-a-days got up after the rowing team. I have to reward the rowing team for their Puritan work ethic. Besides, an Olympics after party for the Rowing team might be the only time they will ever stay up past 11 PM.
Sorry Canoeing team. I'll buy you brunch at Austin Java, though. Cups of Fog Cutters and migas on me.
If We Must Keep Canoeing in the Olympics: Bring in some of the Flying Fish from Super Mario Bros.
4. Table Tennis
It's the staple of every basement rec room, and every "cool" office break room in America. And yes, it's definitely fun at the office especially when you can spike the ping pong ball right in Dan from Accounting's face because...fuck Dan, that's why. That smarmy little bastard.
But no matter how glorious that spike might be, let's face it. Table tennis is just a fancy way of saying ping pong. It's still a game you play in the break room at work or when you're entertaining guests over Shiner Bocks in the basement. Yes, I recognize the eye-hand coordination involved, but video games involve much the same, and no one is lobbying for those to be Olympic sports. At least not yet anyway.
Ping pong is a fun game that gets you a little bit of exercise, but I'm sorry, there's just no way we can justify a world where athletes like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky take home the same prize as a ping pong player. I know it takes a lot of skill, but c'mon. Ping Pong is basically a step up from the pop-a-shot basketball goal we have in one of our break rooms. Let's retire ping pong back to the basements and office break rooms where it belongs. Besides, if Dan from Accounting somehow makes the Olympics, he'll be even more insufferable than ever.
"Hey guys, did I ever tell you about the time I won the Bronze at the Olympics? You sure you want to play me?"
"Shut up Dan. You've told us before."
If We Must Keep Table Tennis In The Olympics: Combine both the basement motif with the office motif. All competitors must drink three Shiner Bocks first, then put on a dress shirt and tie or proper office attire for the female competitors. In addition, participants will be awarded an extra point if they can actually spike the ping pong ball in their opponents' face.
This is the scene every time you have ever played badminton in your life.
You're at a barbecue. It's late May or early June. The weather is getting warmer, but it's still tolerable. The barbecue is pretty lame, though. The host has put on Train because they're the band that reminds him the most of his personal favorite, early-period Hootie and the Blowfish. The burgers are slightly burned, but still edible. However, the only condiments are ketchup and Miracle Whip. The lettuce is wilted. The tomatoes have black spots in them. Notably absent are the onions, pickles or mustard.
Seriously. This milquetoast jackass doesn't even French's yellow.
The cooler is filled with Bud Lights, wine coolers (for the ladies, of course) and Heineken's because that's the token edgy foreign beer. Everyone in the know casually sips on the Heineken's conveniently ignoring the fact that they taste like armpit sweat. Meanwhile, the neighbor from down the street strolls in wearing a Make America Great Again trucker hat. He snares a Bud Light, and sneers at the Heineken's while muttering about how "All you liberals just love your foreign beer, don't ya?"
The host has just severely burned the hot dogs to the point that the Shriner's would throw them a parade, and there's not even goddamn yellow mustard to cover up the carbon taste. Just when you're ready to make an early exit and get some real food and beer, someone says, "Hey everyone, let's play badminton!"
Someone goes into the garage, and breaks out the badminton set. Everyone plays and it's surprisingly not horrible. The kids at the barbecue can get in on the action. It's just tame enough for older people to play. Someone more athletic and who's downed a few Heineken's, even makes a spectacular save, launching the shuttlecock just over the net for a point. Everyone cheers and tries not to laugh at the word "shuttlecock."
Everyone has a pretty good time until the badminton is retired for croquet.
That describes every single time you've ever played badminton. Olympic sports should never be described as "surprisingly not horrible" nor should they be the saving grace of a crappy barbecue filled with burned food, shitty beer and no mustard.
Sorry Badminton, you're not an Olympic sport, but you are the patron saint of every lame barbecue everyone has ever been to in their entire life. Keep up the good work, and don't let that croquet set give you any crap.
If We Must Keep Badminton In The Olympics: Before the event, stage an all-you-can eat hamburger contest. However, the burgers will be slightly burned, served on white bread, and smeared in Miracle Whip. Hell no, they can't have cheese on them. No one makes it past three burgers, I guarantee it.
2. Synchronized Swimming
After the Olympics, kids from all over the world will finally put down that ridiculous Pokemon game, and actually try a sport. Simone Biles has already inspired a new generation of gymnasts. Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky will influence a whole crop of kids to grow fins. Usain Bolt already has a vast army fleet of youthful foot ready to ride the 100-meter lightning.
Then there's synchronized swimming. It's nothing more than a contrived event designed for all those who couldn't hack it as a gymnast or a swimmer. Yes, I'm aware of the acrobatics involved. I know that the swimmer cannot touch the bottom. It's Cirque du Soleil in water, I get that, and yes I'm aware that it takes a great deal of strength and flexibility to pull off synchronized swimming.
But it's still not gymnastics and it's not quite swimming. It's a boring Olympic casserole, a contrived event designed as a consolation prize. Synchronized swimming is to the NIT what gymnastics and swimming are to the NCAA Tournament. It's an after-thought to the main prize, and no one's really watching it unless they're really bored or have a compulsive gambling addiction.
Synchronized swimming was introduced as an Olympic sport in 1984. Since then, the only time any kid has ever said "Let's synchronize swim!" was to be ironic like an athletic hipster. And just like every hipster with their artisan jellies, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and ridiculously curated mustaches, synchronized swimming just needs to go away and stop trying so hard to be interesting.
If We Must Keep Synchronized Swimming In the Olympics: So far all of my If We Must Keep suggestions have been snarky, but this one isn't. If they add improvised synchronized swimming, I actually think I'd watch. Here's how it would work. People in the audience would submit dance ideas and routines. A first group reviews the suggestions to make sure there's nothing obscene. That group hands the curated suggestions over to the judges who pick the audience suggestions at random. Soloists get sixty seconds to prepare a two-minute routine. Teams get two minutes to prepare a four-minute routine. Scores would be based subjectively on routine, interpretation and overall difficulty of subject matter. Honest to God, I actually think this could work. No I'm not being sarcastic. I'm actually saving all the rest of my bile for...
1. Race Walking
Race Walking, we need to talk. You are not a sport. You are a necessity. Race Walking, have you ever flown into the Atlanta airport? You know that big one in Georgia that's separated by about 19 sprawling terminals, one of which I swear is actually located in South Carolina? Thousands of people every day fly into that airport and have to make a connecting flight. Problem is that they landed in one terminal, and they have to hustle all the way to the other side of the airport to make their flight which leaves in about 20 minutes.
Guess what they do, Race Walking? That's right. They Race Walk. And given that time crunch, you bet your ass they are race walking faster than you are in the Olympics. You might be race walking for Olympic gold, but people going from Terminal D to Terminal A have a connecting flight for a presentation in Phoenix that's leaving without them. If they don't race walk to Terminal A in the next 15 minutes, they're losing a million dollar sale, and they're stuck in the Atlanta airport with a swarm of surly Delta employees. No amount of Chick Fil-A can fix that problem. You tell me which one is more urgent.
Know who else race walks, Race Walking?
Every resident of New York City trying to dodge meandering tourists while going to work.
Every parent at Disney World whose kid gets too close to Lake Alligator.
Every person in south Chicago who hears a gun shot.
Race Walking, you're an arrogant embarrassment to sports. You hide behind the gold, silver and bronze knowing damn good and well that there people out there doing your job better than you, faster than you, with more urgency than you every single day. You are to the sports universe what Donald Trump's skin is to the human anatomy: A fake glow in a televised spectacle of phoniness.
Race Walking, you offer us nothing. Walk away from Rio and never come back.
If We Must Keep Race Walking In the Olympics: Force the contestants to run like every other athlete in the world.
It's our job to see to it that these events be removed from future Olympic games. Let's do whatever we can to influence the IOC to remove these games starting with the 2024 Olympic games. I heard they take cash.