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The Olympics: Free Gay Porn

2004-08-15 - 9:57 a.m.

Yesterday, I was on the phone with Shkbob, who is laid up in bed with strep, poor baby. I asked her if she'd used the opportunity to snuggle in and watch plenty of Olympic action.

She said, "No, I hate the Olympics."

Now, many people who know me, and who know Shkbob, for that matter, know that we are both lovers of sarcasm. When talking to fellow lovers of sarcasm, I have noticed that there are times when I refrain from making a genuine declaration of my opinion for up to an hour. It's always "No, I love going to the DMV," or, "Yeah, I felt really great about passing the driver's test because, you know, it was so friggin' difficult. I felt like having a party afterwards." So, some people, upon reading that last line, might think it was delivered in a sarcastic manner, so that it might sound like, "Noooo, I HATE the Olympics . . ."

No. She meant it. I started trying to talk to her about it, but I stopped after a minute or two for two reasons. First of all, I hate it when people say to me, "You hate THAT?! How can you hate THAT?!" It's particularly annoying when the THAT in question is avocado. "Avocado?! You hate AVOCADO?! How can you hate AVOCADO?! YOU'RE MEXICAN!!!" I'd accuse the people who said that of racism, but they're usually members of my own family, including my mother. The second reason is that I was worried that I'd find out that she was, I don't know, a terorist or something, because how can you hate THE OLYMPICS?!?!?!

What is it about the Olympics, folks? Pull a person off any American street in any year that isn't divisble by four and ask them if they want to watch an international swimming competition, and they'll wrestle out of your grip with a cry of, "No, dammit, the game's on tonight." But every four years, the men and women and transgender persons of America who have spent most of the decade concerned with batting averages, yardage, or who lead the league in rebounds, suddenly go online and in a matter of hours can tell you who was the world champion in the 100m hurdles for the past decade.

And this wouldn't be all that shocking if it weren't for the fact that the "we" in the above paragraph doesn't include "me!" I am many things; a sports fan is not one of them. I am terrible at sports and find most of them boring to watch. The only two I don't always find boring are football and tennis, the former because I am required under the laws of the State of Texas to enjoy football, and the latter because it's either hot guys running around in shorts or lesbians, and I'm a big fan of both.

Nevertheless, every four years, since the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea, I have put down my books and settled into a comfy chair to watch sports that you couldn't pay me to watch under other circumstances. It's not just me, either. The 2000 Sydney Games took place while I was in college--as in, during the school year--and my friends and I spent quite a lot of time in front of the TV, cheering Team USA. I don't remember many of the specifics from that time, but I do remember that some of the male swimmers looked . . . odd. There was something . . . strange. I hesitate to make such outrageous claims, but they looked kinda . . . webbed. See, there was this excess of skin going on between the arms and the torse. It wasn't just muscle or fat or anything, it was just this skin that looked like, well . . . like maybe the US government has been fooling around with people's DNA in order to breed better Olympic swimmers, maybe. I'm not saying it definitely happened, but, well, I started calling those kinda guys "swimmie creatures" as a nod to Fraggle Rock, and the name kinda stuck.

Now of course, I just look at the swimmers and enjoy the feelings of lust.

I guess that's part of the reason why I love the Olympics so much: the eye candy. The Atlanta games was the first in which I realized that there was so much to enjoy about men's gymnastics. It got worse during the Sydney games, and at this point it's just out of control. I spent quite a lot of the opening ceremonies judging the assembled nations in the world by the number of hotties in their delegation. As it turns out, I will be supporting Australia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Italy, a number of countries in South America, and, surprisingly enough, Iraq. Sadly, the Scandinavian countries and the Ukraine made very poor showings in the opening ceremonies, and will not be able to count on my vote. Fortunately for China and Japan, their excellent "showings" in diving and gymnastics have regained my support for them, but they will be hard pressed to overcome my significant "support" of Paul Hamm, who was cuter with long hair, but what can you do?

For the first time, however, gmnastics has been eclipsed by swimming, because as nice as it is to see hot guys straddling a pommel horse, it ain't nothing compared to seeing them stretch their half-naked selves before diving into the water and performing the butterfly stroke, which includes a pelvic thrust. Even this can't comapre to seeing these boys after they win, when they're hugging each other and slapping one another and giving interviews with their arms around each other. I will hold the image of Michael Phelps and Erik Vendt draped over one another in jubilated exhaustion for a long time to come.

Of course, nearly-nude men slaping one another's behinds isn't the only gay porn to be found at the Olympics. I am speaking, of course, of the Opening Ceremonies themselves, the extravagantly costumed pomp and circumstance that I have looked forward to every year. This year may have been the coolest of them all. From the big sculpture of a head that split up into a sculpture of the body, to the parade of floats full of people depicting famous scenes from Greek art, to Bjork (BJORK!!! YAY!!!) dressed as Mother Ocean, her garment billowing out to cover the athletes, I was in heaven. I particularly loved the recurring theme of the goddess, from the Astarte who began the float to the various representations of Athena to the Byzantine Mary to a sort of modern Everygoddess. What I didn't like was Bob Costas and Katie Couric demonstrating the fact that they are the two stupidest people on the planet by making inane commentary throughout the entire proceedings, repeatedly showing their ignorance about Greek mythology and culture, making moronic cracks about Bjork's fashion sense (Here's a hint: Bjork couldn't care less, and neither could any of her fans), and just spoiling the mood for anyone trying to look at the proceedings with the solemnity with which the Greeks intended. I will give minor props to Katie for occassionally marvelling at Costas's witlessness, but only in so far as I would let her watch him die before killing her.

It's one of the things that really bothers me about American culture: the need to prove that you aren't intelligent or educated. Take, for example, the Atlanta games, when we decided to have pick-up trucks drive around the stadium. Yeah, I was cringing on that day back in 1996, although not as much as I was when I realized they had written out the word "Y'all" in fireworks. I really, really hate the word "Y'all." You have no idea.

The gay porn elements of the Olympics, though, can't be the only reason why I like it. I think one reason may have been due to my general love of women kicking ass. There was no WNBA on telelvision when I was a kid, no women's soccer matches either. The Olympics was the only time I ever got to see women athletes at all, much less see them praised and feted with as much reverance as was reserved for the men (I had yet to discover tennis at that age). I couldn't name a single player in the NFL for many years, but I knew who FloJo and Jackie Joyner-Kersey were. It was even more amazing to watch gymnastics, where women got far more attention than the men did. I can still remember Kim Zmeskal and Shannon Miller back in Barcelona, and I join most of America in putting Kerri Strug's famous vault on my list of athletic moments I will never forget. For me, it's a short list, but I'm sure it makes longer lists, as well.

All of the above goes into my love for the Olympics, but I think that there's something beyond all that. See, when I was writing about my loathing of sports, I realized that, nevertheless, whenever I went to a game in college or high school, I got into it, even if it was a sport I didn't know too well or care about. In fact, when I went to football games at Penn, I think I cheered louder than anyone else in the stand, even more than most of the cheerleaders. As much as I never wanted to get taken out to the ballgame, I took the words of the song to heart: "And it's root root root for the home team; if they don't win it's a shame!" I love rooting for the home team. I love watching the struggle, watching the competition, and knowing that one of the team is, in a way, a proxy for me and mine. This is true on a much larger scale at the Olympics, where the sprinter or the gymnast or the diver is there representing all of America, and I can root for America against Russia, or China, or even Iraq, because no one is going to get killed this way. Watching this, I can finally understand how sport can substitute for an actual war, and I find myself wishing desperately for an international agreement whereby all future conflicts will be decided in Olympic grudge matches. No more Israeli-Palestinian conflicts: just send in your best hurdlers and freestyle swimmers, your rhythmic gymnasts and table-tennis champions, and at the end of 16 days we'll tally up your medals and whoever wins gets the Golan Heights.

Yes, I know that it's wouldn't work, but let's face it, nothing ELSE has worked so far, either.

I think the problem comes when people think that the comparison works both ways, that people can go into war with a sports mentality. I have no problem with winning being everything during a game of field hockey; the chances of people dying, I feel, are negligible. The problem comes when people start viewing bombs dropped and prisoners killed as touchdowns.

So far, I've been having a lot of fun rooting for the home team, and, in honor of our first gold medal, I stood up in my kitchen for the national anthem, just like I did for the atheletes in Seoul, in Barcelona, in Atlanta, and in Sydney. But for the first time, my pride was mitigated. I mean, I was proud of (and hot for)Michael Phelps, but I wondered what it would be like for an athlete who opposed the war, or for a gay athlete who just heard the news that the marriages performed in San Francisco had been invalidated. How would they feel, seeing the flag rise, hearing the anthem, knowing that the rest of the world was rooting against us, that so many horrible things had been done underneath that flag, that "the land of the free" did not guarantee the freedom to marry the person he, or she or ze loved.

It reminded me of the one time when I didn't root for the home team, when I was the women's volleyball team manager (in order to fulfill my PE credit) and the team played a school much poorer than our own. I looked at my team, made up of the well-trained, well-funded daughters of some of the most well-known families in San Antonio, and the other team, made up mostly of Latinas and African-American women. We creamed them, and it really made me mad. I had friends on my team, but that day all I wanted was for our team to get butchered by the women who hadn't had a fraction of the opportunities that our team had.

I still think that the Olympics is one of the few places where nations aren't an inherently terrifying idea. I think one of the best thigns about national teams is that it causes people to get behind the table-tennis players, the badminton playes, the rhythmic gymnasts, the synchronized swimmers, and those craziest individuals, the Olympic walkers (I shit you not). You may not normally want to watch eight women doing leg lifts in a pool, but you will if there's a chance to cheer: "U.S.A! U.S.A!" It's also, quite often, a chance to find out about the rest of the world, to learn about the athletes who had to flee from their country for their lives, or smile when you hear that, for the first time this year, a number of nations are allowing women to compete. I look forward to seeing parades of nations for the next century. I also hope, though, that this becomes the only time when we are willing to challenge another country without provocation, to see who is the strongest not in terms of guns and ammo, but in terms of legs, arms, and torsos (I may need a moment), and that the most horrific sight we see on the news is a dislocated finger. ADDENDUM: Previously, this entry contained a disparaging remark about how Saudi Arabia, our "ally," was NOT allowing women to compete. Yesterday, I saw (or at least thought I saw) a stat about a Saudi woman competing. Teach me to trust Bob "Shit for Brains" Costas.

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