Every four years, along comes special chance to be a curmudgeonly contrarian. Well, if you are going to get all technical, I suppose you could say that such a chance comes pretty much every morning for me. But your mother raised you better than that, so you will keep the thought inside of your head and we can proceed.
Five years ago
I wrote about my issues with the Olympics here and have nothing to add. For those who would rather not go back and read it (and I wouldn’t blame you a bit), my issue came down to 1) not being a huge sports fan in general, 2) the Olympics involving sports I neither know nor care anything about and 3) everyone else insisted on watching them in spite of their own problems with No. 1 and No. 2.
It is that last part that has been a bigger turnoff than any of the others. I think I was born a contrarian. If you were to tell me that chocolate is the best ice cream flavor, my knee-jerk reaction would be to differ and say that vanilla has a lot going for it. But if you were to lead with vanilla instead, something deep within me would pry itself to the surface, causing me to wonder aloud if vanilla isn’t improved with the addition of things like chocolate shavings or bits of cherries mixed up in it.
This tendency worked itself out in my college days when I declared my major as economics. The study of economics is a very counter-intuitive way of looking at the world, one that does not come easily to most folks. When the price of lumber skyrockets in Louisiana after a hurricane, almost everyone starts screaming about how price-gougers should be thrown behind bars. I see those high prices doing a valuable service in making it worthwhile for lumber companies thousands of miles away to incur massive transport charges by diverting shipments from the quiet midwest, thus bringing much needed additional supplies.
My legal career in litigation fits this character trait as well. When one person claims that her cat was injured by the neighbor’s dog and incurred hundreds of dollars in vet bills, it takes a guy like me to reply “Not so fast there – your cat is considered personal property, and repair costs can only be collected until they reach the value of the cat – which is, what, maybe fifteen bucks?” Despite what some of you may think, this is not a surefire way to popularity. But if the cat owner is my client, I am right there ready to indignantly excoriate the heartless bastard on the other end of the phone or at the other table in the courtroom to suggest that the law should not treat a pet the same way it treats a damaged Yugo hatchback.
The Olympics have fallen right into this sweet spot of mine – everyone else in the entire world (and I am not exaggerating, since the games are populated by contestants from *literally* the entire world) is interested. Which is almost all I need to sit there and yawn. OK, not just yawn, but yawn while being irritated at someone who doesn’t know a volleyball from a dogsled going on and on about some random Olympic event.
But this year was different. As the games were finishing up recently, I realized that I had a terrible problem – too many people were agreeing with me. And I am not sure what to do about that. Yes, I know that my tastes should not be formed by what everyone else is doing. Who has not been asked “if everyone else was jumping off the Empire State Building, would you do it too?” I got the question in the second grade as I shifted from one foot to another under the Principal’s gaze. I must acknowledge that jumping off the Empire State Building because everyone else is calmly taking in the sights (and not jumping off the Empire State Building) is not really any better.
I know I should be happy (or at least feel a little vindicated) when I read that television ratings for the Summer Olympics fell off a cliff and that casual interest in the games was the lowest it has been in who knows how long. I should feel a little kinship with the many others who decided to watch reruns of Iron Chef or season 2 of The Bachelor instead of watching Team USA striving in some global competition. But my contrarian nature causes me to feel just a little uneasy about these developments.
I suppose I should hope that viewership and interest at large does not get worse four years hence (or will it only be three?) Or else I might find it hard to fight the urge to pound out a blog post asking “What Is Wrong With America” or “Why Are The Olympics Are On And Nobody Cares”. I would hate that. Because then I would have to start watching.