2012-08-02 / Opinions

A bunch of the 2012 Olympic events are guaranteed to fix your insomnia

By KIP BURKE
news editor

I ’ve discovered an excellent cure for insomnia, one that’s temporarily available this week and next. But it’s not a pill or a potion – it’s the 24-hour coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympic games on late-night cable TV.

Now hold on, before you big fans of the Olympic games ride me out of town on a rail, I have to admit that some of the Olympic competitions are pretty exciting and tremendously popular, especially the American favorites of gymnastics, swimming, and running events that are shown in prime time to audiences of millions.

But in this year’s London games, there are more than 10,000 athletes competing in 300 events spanning 26 separate sports, and be honest, they aren’t all exactly riveting competition. Thanks, however, to the fact that NBC will be broadcasting round-the-clock coverage not only on NBC but on half a dozen other channels, we get to watch way more events than we ever knew or cared about.

Race-walking, for instance. Racewalking competitors have to walk as fast as they can while keeping at least one foot in contact with the road at all times. They do this with an elbow-swinging, butt-clinching stride that looks as if they’ve all eaten some bad British beef and are racing for the last open porta-potty in London. If you’re still up at 2 a.m., it’s good for a laugh, but once you realize they’re going to keep it up for miles and miles, it’ll put you out of your sleepless misery pretty quickly.

Another snoozer is any soccer game played by obscure countries nobody cares about. Now soccer is usually about three minutes of exciting action crammed into two hours of kicking the ball around, but it’s even more so when it’s the Byelorussian team playing, say, Benin. Even when somebody makes a goal, well, nobody cares except the folks in Byelorussia and Benin.

Then there’s my personal favorite to make fun of, synchronized swimming. Eight women in full makeup and gobs of Jello in their hair go to great effort and practice to simultaneously make the same silly movements to music while up to their chins in a swimming pool. Not exactly must-see TV. It strikes me as only slightly less boring than watching Congress debate on CSPAN, and about as pointless.

And what about obscure sports that seem to have come out of nowhere? Yes, I’m talking about team handball, in which teams of seemingly normal adults run around a basketball court while trying to throw a cantaloupe-sized ball into a hockey goal. I watched a few minutes of the highly touted Iceland-Argentina match, and my last thought before dozing off was, “this looks like something a desperate middle-school gym teacher came up with on a rainy day.”

At the same time, NBC’s roundthe clock coverage of the less-popular sports totally failed to focus on a historic moment Sunday, one that you’d have to really search for to see on TV. At the age of 33, American skeet shooter Kim Rhode just made Olympic history, becoming the first Olympian to win a medal in five consecutive Olympic games, starting with winning gold in Atlanta in 1996. Sunday, she took another gold medal by shooting an incredible 99 out of 100 targets from nine different stations – in the rain.

I would have stayed up, wide awake, to see that amazing performance, but it was too obscure to be listed, and probably got a few minutes in the wee hours of the morning. What a shame.

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