Gary Brown: Can’t turn off the Olympic Games

Gary Brown

I miss the anti-American Eastern Bloc judges during the Summer Olympics.

Back during the Cold War, judging in the subjective sports seemed to be determined by the nasty and quite possibly nearsighted Eastern Bloc judges.

An American gymnast would complete a routine and the U.S. judge unsurprisingly would post a score of 10, the Canadian judge would judge at 9.5, and even the French and Chinese judges, who really didn’t like us all that much, would serve up a score of 8.5 or 9.

The score of the Eastern Bloc judge — somebody from one of the then-communist countries in Eastern Europe —  might be 6, or 6.5 at most.

You could count on the Eastern Bloc judge. If the U.S. gymnastics team stumbled, or simply had an off year, you could blame it all on the Eastern Bloc judge. It was a convenient excuse.

Of course, this is entirely from the perspective of an American writer. Judging is relative.

After the U.S. women’s gymnastics team defeated the Russians in this year’s Olympics competition and American Gabby Douglas claimed the gold in the women’s all-around, I imagine there was a columnist somewhere in the territory controlled by the former Soviet Union who wrote words blaming every single Russian fall on a biased and maybe a little blind Western judge.

This is not to say that the absence of such judging controversy makes watching the Olympics any less exciting than it was when the Eastern Bloc judge was leaving TV viewers wondering whether the foreign guy would accidentally turn his 9 upside down at a critical moment in the judging.

No, plenty of suspense is left in the Olympic games, not the least of which is finding out whether I can go through the entire day, until I can watch the delayed broadcast of the most popular sports, and not learn, for example, the American women gymnasts — “On no, please, please, don’t tell me, I want to watch ... awww, you told me anyway ...” — won gold in the team competition.

Well, that was a couple of hours that suddenly were free for me to do laundry.

I seem to want to wear a sign. “Don’t talk to me about the Olympics — not even the badminton or water polo results.”

I search online for nothing, since any research might lead me to random Olympic results. I visit no news websites because I would be saddened by seeing such coverage as “The record drop in the Dow Jones average today didn’t keep American swimmer Michael Phelps from winning another gold medal in ... .”

The only television I watch during the entire two weeks of the Olympics are networks I know have a dog in the hunt.

When I wake up in the morning I immediately tune to NBC. They’re not likely to give me any live updates about the success or failure of any athletes that they’re planning to jabber about during prime time.

Besides, I’ve grown to enjoy the morning feature reports. So far, I’ve learned what souvenirs are available at a London shopping market, where in England I can go to learn how to make British cheese, and what the landscaping looks like around the royal palace.

The Olympics are better than the Travel Channel for saving me money on vacations.

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