Whitesburg KY

Afflicted with ‘Beijing Redeye’

Points East

Last week I went to work four mornings in a row with tousled hair, stubble beard and bags under my eyes. On at least one of those mornings I discovered that I was wearing the same shirt I’d worn the day before and that I’d buttoned it such that I had an extra button at the top and an empty button hole at the bottom and that my shirttail was three inches higher on one side than it was on the other.

I drank lots of coffee and green tea, and managed to stay awake, if not on top of my game, all week but I was suffering terribly from an affliction that I have dubbed, “Beijing Redeye.”

After commiserating with the small group of guys with whom I blog nearly every day and swearing with them that we cared naught about the Olympics and cared even less who won or lost and that we expected old reruns of MASH to be far more entertaining should we decide to turn on our televisions sets, I had no intentions of getting hooked on the Olympics.

We spent the better part of two days lambasting China’s hypocrisy and outright cheating when it came to engaging slave girls under the age of 16 in gymnastics. We wondered, and for that matter I still do, why the Olympic Committee would let China get away with cheating on birth certificates and age requirements that would have landed athletes from other countries in deep dodo.

We were stung by the lipsyncing presentation of China’s national anthem wherein a pretty young thing mouthed the words while a homely girl behind the curtain actually did the singing.

The entire thing was all set up to be a farce, according to our rationale, to make a rogue, barefaced lying, Communist country appear to be legitimate in the eyes of the rest of the world.

But all of our discussion took place before the events started. We were still irate after the opening ceremonies and most of us were still adamant that we cared not who won or lost because we had no intentions of tuning in.

But that was before the opening rounds of women’s beach volleyball. I don’t know about the rest of my blog buddies who suddenly became quiet on the subject of boycotting the Olympics, but I can tell you for sure that my attention was captured and cuffed about 30 seconds after, out of curiosity, I tuned in.

Loretta called me a dirty old man for being so enthralled with watching young women so scantily attired in bikinis play volleyball. I will admit that the girls were exceptionally physically fit and attractive, but two-on-two volleyball at that level of athleticism is simply unbelievable. I can’t imagine myself on the court taking a serve from name-your-favorite representative from any country unless I was wearing body armor. (Loretta later complained that the men, playing the same game, wore long, baggy trunks and shirts and admitted that clothing got in the way of their game.)

So, okay, beach volleyball might have bordered on the risqué side of the dress code, but I’ve heard no negative comments about the suits worn by gymnasts, swimmers and divers. I literally ached and had cold sweats throughout the women’s gymnastics competition. I’ll go to my grave believing that the judging was rigged so that China figured into the medals but it used to be that way for Russia and Romania and not much has changed.

Still, I don’t think I’ve ever wished so hard and cheered so loudly and appreciated so much the special effort and talents of any athlete anywhere or any time as I did for a 16-year-old gymnast named Shawn Johnson. Shawn won the silver medal in the individual, all-round competition, but even without a medal she had already won my heart because she had given every ounce of her own to the competition. It’s hard for me to say just why, but Shawn Johnson’s performance made me prouder to be an American than anything else that happened in the Olympics.

But forget about the judging. Why is it that NBC or whatever network can’t bring us gymnastics and synchronized diving and the stunningly beautiful aspects of athleticism every weekend? What I saw in the Olympics gymnastics was far more athletic discipline than we will ever see in football, baseball, soccer or basketball.

If you missed the synchronized diving competition, another event that kept me spellbound into the wee hours, you have no idea as to what teamwork really means.

And if you missed the Olympics, you missed seeing Michael Phelps become the greatest Olympian of all time by winning eight swimming gold medals — a precedent that will probably stand for some time and accomplished in such a down-to-earth, personable, unassuming fashion.

Of course you had to stay awake into the wee hours to see it all happen. And I did, just that.

So, if the column does not make much sense, blame it on the Beijing Redeye. I’m told that the affliction is no longer contagious but it sure was a week ago.

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