If you're like 66.6% of Americans, your eyeballs are glued to the NBC coverage of the Beijing Summer Olympics 2008, and you're planning to Go for the Gold and watch all 3600 hours. But even for the most seasoned horizontal channel surfer, this task demands Olympian endurance achieved only through years of spectator-training. And the competition is fierce. Many viewers have been practicing for decades, watching late-night TV, perfecting their sofa posture and dismount, refining their dipping technique for nachos and cheese, and shopping online for low-resistance body wear for sprinting to the bathroom.
Watching each and every Olympian minute is the chance that comes once in four years, when we observe the world's most extraordinary athletes of all shapes and sizes, including tall and lean, short and lean, and medium rare, ranging in age from mid-forties down to highly motivated toddlers.
As you well recall, the tradition of Olympic Games dates back to 776 BC, WAY before high-def. Legend has it that the ancient games were founded by Heracles--the Greek paragon of masculine might, WAY before steroids. Heracles dedicated the Games to Zeus, Chief of the Gods. Zeus was also his father, which gave Heracles plenty of street cred but bumped him clear to the end of the White Pages and the Who's Who directory.
Competitive games were routine in a Greek society that -- WAY before airbrush -- worshipped the human form. And when a cook named Koroebus threw down his apron and ran naked in the 192-meter footrace, he became the first Olympic champion to be crowned, since there was no place to pin a gold medal.
Eventually, the Church outlawed the Games as pagan, not to mention unclothed. But centuries later in 1894, a French Baron named Coubertin founded the International Olympics Committee and reinstated the Games worldwide, sans Zeus. Coubertin formulated The Olympic Creed, reminding athletes that what is important in competition is "not the triumph but the struggle," "not to win but to take part," "not to conquer but to have fought well." Even Heracles would agree that these statements are incredibly stupid.
The ancient games that began as a single event have mushroomed into today's 34 sports, some of which are captivating, like gymnastics, some less captivating, like the Humiliated Horse event (Dressage), and some bordering on spectator torture, like the Heads Bobbing in The Water event (Water Polo). Not to mention the Strange Swimming events starring women domed in bathing caps with alien goggles, and hairless men sporting the SPEEDO Body Skin, the world's fastest and most hideous swimsuit.... which could double as low-resistance body wear for sprinting to the bathroom.
With the 2008 Games winding down after a trying two weeks, spectators are eager to relax with their hard-earned gold medals--or silver, bronze, ceramic, stainless steel, Pyrex, or Styrofoam. And they welcome the next phase: signing paid endorsements with Cheetos, Krispie Kremes and Yoo-Hoo. And soon after, beginning spectator-training for the London Summer Olympics of 2012, including the study of British as a second language, and learning the new twenty-point scoring system that even the judges don't understand, unless it gets replaced with something even MORE accurate. Let the games begin: On your mark, get set, lie down.