Your Armchair Olympics Watching Guide
Welcome to the Olympics, the land where only half of the allotted budget actually makes it into the preparation process, and that is my most generous estimate. But if you can put aside your utter and justified shock at how is this even possible in the 21st Century and why major organizations like FIFA and Olympics keep giving major world events to countries run by cartoon villains, you might even enjoy some sports. Or, some activities that are classified as sports as you yell at the TV something along the lines of “how is this classified as a sport?!”
But hey, judging is what humans do best so let’s judge. Let’s judge some Olympics Sports and their overall entertainment value for the next month. Some of these will be universally graded, others such as golf will get extra points for what we call “Rio specific factors.”
Serge: How is competitive race-walking a sport? This is absurd. When will they introduce competitive sitting? I have a theory that Track & Field introduced race-walking to the mix mostly so the white guys didn’t feel particularly left-out at the 100-yard finals. What do you do to train? Maroon yourself in a bad neighborhood and try to get out as fast as humanly possible? Competitive Race walking at the Olympics is like DJ Khaled being on his own tracks. He’s not particularly good at the whole thing (rapping) in general, but he should probably be there so we accept him as he is. Want to impress me with passing an everyday activity as an actual sport? Introduce “leaving awkward conversations seamlessly as they’ve ran their course” as an event.
Cameron: There is not enough ink in the world for me to fully express how utterly stupid it is that Dressage is an Olympic sport. To quote its Wikipedia page, Dressage is “a highly skilled form of riding performed in exhibition and competition, as well as an “art” sometimes pursued solely for the sake of mastery. As an equestrian sport defined by the International Equestrian Federation, dressage is ‘the highest expression of horse training’ where ‘horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements.’
Look, IOC, I get it. You guys were formed in the late 1890s by European aristocrats steeped in Philhellenism and looking for an excuse to spend a bunch of money to use notions of international brotherhood and peace in the service of screaming to the world about how great you all were. And, yes, I get that most of your early backers were British lords who enjoyed foxhunting or Prussian dukes who were looking for something to break up the monotony of writing new plans for invading France. And, yes, I get that there may not be an “athletic” event in human history that does a better job of screaming “look at me and how wealthy I am!” than Dressage, but come on!
Would it kill the Olympics to have a modicum of self-respect?
Serge: I don’t watch baseball because my patience threshold for sitting down and observing any past time with the walking/standing around to actual athletic activity ratio disproportionately skewed towards the former is unimaginably low. Golf is basically like the version of that but on steroids and multiplied by infinity. Any sporting event that takes multiple days to complete and where participants are so lazy they require motorized carts for transportation is testing my patience by calling itself a sporting event. Especially when its barrier to entry is “your parents should have owned a yacht at some point.”
On the other hand, my threshold for watching unaware animals interrupting any kind of human activity in a comical way is extremely high. Considering that this year’s competition is taking place basically at a zoo, or world’s most inclusive capybara resort, sign me all the way up for this.
Serge: I don’t discriminate. I watch both kinds of volleyball, but like any parent that is not lying to themselves I do have a favourite child and it’s beach volleyball. It just gets more of my time and money allowance. The real deal just seems a bit too crowded for me and a bit too close for comfort to remind me the NBA is not on. The rules confuse me and the constant rotation kills the vibe.
Beach volleyball is straight-forward. It just gets to the point like Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs. I think any sport is infinitely more watchable when played on beach sand. It’s still the same competitive event but in a laissez faire setting. Like sure, the points are nice, but you’re on the beach. So it kind of evens out. Also, if you thought LeBron James’ block that send the hopes of an entire city into the dark abyss was something, beach volleyball is basically like 2 hours of people spiking the ball at geometrically impossible angles. It’s a thing.
Serge: Sometimes I imagine myself a pirate. This is one of those childhood things I never got over unlike wanting to be a detective (I can’t detect shit and have made peace with that a long time ago). As such, I always have a special compartment in my heart reserved exclusively for all forms of entertainment where people are trying to stab one another with pointy rapiers. In that aspect, fencing betrayed me. It turns the exhilarating imagery of swashbuckling vagabonds into a spectator event only enjoyed by people who unconditionally like math and Houston Rockets fans. FOH with that nonsense.
Cameron: According to my middle school track and field teacher, throwing sports were used by the Greeks as training to fight the Romans (that’s probably not true but I don’t really care) and watching rocks, sharp objects, and lethal frisbees be thrown in a contest of pure strength sates that same impulse that drove the Olympics of old: proving your manhood without having to take part in the naked wrestling. Besides, there’s something gloriously primal about watching as Steven Adams’ scarier sister throws giant rocks for fun while screaming.
Serge: I refuse to acknowledge something that should only be classified as a hobby for rich white people as a sport. I get the appeal of sailing, the whole being at sea and thus away from most other humans side of things, but beyond, not really. If it were up to me we would reward mother nature with medals for consecutive wind gusts and be done with it. I suppose the Olympics are about complete and nondiscriminatory inclusion, but I also don’t think Billy from the country club would be particularly upset if he wasn’t invited to peruse the polluted waters of Rio either. His dad owns a lake. He’ll be fine.
Cameron: First, I quite like sailing. Yes, my complexion could be classified as “neon white” but that’s beside the point. It does require a fair bit of skill to do well, and the unpredictability of the wind adds another dimension — it’s not just about executing a routine, but about how well you can improvise when the bastard beside you cuts off your wind and Mother Nature decides that it’s time to throw some mayhem into the sporting event. Plus, given how toxic the water is in Rio, the added challenge of “whatever you do, DO NOT capsize” makes it even more fascinating to watch. Sign me up.
Cameron: You always have to watch Gymnastics out of hope that someone other than the Russians, Chinese, or Americans will win it in a given year. And you also have to watch so that that hope can be inevitably crushed in every single Olympics.
Serge: Okay, look, I like the gymnastics. Sue me. It’s all about elegance, grace and perseverance, otherwise known as “traits I have one out of three of on my best day.” Aside from spawning various memes and making you wonder if the human body is allowed to flex in such a manner with such finesse. Gymnasts work hard, especially in Russia and China where the Olympic participants have heard of the sun as a concept but don’t really get to experience it unless they’re travelling to take all of your gold every four years. They deserve this.
Cameron: Track Cycling isn’t necessarily great to watch but I do want to give it an important shout-out for another function it serves: the building of Velodromes. For those of us who love long-distance and sprint cycling, yet live in the harsh climates of Canada, those seven months where the streets are an unforgiving, miserable mix of slush, ice, and enough salt to block a railway tunnel are a sad time indeed. We are forced to endure the Soulcycle Cult, (*Shudders*) use the stationary bikes at the gym, or build weird contraptions in our basements that allow us to use our own bikes through the winter but also elicit weird looks from friends and coworkers. Track cycling is the reason velodromes are built — the means of escaping from that miserable Soulcycle hell. There should be more of them, and I salute indoor cycling’s role in ensuring that some of us are actually able to enjoy our cardio in February.
Serge: Half the appeal of handball for me is like trying to figure out what sport it’s trying to be before giving up and just enjoying it for utter absurdity of what it is. It’s basketball if travelling was okay or you’re Dwyane Wade. It’s also kind of like soccer if using your hands was cool or you’re Thierry Henry. Then it’s also kind of like football, volleyball and dodgeball. Remember when you were bored on the playground and then started arbitrarily making up rules to the sports that were already pretty set to begin with? That’s how I imagine handball got started. I really do enjoy watching this because for one, combining all of these sports together brings out some sort of tactical brilliance in those involved and at some point it becomes like watching peak Spurs. For two… This is what happens when you let a child’s imagination run unrestricted smack in the middle of the Olympics.
Serge: I don’t care what you say. Say whatever the hell you want, I am watching Olympic basketball and it’s going to be great. Sure, we already know the result. Sure, the Euro guys are basically battling for the second spot. Sure, if you fly to the moon and back you would have roughly covered the distance that is equal to the skill gap between USA and everyone else in this competition. But ask yourself this, when was the last time you saw a dude muster enough enthusiasm and audacity to jump over another, much taller, dude mid-game. When was the last time you saw someone consider a 360-dunk mid game on another dude and then turn that consideration into near reality? Team USA is here to crash both Vine and Snapchat servers simultaneously and for your enjoyment. I am all the way in. Don’t play yourself Mike, let the kids play.
Cameron: To me, hate-watching the Marathon is less about whether or not it’s a legitimate sporting event (it definitely is) and more the fact that no matter how bored you are, there is zero good reason to watch a bunch of people quickly jog for three hours. I cannot overstate just how absurdly long a marathon is — 26 miles is a stupid distance to run. This is a sport that you flip back to occasionally — the Tour de France with less doping (which is to say that there are a non-zero number of people who are not doping at the Olympic Marathon). But if you honestly sit and watch the entire Marathon, start to finish, I can’t decide whether to salute you or refer you to the asylum.