Have you been watching the 2020 Summer Olympic Games? I know it’s 2021, but these are still considered the 2020 Olympic games for record-keeping purposes.
According to the TV ratings, there aren’t many of you watching at all. TV viewership is down to the lowest levels in more than 30 years. Maybe it’s because NBC’s TV coverage is spread out on 10 different cable channels, making finding anything specific almost impossible. Maybe it’s because we know the results in advance since the games are in Tokyo, where it’s already tomorrow. Of course, some of the more minor events, like karate or canoe slalom, can be viewed live at 4 a.m. NBC is saving the tape-delayed track and field events for their prime-time coverage, sometimes up to 18 hours later.
For me, many of the events are not dramatic enough to lure me away from my shows on Netflix and Hulu. There’s a lot of running and jumping, but not enough drama. The events need to have a sense of danger to get people to watch. Why do you think ski-jumping is one of the most popular events in the Winter Olympics? Somehow, watching people jump up and down on a trampoline performing 10 “tricks” in a row just doesn’t rise to the level of “Must-See-TV.” The last time I was on a trampoline, I can’t tell you how many “tricks” I performed in a row before figuring out the only way off this thing was to bounce near the edge and fall off.
On the surface, other events don’t seem to require a lot of athletic ability, like artistic swimming and artistic gymnastics. Regular swimming and gymnastics weren’t good enough? This year, skateboarding is an Olympic event. I wonder if a gold medal is awarded to the skateboarder with the most scrapes and bruises?
How about a climbing event that challenges competitors to climb a wall as far as possible before falling off? There’s even a marathon swimming event with a distance of more than six miles in open water that takes almost two hours. Now that takes endurance. What happens if you get tired? You can’t just stop swimming and catch your breath; they call that drowning. At least marathon runners can stop running when they get a cramp without fear of dying.
The strangest event could be the modern pentathlon. You start out fencing an opponent, then jump into the water and swim about 200 yards. After that, you saddle up on a horse and make 15 equestrian jumps, but you’re not done yet. You then combine a cross-country run (about two miles) with shooting a pistol. Who put that incongruent list together? Why not add plate spinning and hopscotch?
I have a better idea if they want people to watch. Why not apply COVID-19 restrictions to the events? What about a 100-yard dash while wearing a mask or Social Distancing Basketball? Give the competitors a computer and see who can get a vaccine appointment the fastest.
Here’s a suggestion, instead of a modern pentathlon, let’s create a Modern COVID-a-thon.
All the competitors start out in a shopping center parking lot. After exiting their vehicle, they race to the front of the supermarket, only to turn around and run back to their cars because they forgot their masks, which must now remain on at all times. Next, they maneuver through the parking lot to find an empty cart and wipe it down with hand sanitizer before entering the store. Each competitor must locate all the items on the shopping list without going down any aisle the wrong way while complying with all social distancing protocols. After navigating to the most efficient cashier, they must carry all the items back to their car without bags because they left them in the car. You lose points for every item you drop.
Now that’s an Olympic event everyone could relate to.
Paul DiSclafani’s new book, A View From The Bench, is a collection of his favorite Long Island Living columns. It’s available wherever books are sold.