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The Last of the Olympic Die-Hards

September 27, 2000|CHRIS ERSKINE

So here I am, Alpha Male, on the couch and dodging dirty looks from Alpha Female, who doesn't understand how one man can watch so much TV and still be so fascinating, so full of life, so darned male.

"How does he do it?" she probably wonders in her pretty Alpha Female head. "How did I get so lucky?"

But I don't want to launch into a long explanation. I wink at her and offer her a spot on the couch. Which immediately drives Alpha Female away.

"What's wrong with her?" Alpha Boy asks.

"She's afraid of intimacy," I say.

"What's 'intimacy'?" the boy asks.

"I'm not sure," I say.

Or maybe she's afraid of Bob Costas. He's nothing to be afraid of, really, though at first he can be a little intimidating.

Costas is on the TV, melodramatic and Godlike, trying to sound like Orson Welles in a $200 haircut and a suit he bought in the junior department of his local Macy's.

"You know, in person, he's only about 5 inches tall," I tell the boy.


"Smaller than your hand," I tell him.

I try to entertain the boy with trivia like this, because the boy and I are the last remaining viewers of the Summer Olympics. Where there were once millions of viewers, there are now just two. For some reason, everybody's blaming NBC. Frankly, I'm sick of it.

"You know, it's just you and me now," I tell the boy.


"We're the last two viewers," I tell him. "Everyone else has tuned out."

"Wow," he says.

There's just us, me and the boy. Doritos at our side. Cans of Coke resting on our bony knees. The dog at our feet.

"How big is she, Dad?" the boy asks as some pixie gymnast bounds across the balance beam.

"No bigger than my toe," I say.

It's not like we didn't try to get others to watch these Olympics.


With friends, we watched.

We sat in a giant half circle, Friday before last, and watched the opening ceremonies, the only three-hour parade you'll ever see without floats and marching bands. Let me tell you, the International Olympic Committee has a lot to learn about parades.

"I've never heard of that country," someone says.

"It was formed five minutes ago."

"Oh," he says.

Mostly, we like the smaller countries, the obscure Eastern European or African nations that march with five athletes and an ox, because in the countries they come from, you don't leave the ox at home. By the time you get back, it'll be somebody's cheeseburger.

"I've never heard of that country either," someone else says.

"That's the United States," someone says.

"Bad overbite," our dentist friend says.

"You're watching their teeth?"

"She'll need braces," says the dentist.


At work, we watched.

At work, they get the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. feed, which features mostly live events, without the personal profiles that NBC is fond of. It's nonstop action, without a lot of fancy taped profiles. Let me tell you, it's a goofy way to telecast the Olympics.

"What's this sport?" someone at work asks.

"Synchronized diving," someone explains.

"Synchronized diving?"

Nobody's ever heard of synchronized diving. We huddle around the TV, trying to figure it out.

We watch as two women do flips and twists simultaneously, before splashing down and heading to some nearby Jacuzzi filled with other divers, where they wait their next turn. An Olympic Jacuzzi. Add a few umbrella drinks and you'd have an Aaron Spelling TV show. Or another Olympic scandal.

"Wow, what's this sport?" someone else asks.

"Synchronized Jacuzzi women," someone explains.

"How's the U.S. doing?" someone says.

That's all they ever want to know: How's the U.S. doing? So I go in search of more informed, less jingoistic co-workers. People who appreciate the Olympics and give it the time and respect it deserves.

"Is Bob Costas dyeing his hair?" someone in the next department asks.

"That's Donna de Varona," someone explains.

"Oh," the first guy says.

Meanwhile, several people are talking about Ellen Barkin.

"Whatever happened to Ellen Barkin?" someone asks.

"You know, she's from the Bronx," someone else explains.

And then there's this five-minute conversation about Ellen Barkin and her acting career and whom she used to be married to and how some people always got her confused with Helen Hunt. Another Olympic moment, enhanced by expert analysis.


So, mostly, we watch the Olympics at home, where we start out on the couch, all five of us, intertwined like the Olympic rings.

One by one, the other rings drift off.

Now there's just the two of us, Alpha Dad and Alpha Boy, the last two Olympics viewers in America. When the equestrian events come on, even the dog leaves.

"And that puts the pressure square on the shoulders of Mark, Heidi and David," some commentator says.

On TV, there's a guy on a horse, jumping over fences. Where he was during the opening parade, I don't know. That parade could've used a guy on a horse.

"You know, the ancient Greeks didn't have TV," I tell the boy.

"They didn't?" he asks.

"They had to listen to it on radio," I tell him, trying to keep him awake till the final hour.

"That must've been awful," he says.

"You'd be surprised," I say.


Chris Erskine's column is published on Wednesdays. His e-mail address is

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