by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

ATLANTA — As they say down in Georgia, whooooooeeeeeee, Bubba! It’s time for the Olympic Games, where athletes from around the world gather for that one glorious, magical moment when they can be overshadowed by a Charles Barkley news conference.

Oh, yes. The Dream Team (copyright, 1992) is back as well, with Sir Charles (copyright, 1989) and Shaq (copyright, 1993) ready to monster dunk
(copyright, 1990) its way to gold medal history, provided they hurry up with the ceremony. Do you remember the last time the NBA invaded the Olympics? The players stood on the victory podium, chewing gum, some of them draped in an American flag to show their deep, heartfelt concern for a good photo opportunity. Not to mention covering up the little Reebok symbol on their sweat suits.

And all during the presentation, the Dreamers had a plane on the runway! Juiced and ready to go! If those Olympic people had taken five more minutes getting those medals on their little pillows, boom, the team was outta there. Mail us the dang medals. Or as an NBA player once said when he realized he’d left his keys in a hotel room, “Can’t they fax ’em to me?”

I will not write about the Dream Teamers for the next two weeks, because I figure I can do that the next four years. Besides, I know where to find them. They’ll be marching in the opening ceremonies, in between Nigeria and Norway, under “Nike.”

In the meantime, I’ll be at beach volleyball.

Hey. I know where to find true Olympic spirit.

Life’s a beach

All right. You’re asking, “How did beach volleyball get in the Olympics?” Hmmph. You are probably the same curmudgeon who asked how important, historic sports such as windsurfing and badminton got in the Olympics. You probably think rhythmic gymnastics is stupid, with all those squiggly ribbons flying through the air. You probably snickered when you learned that synchronized swimmers put gelatin in their hair. And you probably scoffed at this year’s additions of softball and mountain biking. What’s the matter with you? Don’t you know these events satisfy the most important criterion for the 1996 Atlanta Games: They go better with Coke.

Some people. God.

All right. Let’s focus on Olympic numbers:

1 — The number of Olympic flames.

6 — The number of times they had to relight the flame, after people carrying it across America tripped over a rock, fell off their bicycle or dropped it when they went into a 7- Eleven for a Slurpee.

30 — The number of Dream Team cell phones.

3,407 — The number of times Ahmad Rashad will be mistakenly referred to as “reporter.”

2 — The number of Atlanta hotels charging normal rates.

0 — The number of those hotels you would actually stay in.

23 — The number of times spectators will say, “I’ve been following this diver his whole career.”

9,657,874,761 — The number of times spectators will say, “So, how’d sales go this year?”

100,000 — The number of replays of 1996 Olympian Mary Decker Slaney getting tripped by Zola Budd back in 1984.

100,000 — The number of times Zola Budd’s answering machine will pick up instead of her.

229,155 — The number of times people will say, “That Michael Johnson looks like Eddie Murphy, doesn’t he?”

1/2 — The number of rice cakes the women’s gymnastics champion will treat herself to after she wins the gold medal.

Did we mention the temperature down here?

Oops. Wait a minute. Someone just melted.

Hot, hot, hot

Forget what you’ve been told about the Georgia weather. It’s not the heat. It’s not the humidity. It’s the lie! Somehow, the Atlanta Olympic Committee, led by Billy Payne (you just know it used to be spelled P-a-i-n until he changed it) convinced the International Olympic Committee honchos that late July and early August were just peachy times for outdoor athletic competition in Atlanta. Of course they told them this when they came to visit
— in February.

Folks down here in July don’t just avoid outdoor athletics, they avoid outdoors. “Unnecessary exertion” means a can opener versus a twist-off.

I have often heard of the “gifts” that are given to International Olympic Committee members in exchange for a vote. All I can say is, the Atlanta folks must really know how to throw a party.


Speaking of that, where would we be without the opening ceremonies? I don’t want to tell you who’s in it. All I can say is, remember when Diana Ross sang at the Super Bowl, and at the end, she was lifted up into a helicopter and she kept singing as she was flying away, hanging out of the helicopter? Remember?

That’s baby stuff! These are the American Olympics, dang it, and by the time we’re done, there won’t be anyone left on Earth who can doubt our ability to stuff a basketball, run around a track or turn beach volleyball into a mandatory viewing experience.

Besides, the Dream Team took all the helicopters.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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