With enough espresso, even I could be an Olympian

Categorized as 08/18/08 Goshen News column

After watching the Olympics for a number of years now, I’ve begun to notice an interesting phenomenon. Seeing athletes of this caliber perform on a world stage with such seeming effortlessness and derring-do has the residual effect of making Mr. or Mrs. Average American think that they, too, can be Olympians. Friends of our testified that they personally experienced this very thing last weekend.

After watching the cycling competition, they were so overcome with Olympic fervor that they forsook their easy chairs, mounted their bikes, and hit the road. It was about 0.5 miles into their heroic push that reality began to set in. When the arthritis began to flare and their lips turned blue, they remembered why they weren’t in Beijing. And when the final stretch from the curb to the garage door took them straight uphill in a driving headwind, they thanked God that they weren’t in Beijing. Upon entering the house, they moved to full-collapse mode and resumed their positions on the couch, limply waving their American flags during the occasional burst of energy.

Now that I’m aware of this, you’d think I’d be prepared this week when the track and field events begin. Sadly, I know exactly how this will go down. Bob Costas will do a somber voiceover as video of an American athlete plays, detailing the incredible hardships and difficulties he or she has overcome. Then, as our hero crosses the finish line and mounts the podium to receive the gold, I’ll be a bundle of emotion, crying into a tissue as I reach for my running shoes. Then I’ll head out the door, determined to overcome my own odds and cross my own finish line in a blaze of glory.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the only way Mrs. Four-Baby Forty-Something can cross the finish line in anything over a shuffle is by pushing an IV pole, mainlining espresso as she goes. There’s a reason I choke up during that famous Chariots of Fire scene where Eric Liddell is running in slow motion. It’s not the swelling music that makes me cry. It’s the realization that that’s my top speed.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I believe it’s time that the IOC diversifies and adds some new categories so that more of the rank and file (like myself) could experience the thrill of competition. I’ve already suggested a few. Diaper changing, for instance, would open up the games to a huge, new demographic. Now, there’s my crack at winning some hardware.

I’ve also suggested the establishment of a U.S. sniffing team, led by Mr. Schrock and his superior sniffer. His only caveat is that the team uniforms may not include any kind of spandex as he will not be caught dead or alive in tights.

They could, I proposed, add a crystal-shattering shrieking contest, which we all know my cousin Rhoda would win. Power has now been restored to the eastern seaboard, and officials in Florida are hopeful that the post-tidal wave cleanup is nearing the end after she demonstrated her skills during a highly-charged game of Kick the Can.

Another category the IOC should sanction as an official sport is peanut butter eating. This would be a very economical addition as it requires absolutely no coaching or expensive training facilities. The only equipment needed is a full jar, a simple spoon, and a fast set of jaws.

Our oldest son would dominate the field. His nickname now is “The Evaporator,” a tribute to the blinding speed with which he can vaporize a jar of the stuff. No sooner do I hide a fresh one where I’m sure he will never find it than I return to find the lid still spinning on the counter and the empty container in the trash. That Russian everyone is talking about will be left crying like a baby into his half-empty jar, tonsils glued together, while our son collects his medal. We’ll hug him, take some pictures, and then call in Roto-Rooter to clean out his GI tract upon returning to the States.

My brother could also do his part to make our family proud if they would sponsor a serious, bare-knuckle burping competition. He is entirely self-taught, having learned to belch the ABC’s (literally – ask our mom) at a young age. Sadly, he has learned that this particular skill is not a resume enhancer. This is America, doggone it, and such hard work and ingenuity should be recognized. I say, let the guy compete!

I’ve got plenty of other perfectly good ideas that I’m submitting to that august committee. If they try to call me in the next week or so, though, they’ll have to leave a message. I’m busy brewing espresso and readying my IV pole for my own Chariots of Fire moment.

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