09/03/04 — Playing games: Politicians recapture our television time

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Playing games: Politicians recapture our television time

Now that the Olympics are over and politics is back in its preeminent spot on television, here are a few thoughts on each. First, note the difference:

Olympics are, not is. Politics is, not are.

Politics is a singular noun. There is no such thing as one politic. You couldn’t call one lie or one backstabbing a politic. The whole universe of lies and backstabbing is called a single thing — all together, now — Politics!

Contrariwise, the word “Olympics” is always plural even though there is no such thing as a single Olympic. You couldn’t, for instance, call one Lithuanian swinging on a pipe an Olympic. The whole pipe-swinging, race-running conglomeration of athletic derring-do is the Olympics.

So much for the idiosyncrasies of the language. Now, more about the Olympics:

There are a half-dozen or so events that involve personal combat — boxing, judo, Greco-Roman wrestling, taekwondo, swordfighting. And a Korean fellow claims an American fellow got a gold medal that rightfully belonged to the Korean fellow. Much has been said about such trivialities as which language the Koreans used when they wrote up their complaint, to whom they submitted it, and so forth. That’s silly. Settle it the old-fashioned way. Let the Korean and the American handle it in one of those other sports. Let the American put on the gloves or pick up a sword and say to the Korean: “You want my medal? Come get it.”

That’s what George Bush would do, but we’re not talking about politics right now.

The Olympics mavens are adding all sorts of oddball “sports,” such as Beach Volleyball, featuring sparsely clad women, Badminton featuring grown men paddling a shuttlecock over a net, Squash, featuring ... Nobody knows what that features because nobody ever watches it. If it weren’t for the sparsely clad women and the spectacle of grown men paddling the shuttlecock, nobody would watch Beach Volleyball or Badminton, either.

With all this, they still are reluctant to introduce games that any of us can play. There seems to be an emphasis on making the Olympics exclusively the purview of athletes. Is that fair?

There are plenty of games we could all enjoy — the narrow jump, the short hop, the 20-meter stroll.

Or how about crow-shooting? Now there’s an Olympic worth watching.

Published in Editorials on September 3, 2004 12:01 PM