The beauty of the Olympics is that it calls so many sports to our attention, and so many of them ones that casual viewers like myself have never tried before. It gives our imaginations room to consider how we might have excelled in one of these contests if only we’d given it a chance. After all, I’m clear that I’ll never amount to anything in baseball, basketball or soccer - I’ve tried those. But I have not yet failed at bobsledding, ice dancing, or luge. Not even once.
The illusion of Olympic potential works better after the games have finished, when you’re not still watching people fling themselves upside down and backwards off of jumps. After all that’s when I can sort through the Olympic options with an eye to what characteristics of a sport best suit my personality. Nothing that involves falling on ice. Nothing that involves falling from a height greater than the average couch. Nothing that involves falling at a speed faster than I would drive my car in a parking lot. No sharp metal edges. No rifles.
No sports where you get too cold. I realize these are winter sports, and I definitely don’t want the snow melting... But in actual sports training, there seems to be a great deal of standing around getting your coach’s instructions, or waiting your turn at the top of a run, or waiting for your scores - and that could get chilly.
Also, I want my sports to have snack breaks.
My local cross country skiing center has an entire gift shop with maple creamies and kettle corn and one of Vermont’s current Olympians grew up nearby. I doubt it’s a coincidence. I’m hoping that Olympic sports already have snack breaks and the news coverage just cuts those out in the editing. I like to imagine that in between periods at the hockey games, the home team offers everyone orange slices like they did in my elementary school basketball games.
Of course, one problem with sports with snack breaks is that it implies you’re participating for an extended period of time. I don’t mind a long afternoon skiing for fun, but my attention span for an actual sports competition is short. Five minutes, max, and then, while it would be nice to win, my mind wanders... to things like whether anyone will offer me an orange slice when I’m done.
But I’m not just looking for the right athletic option, I’m also practicing. Practicing a lot. Watching the Olympics offered plenty of chances to experience sports in short segments that match my attention span, at a comfortable indoor temperature, where I never got further off the ground than couch height, and the athletic portion occurred at the pace of a brisk walk, over a carpet, to get to a snack. In short, watching the Olympics has been the perfect sport for me. And I’m confident that with this latest round of training, I’ll be ready for 2016.