24 August 2008 Beijing 2008: Taste the (nationalistic) fever!

The Summer Olympics are drawing to a close, but the excitement from the games is still gustable in the summer air (tastes like smog with a hint of soy sauce). The front of every newspaper is covered with stories about the amazing feats these athletes and their drug reps are accomplishing, while the insides of these papers are filled with human interest stories making us laugh, cry, and potentially buy whatever the athletes are hawking.

The Olympics are great. At a time when globalization has us all trying to be friends, the Olympics remind us that nationalism is a blast and reinforces the facts that Americans rock and that the French will always fold when the pressure is on (new nickname for the French Men's Swimming 4x100 relay team: The Maginot 4!). While we may not be planting victory gardens in support of our athletes (that is two World War Two references in one paragraph! Suck on that, History Channel!) we already feel closer to our fellow Americans just because we are all supporting the same thing: Michael Phelps. Here's a taste of a few other reasons why the 2008 summer Olympics rock!

Unjustifiable Pressure:

Pressure can be a good thing, it helps us get our work done when it is applied by the boss, flattens out pizza dough, keeps our tires rolling along, and speeds up the cooking process when making rice (take that, boiling water!). But pressure can be a bad thing too, causing the bends in deep sea divers looking for sunken treasure (little gold, little nitrogen in the blood stream . . . ), making soda explode all over our faces, and causing China to take little girls away from their families at the age of three so that they can be trained to represent their country at the age of 16 (read 12) in the Olympics (note: that whole age-thing line was funnier before it was true). Think it is tough to tupe type with someone watching over your shoulder? Think about how hard it is to do a quadruple tuck twist handspring round off knowing that if you F- up your family will be sacrificed "for the greater good" of the country. Good television? You bet. Rough on the prepubescent girls running around in tights with wedgies? Just a bit.

Convenient Distraction:

Did you know that Russia went in and kicked another country's ass? No, not in Greco-Roman Wrestling, which the Russians seem to excel at (you would think the Italians or Greeks would have the edge there) but in an actual war-like "we are going to shove this tank up your butt" (like this) kinda way. How about John Edwards? Did you know that he totally knocked up (well maybe) some woman with a storied history? For such a smart guy, you would have thought that he could have covered his butt (and other pieces of anatomy) a little better. There is also that silly presidential race thing going on, and summer baseball, and . . . ummmm . . . yeah, other things too — but all these things were just brushed under the rug of Olympic coverage so that we could better understand Michael Phelps' diet.

A Learning Experience:

We can all learn a little something form the Olympics. Whether it is the name of a country that we never knew existed (Burkina Faso? Azerbaijan? Eritrea? Canada?), or the name of a hot Olympic athlete, or all the wonderful facts the NBC taught us in between the competitions about China and its panda reproduction program (way to go, Mary Carillo!), or showing us that President Bush can make a good political decision (think Clinton would have made the same decision?), or what it looks like to have a country (read China) totally cover over any shortcomings it may have (Tibet, pollution, lack of civil liberties, ugly buildings, unattractive children, lame fireworks) even though EVERYONE already knows about it. NBC also did a terrific job helping China with this. Good in-depth reporting there guys!

Westernizing China:

China may have given the world a lot of great innovations over the past 2,000 some odd years (General Tso's Chicken), but in the end everyone wants to be less like themselves and more like . . . well, US. They want to be modern, dominate at sports, have a space program, drive cars, not care about others, and then convince the world that they are awesome through propaganda and media. The Olympics was a great way for China to do all this on a massive scale. As Americans, we just have to remember that they still have a totalitarian regime led by the wealthy which lies to its people and basically takes away more and more rights every day for the "greater good" . . . and that just isn't very America-like (note: we are ignoring the past 8 years of what America has actually been like).