A Sports Fan’s Lament

I love the Olympics. The pure athleticism, the gorgeous bodies, the sweet outfits, the national pride, the usually hilarious opening ceremonies… I just can’t get enough. And since the US has tons of athletes competing in both the Winter and the Summer Olympics, I get a chance to watch them on television every two years. I was really looking forward to watching the Winter Olympics this year, a year where I didn’t have to worry about work getting in the way of my Olympic Obsession. So imagine my disappointment when I discovered I would not be able to watch them at all. If you are unable to imagine the full extent of my disappointment, I invite you to continue reading to explore the origin of my interest in all sports and to learn why Vietnam is now on my bad list.

As an American, I should be used to Olympics-related disappointment, since NBC has been doing a bang-up job of making everyone unhappy with their coverage. Everyone has a favorite event, and no one gets to watch said favorite event when he or she chooses. So every two years, we get to hear a rousing chorus of what my mother-in-law calls recreational complaining. “Why don’t they show (insert favorite event here) live, since it’s on right now?? Who wants to watch synchronized baton twirling, anyway? NO ONE! Why is that even an event?” In fact, complaining about NBC is so popular, they are going to make it an Olympic event in the 2016 Games — and then air it at 4am alongside synchronized baton twirling (which should be a sport if it is not already).

If recreational complaining were an Olympic sport, then my family would surely be medal contenders every four years (or two, since I think one can complain in both the winter and the summer). But up until now, I have not complained about the Olympics coverage for one simple reason: I do not have a favorite event. I am a sports fan and will watch anything that is vaguely considered a sport, including golf.

I believe I have my brother to thank for my interest in all sports. As a kid, my favorite sport by far was watching him watch sports. He was a natural, sitting for hours completely oblivious to reality, transfixed by anything that involved competitive motion. Football, soccer, baseball, golf, badminton, rugby, cycling, Jai alai, running, tennis… you name it, he watched it. I’m pretty sure I even remember him watching fishing. And he wasn’t content to watch only one sport at a time. Instead, he would find something he wanted to watch, remember the channel, and then search for another sport to watch when the other got boring. Then he would flip back and forth between those two channels for hours. Occasionally I would amuse myself by changing the channel when he got up to use the restroom. But like any successful athlete, he was ready for the unexpected and could resume sport-watching within seconds. I watched lots of sports with him, and supplemented sport-watching with sport-playing, so today, I am a sports junkie.

Side note: It was from him that I learned of the existence of the recall button on the remote. I’m fairly certain (again, all about the research) that this button was designed primarily for those who suffer from attention deficit disorder (or to bring the joy of ADD into millions of homes around the world), but it is also perfect for the sports-addicted. Who wants to sit through a 30-second time out, or commercials? No one! And unlike picture-in-picture, which was created to help the far-sighted feign interest in two things simultaneously (“Yes of course I watched that PBS documentary that was on at the same time as the Real Housewives of Orange County — PIP!”), the recall button is for true sports fans.

I was not planning on a 5-month break from being a sports junkie, so the worst day of my trip so far was the day that I learned that I would be unable to watch any of the Olympics. How could this be? Doesn’t everyone around the world have an interest in the Olympics? Sadly no. Vietnam, being close to the equator and all, doesn’t have much of a winter sport scene. So no Vietnamese athletes, no Olympics; they might as well not exist. They also censor the internet here, which seems to be preventing me from getting the Olympics from any number of online sources. It is a tragedy of epic proportions.

The only consolation for not being able to watch giant slalom and figure skating in Sochi is soccer. Soccer is on Vietnamese television all day, every day, on at least five channels at a time. I have watched more soccer in the past week than I had watched in the previous year, since without cable, one just cannot watch that much soccer in the US. So I am getting my fix of every soccer league I have ever heard of, including the Asian league, the Bundesliga, the Italian league, the English Premiere League, and a variety of others from here in Vietnam. And all of the soccer channels are right next to each other on the dial, so I don’t even need the recall button (what’s the Vietnamese symbol for recall anyway?).

So don’t tell me what happens in the Olympics. When I get home, I plan to undertake a week-long Winter Olympics marathon to catch up on all of the action that I missed. In the meantime, if you want to know what is happening on the pitch, let me know. Like my brother, if it’s on, I will be watching it.

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