Are you kidding me NBC?
I love the Olympics. I always have. Baseball, football and basketball were the old standards, of course, but every four year I got to see the runners and jumpers. Remember Dave Wottle and how embarrassed he was when he left his trademark cap on during the National Anthem? Remember Zola Budd, Wilma Rudolph, and Wyomia Tyus? Wyomia Tyus was from Griffin and ran for the Tennessee State Tigerbelles. Remember Bob Beamon's record long jump in Mexico City? Remember the Fosbury Flop?
Me, too. I remember all those people and all those things. They are etched into my memory in good old black and white.
Gymnastics has always been another of my favorite events. I remember the great Eastern Europeans from the days of the Cold War. They were stoic and never smiling but could do unbelievable tricks on the uneven bars and the balance beam. Olga Korbut almost made me forget that Khrushchev wanted to bury us. Then came Nadia and the first perfect 10 -- although now I see people getting 14.6 and all sorts of weird scores. I was in Myrtle Beach when Mary Lou Retton had to have a perfect 10 to win gold in LA -- and did. And I was in the Georgia Dome when Kerry Strug brought down the house on one leg.
I love the Opening Ceremonies when the athletes of the world march into the giant arena, dressed in costumes befitting their native culture. At least they used to. I can't say that the uniforms the Americans wore this year represented anybody I know. We would have been better off putting them in overalls or seersucker suits if you ask me -- or even jean shorts. I'd prefer having our athletes dress like Florida Gator fans -- mullets and all -- than Parisians.
I have watched it all. Boxing, wrestling, weight lifting. Remember the great Alexeyev, the Russian lifter? All the other athletes would stretch and warm up and do all sorts of things to get ready to loft. Alexeyev would sit around eating honey. He'd get it all over his face and up his nostrils and everywhere you can think of and then he'd walk up to the stage and clean and jerk about a thousand pounds and throw the barbells down like they were nothing. Then four or five men would come and carry them away.
I still get angry when I think about the gold medal basketball game when the officials kept giving the Soviet Union extra chances to inbound the ball at the end of the game -- until finally the Soviets scored, denying the American men the gold medal they had rightfully earned. And I am proud to say that I know a five-time Olympian, Teresa Edwards of Cairo -- Georgia, not Egypt.
I also still get angry when I think about that awful day in Munich, 40 years ago, when I sat in front of the television set and listened to Jim McKay describe what was happening in the Olympic compound as men in ski masks lurked outside on the balcony while members of the Israeli team were held hostage inside. The day ended tragically, of course, on the airport tarmac, with all the hostages dead.
Of all the sports of the summer Olympics, the one I like best is swimming -- perhaps because I can somewhat identify with the swimmers. I could never even do a pull-up onto the high bar or run a hundred yards without keeling over, but I have always been a good swimmer. I am not of world class caliber, of course, but I did beat Craig Hertwig to win a blue ribbon at the Newton-Rockdale BSA District swim meet once.
I remember cheering for Mark Spitz to win his seven gold medals in 1972 and for Michael Phelps to win his eight four years ago. I remember all the great ones -- Donna de Varona, Ian Thorpe, Don Schollander. I didn't see Johnny Weissmuller swim in competition but every Saturday morning I used to see him out swim alligators in the Tarzan movies -- or maybe they were crocodiles.
All of that to say this. I haven't gotten to see a lot of the London Games games so far. I have been busier than a one-armed paper hanger in a wind storm lately and they put the good stuff on past my bedtime and -- well, you know how it is.
Monday night, however -- Monday night I was determined to stay up and watch Missy Franklin swim. She is the splendid 17-year-old from Pasadena who passed up loads of money last year to remain an amateur and swim with her high school team. That is admirable, especially in this day and time.
I had on my PJs, I had my Coke and popcorn, I had my eyes propped open with toothpicks and then -- just before the taped delay of her race, there it was, as big as life on my widescreen TV. A promo for Tuesday's Today Show, showing Missy Franklin with her parents -- and her gold medal.
Thanks, Mr. Peacock -- for nothing!
Come to think of it, I believe it was NBC that interrupted the "Heidi game" back in 1968. You'd think they could get something right after 44 years.
Oh, well. The weekend is coming up. Shhh. Please don't tell me how the badminton finals turn out.Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author.