Sunday, August 21, 2016

Games of summer

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio will end today, and presumably the United States will earn another gold medal in men's basketball if it can defeat Serbia.

As I write this blog early this morning, the United States has currently hauled down 43 gold medals and a total of 116 gold, silver and bronze, making it one of the more spectacular hauls in recent Games.

Amazingly, Sports Illustrated predicted two weeks ago that the U.S. would end up with 45 golds and 118 total medals. Wow.

Out of curiosity, I did a quick glance of previous medal counts to see how this year stacks up. In the 2012 London games, the U.S. brought in 46 golds and 103 total medals, with China in second place with 38 gold and 88 total totems.

In the Beijing Games in 2008, China led the way with 51 gold and 100 total medals, while the U.S. followed with 36 gold and 110 total charms.

And in the Athens Games in 2004, the United States had 36 gold and 101 total medals, while China had 32 gold and 63 total medals.

I think the thing that surprised me the most about those numbers was how consistent they were over the years. This year, it felt like the United States was minting gold medals left and right. But as we go into the last day of the 2016 Games, the U.S. still hasn't quite reached its 2012 gold strike total.

I've watched the Games off and on for the past two weeks, even stealing a few minutes of TV time at work to watch water polo, rhythmic ribbon dancing or synchronized swimming, which are sports you would never catch me watching if I was in my right mind (then again, I'm inexplicably a big curling fan whenever the Winter Games are on). Late one afternoon, I watched someone named Helen Louise Maroulis win a gold medal in freestyle bantamweight wrestling. She defeated somebody who'd lost like three times in the previous 14 years. I didn't even know there were women wrestlers. Didn't matter. Yay, I thought, because the USA had another gold.

There were a few down moments, of course. U.S. women's soccer goalie Hope Solo irrationally called the Swedes "cowards" after Sweden eliminated the U.S. in a shootout. Shut up, Hope. You lost. Get over it. Geez. And swimmer Ryan Lochte showing us what an Ugly American looks like after drunkenly vandalizing a public restroom and then basically blaming the host country for his actions. Shut up, Ryan. You're an idiot. Get over it. Geez.

There's other stuff outside the Olympics going on, too.

I really enjoy watching the Little League World Series because it's fun to see pint-sized ball players play the game so well.

Did I say pint-sized? One team has a 12-year-old pitcher who stands 6 feet tall and chucks a 75 mph fastball 46 feet away from home plate. I'm 5-6 and can't even see a fastball. I admire their youth as they stand on the verge of adulthood. I like their panache. I like their talent. And I love their boundless joy in victory and their humility in defeat while still in their formative years, when all of that really means something.

All in all, it's been a pretty good summer.

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