"He is just a normal person, but maybe from a different planet."
- Russian swimmer Alexander Sukhorukov attempting to explain the origin of Michael Phelps.
"It would be good for the sport if he lost."
- Serbian swimmer Milorad Cavic commenting on Phelps winning everything in sight and his quest for Olympic history - and who also evidently thought he would be "good for the sport" if he won. He did not win, losing to Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly and somehow, the sport is still alive and kicking.
"The Americans? We will smash them. That's what we came here for."
- French swimmer, Alain Bernard, showing the Olympic spirit of trash-talking before those lowly Americans smashed them in the 4x100 freestyle relay to win the gold medal.
"The opportunity to be away from my parents and live with a gang of kids in the country was the perfect way to spend a summer."
- Director [of Meatballs, Animal House, Stripes, Ghostbusters, etc], Ivan Reitman, extolling the virtues of summer camp.
We are smack dab in the middle of the 2008 Olympics and maybe that is where the French men's swim team got confused last week - thinking smack-dab meant it was open season on smack talk and perhaps conveyed that thought verbatim to their Serbian pal in the pool. Needless to say, as we reach the mid-point of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing [remember to pronounce that correctly - it is "Bei-jing" as in "jing"-le bells and closely related to "cha-ching!"], it is time for the Lounge's Guide to the Olympics. We understand that, for the typical American getting ready for college football season, there is some confusion stemming from the fact that, over the last week, most of the American public along with the rest of the world seems to be getting excited on a daily basis about sporting activities happening in Beijing. Seems as though this happened about this same time four years ago too - weird. Anyhoo, some of the things the people are getting excited about are weird too - and that, naturally, is where the Lounge comes in - "weird" is our middle name [and we didn't alter it, we were born that way]. So, for the benefit of the Olympics-challenged Americans out there, here is a guide to help out.
Opening Ceremonies: This is the big theatrical production that opens the games - or, if you are an authoritarian government trying to make everything seem nice, it is where you digitally superimpose fireworks footprints and have a little girl lip-sync a song because the real girl singing has committed the heinous crime of not being aesthetically pleasing enough. The opening ceremonies are the only time everybody is happy at the same time for the next two weeks.
Badminton: A sport that Americans are no good at and which appears to require cat-like reflexes while confined in a the space of a typical hotel room with racquets and a birdie. Unfortunately, there is no goodminton.
Baseball: A sport which most Americans are familiar with but which they are also no good at in the Olympics because they do not send their best players [a lesson learned in basketball before the world caught up]. There will be no baseball in the next Olympics as the International Olympic Committee has temporarily tossed it out but kept the "sports" of trampoline, synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics.
Basketball: A sport which all Americans know and expect to win gold medals in every four years - both men and women.
Beach Volleyball: The best new sport invented in the past few decades. It is exciting, there is plenty of sand, quick play with rally scoring for short-attention-span-plagued people, popular music blared frequently, skimpy outfits for ogling males [and if that is not enough, cheerleaders in skimpy outfits between sets]. Life is a beach.
Boxing: A sport in which, apparently, there are few intelligent people - judging by the judging and from the tactics employed by many of the boxers.
Cycling: It is not the same as the Tour de France, but Paul Sherwen is handling part of the commentary, so it is worth it just for that [even if there is no Phil Liggett].
Diving: A sport which would be more significantly entertaining if they did it off the cliffs of Acapulco like they used to do on Wide World of Sports.
Equestrian: Like the Westminster Dog Show - only with horses. Anything involving horses needs to employ wagering for true Americans to really get behind it.
Fencing: A sport which Americans just recently got good at but, regrettably for their competitive mainstream mentality, they do not dominate yet. Also, two more drawbacks - no real swords with people yelling "I am Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!" nor does it involve an actual fence.
Gymnastics: A "sport" for the ladies that gets way, way, way too much attention and TV time.
Handball: Yet another sport where Americans are woefully inadequate and is no relation to football, although they should be televised back-to-back.
Rowing: The only sport where coaches get to ride bikes during the event, making it significantly easier to yell at competing athletes.
Shooting: With guns at targets - better than at other people. Much better.
Soccer: Also called football [because, you know, it mostly involves the usage of the foot] and another sport in which American men are no good at. American women fare much better, perhaps explaining why most of them can do things with their toes that many men cannot.
Softball: A sport in which Americans dominate, so the IOC has decided it must be cut from the Olympics to make room for trampoline.
Swimming: Otherwise known as that Michael Phelps sport.
Table Tennis: Unlike the name implies, it is not tennis played on a table but rather, ping pong - a sport using light plastic balls hit by the same type of paddles used by boxing judges to indicate the frequently wrong winners of their bouts.
[Real] Tennis: A sport in which involves consistently hitting a ball over a suspended net and which no American men are good at, so most of them skip it, knowing they will not win a medal.
Track and Field: A plethora of athletic events which tend to get many Americans very frustrated over a short period of time.
Volleyball: The indoor version of beach volleyball only without the sand, music and cheerleaders. In other words - all the fun parts. They still have the skimpy outfits though.
Water Polo: A sport which most Eastern European countries are good at and which there is a considerable amount of cheating going on underwater.
Weightlifting: Lifting heavy things. Also the sport in which that Hungarian dude made his arm bend sideways.
Wrestling: That sport where the Swedish wrestler had a bad attitude because he did not like the judges' scoring and was stripped of his medal by the IOC for not showing "the Olympic spirit".
Other Stuff: Every athlete from Belarus who wins a gold medal gets free meat for life [as of press time, Belarus had 10 medals - none of them gold - so the athletes remain meatless]. Haley Nemra is a women's 800-meter runner who went to high school in Washington but ran for the Marshall Islands in the Olympics [she ran 2:18.83 and did not finish last overall]. Spain's men's and women's hoop teams got into hot water because of a pre-Games ad in which they posed while pulling back their eyelids to give the appearance of the Asian eyelid. China - because of "security measures" - has restricted entry into their "Olympic Green" area surrounding the Bird's Nest stadium and the Lounge can only presume this must be the reason the Budweiser commercials look so lame and devoid of people.
The Olympics will be over by this time next week and then the college football party will get started, so they are already making plans at Florida to defend their title as the top party school in the country while Oregon tries to move up from their pre-season #14 ranking in reefer madness. This is not surprising because a recent study found that college kids are richer these days and they spend all their money on technology trinkets and their "favorite products" - which at Florida and Oregon, seems to be alcohol and buddha. Meanwhile, two grannies went at each other with their scooters in a grocery store - a sure sign that college football season is almost here.
There was a tinge of sadness last week as Isaac Hayes has created his last batch of hot, buttered soul - and passed on. He was a bad mother shut yer mouth! [but I'm talking 'bout Isaac!]. Hayes' most memorable contribution to American pop culture was, of course, the Theme From Shaft, although younger generations will remember him as the voice of Chef in South Park, the Lounge also fondly remembers his turn as Gandolph Fitch in the Rockford Files when he was the enforcer extraordinaire and would drink all of "Rockfish's" beer.
"What happened in the Olympics?" asks Union Jack, who points out he does not know either.
Jack, the 2008 Beijing Olympics have been like one of those Friday the 13th-style teen horror flicks for virtually all the Wazzu athletes involved. First to get the axe in the head while she was out in the dark woods by herself was heptathlete Diana Pickler, whose hamstring went south on her in the very first event - the 100-meter hurdles - of her competition. Next to go was men's discus tosser Ian Waltz who went out to look for her and got an arrow in the head and fouled out of his event with only one puny throw of 60.02 meters [well off his personal best]. Canadian sprinter, Anson Henry made it past the psycho killer - making it out of the first round of the 100-meters but falling in the second round [although he is still alive as a member of Canada's 4x100 relay team] which is roughly the same fate suffered by Lithuania's Rugile Mileisyte, who won her 50-m free swimming heat but did not advance. That left all the Cougar glory to be saved by distance superstar Bernard Lagat - but the Cougar killer got him too, as Lagat failed to advance to the 1500-meter final. Now the only remaining chance for an individual medal for a Wazzu athlete in these 2008 Games, rests on Lagat's shoulders when he enters the qualifying heat of the 5000 meters later this week.
"Well, at least we have football season to look forward to," says Anne Droid with her shoes laced with irony.
Anne could mean the soccer version of "football" but we think she means the American version and after the first first fall scrimmage of the year, there does seem to be some initial optimism surrounding the quarterback situation as none of the QB's threw any picks in the scrimmage - a good sign for them and the new offensive system and perhaps not a good sign for the defense, depending on your perspective. But with receivers Jeshua Anderson out with a hernia, the more completions to receiving targets, the better it is for the Cougars' potential success for the year.
Since most of America is spending most of their time in front of the television set this past week and next week, it might be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the talking heads you will be seeing on the screen and to do this you must go to GoGoMag. Males of the species may prefer to search Univision's roster of female anchors.
Finally, the Lounge Scientists made an Olympian discovery last month when they found that an ancient Greek astronomer's mechanism used to predict such events as eclipses and moon phases, actually kept track of various athletic games of the times as well - including the then-burgeoning Olympic Games. The four-year cycle of the Games was cited as example of the passage of time and not directly used as a measuring stick.
"This thing is showing what the sun and moon are doing and it's also showing cycles of human time, this four-year cycle of the Greek Panhellenic Games. It's another meaning of time, related to human society instead of the cosmos," says Lounge Scientist #19, Alexander Jones, a scientist at New York University who reportedly had Michael Phelps winning all eight in his work "pool".
Closing Ceremonies: The worst part of the Games - when everybody realizes it will be four long years before the next party.
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