Hey, extra-long post, as it has been awhile since I last posted. I can’t believe how fast the summer is going. I was dismayed by the weirdness, fear, and rage that the Republican convention presented this summer. I was impressed by the sense of optimism of the Democratic convention. Neither nominee are the greatest thing since sliced bread, but one is a delusional reality tv person, whose businesses aren’t impressive to me; and the other generates a lot of cynicism, but she works so hard. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it best, at the Democratic convention: “Let’s elect a sane, competent person.”
Perhaps my own political inclinations made it easy for me to think that the Democratic convention had better speakers (Michele Obama! (As Michelle said, “When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”); Joe Biden! Barack Obama! and, oh, yeah, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Bill Clinton (who put the focus on Hillary herself)). And, Hillary Clinton had a good speech. She’s not perfect (really, no one is), but better we try than to botch everything.
What we really need is a Congress that will do its job (we still don’t have confirmation for a Supreme Court justice; sigh). You can disagree in politics, but to be obstructionist – that has to end already. Well, we shall see what November brings.
Meanwhile, I’ve been terribly distracted by the heat, humidity, and coverage of Olympics. Rio 2016 had every potential to be messy and has been a weirdo Olympics, but it never ceases to amaze me how I get caught up watching the coverage as a nice distraction from all the bad news of Brazil and the world in general. Every time I’m pretty sure that we’re going to hell in a hand basket (however the phrase goes, as I’m sure that I’m mangling metaphors), the Olympics stuff gives some spark of hope and cheer.
There’s an argument to be made that it’s a burden to put the costs of an Olympics on one city/country. I thought that the Slate article proposing that Vancouver be a perpetual Olympics city is an interesting proposition. Honestly, I didn’t realize that Vancouver financially recouped from their Winter Olympics within a few years. They did handle it well, despite the lack of snow problem. I do like the idea of doing the Olympics in a financially and environmentally responsible way, with a city that already has an infrastructure (rather than a city using the Olympics to rush urban (re)development). I especially like the idea of rotating among a few cities, so to avoid a burden on one city. (Vancouver being one of them ain’t a bad idea, if they want to do it again).
Team USA Swimming and American women gymnastics have been terrific in their respective events. Michael Phelps is amazing – would anyone beat that? Simone Manuel and her significance as a first African-American swimmer with a gold medal. I didn’t get to watch all the women’s gymnastics, but Simone Biles is so impressive; she’ll be carrying the flag for the Closing Ceremony.
Jamaica’s Usain Bolt is incredible.
The track and field Americans have also been a solid watch; I admired the women for their efforts. Allyson Felix as most decorated of the American women track and field athletes was impressive. And, Ashton Eaton as someone who won gold medal in consecutive Olympics in the decathlon! Btw, the Best Buy commercial that has him and his wife, Canadian heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton, was quite cute. (I think she also won a medal – bronze – in Rio).
Matt Centrowitz’s winning the 1500 m was impressive; I love it when an American athlete does something great in something America usually doesn’t do well (not since 1908!).
I always like watching the marathon; missed the women’s marathon last weekend, but caught the men’s marathon this morning. Kudos to Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge for the gold; Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lelisa got silver; and American Galen Rupp got bronze. American Jared Ward got 6th. American Meb Keflezighi got 33; he won silver way back in Athens 2004 and he has done so much for American marathoning, with the NYC Marathon and winning a Boston Marathon (after the Boston bombing). I credit Meb a lot for what he has done. He finished today, even if it wasn’t pretty to do it.
For a whole host of reasons, I thought that the criticism of American gymnast Gabby Douglas was unfair (see here for a summary/analysis by Rebecca Schuman over at Slate). Internet trolls are pains for obvious reasons.
And, the ongoing Ryan Lochte mess, in which he was allegedly mugged, but was in this drunken mess that everyone has an opinion about; well, sure, it was a distraction from a lot from other bad things out there. It has been all ridiculous, and annoying, but hopefully it’ll all work out? Well, that remains to be seen. The clips from the interview Lochte had with NBC’s Matt Lauer in the aftermath was cringeworthy tv viewing.
If you want more (maybe not?), here’s the Slate item that gave a pretty good overview (hilarious, even); all it was missing was the apology from the US Olympic committee about the mess. There’s even the whole question of how did Lochte go from hunk to oaf in two Olympics.
Lessons from the Lochte mess (this assumes anyone’s going to learn any lessons from this): Never mess with the law, especially in a foreign country. Drinking like a reckless buffoon when you’re in your 30s might not be a good idea; lying to your own mother or making a false police report are really not good ideas. Try not to embarrass your country. White privilege and the ugly American stereotype are not good to watch. So many lessons…
It does get a bit much over how ridiculous things have been. (green water in the diving pool? Huh? Russians and the doping issue, all but tossing athletes from Olympic dreams?). We had the quadrennial (or two to four years) complaint on how NBC’s coverage is uneven (to be diplomatic; they seemed to air less awards ceremonies on tv; more streaming than ever, I guess).
I always feel sad for the participants who don’t win a medal; I know it’s about the journey and not the end, but one wonders a lot about why we do things that are so hard. (see here over at the NY Times for an article by David Segal on what happens to those countries that don’t medal – the frustration of a nation that invested money and getting barely a medal might be victorious anyway; agony of defeat/non-defeat indeed).
But, then there’s the story of the refugee team. There are those moments when the athletes are enjoying themselves and cheering other nation’s athletes (maybe even their training partners, since their sport becomes a community in itself). There’s hope and bright spots mixed in with the weirdness (even when those moments get a bit more attention than they should, as Justin Peters observes over at Slate; they’re still moments).
NPR’s The Torch has been doing good overviews of the Olympics. Enjoy what’s left of the Olympics and the summer of 2016.