When I was a child, watching the Olympics was a great bonding experience with my parents. We would sit around our clunky TV with our giant calico cat named Puss keeping warm in front of the rabbit ears as we marveled at Mark Spitz and Dorothy Hamill.
We revered these incredible athletes: Peggy Fleming, the Mahre brothers, and Bruce Jenner. There were too many to name. They lifted us up emotionally. They inspired us.
A large book with photos of Jesse Owens, Sonja Henie -- my uncle claimed to have been in a movie with her once -- and other famous Olympians sat on our marble-top coffee table. I loved this book. It was paperback, basically an enclopedia of the Games. It listed record holders and included blank lines for readers to fill in gold-medal winners and their times. With my pencil poised ready to jot down results, I found it thrilling to watch a final because I was participating in the excitement.
Now I'm the parent, and the Olympics are back on TV. My parents and cat have long since died. Our flat-screen television doesn't have rabbit ears, and I haven't seen that book in two decades. But, at fifty-two, I still get a childlike zing out of watching the Games.
I hope to pass my Olympic fever onto my sons.
Four years ago when the last Winter Games were held, my eldest was six. We sat together on our red cloth couch and watched the action in Vancouver.
Christopher is ten now, but he recalls quite a bit from those Games. He remembers wild-haired Shaun White, Bode Miller, Julia Mancuso (in tiara on the podium), Lindsey Vonn (sidelined this year while
recovering from knee surgery, unfortunately), Apolo Ohno, Evgeni Plushenko, and others.
Not bad for a kindergartener!
My younger son, almost eight, was only four in 2010. Charlie says he has no memories of watching the Vancouver Olympics. These Sochi Games will be the first Winter Games he remembers.
This year we've watched Shaun, now short-haired (and very wealthy from his clothing line at Target, etc.), attempt to repeat his winning snowboarding performance in the halfpipe. He came up short, placing fourth.
You win some, you lose some.
We've talked about how Bode Miller, in winning the bronze in the Super-G -- "What's that?" asked Charlie -- became the oldest Alpine skier to ever win an Olympic medal.
Don't let age quash your dreams.
I even mentioned how "Bode" was on my short list for my second son's name. (Charlie was born one month minus one day after the 2006 Turin Olympics closed.)
We've learned many new names this year: Sage Kotsenburg (see "Sage!", 2/10/14), T.J. Oshie, Charlie White, and Noelle Pikus-Pace to name a few. We've heard about a dangerous snowboarding run and poor (balmy) weather conditions for skiing. We've watched a revolving door of prime-time commentators fill in for Bob Costas, suffering from pink eye.
We've seen Billy Bush from Access Hollywood join The Sochi Walrus Club in the Black Sea. We've discussed the underwhelming finishes of the U.S. speedskating team. Were those high-tech Under Armour (Under Performer?) -- suits the culprit?
Moreover, I've relayed to the boys how Bode was brought to tears by reporter Christin Cooper after his bronze medal-winning run because NBC wanted him to get emotional talking about his late brother Chelone.
Chris and Charlie have seen the amazing photograph of the broken door after bobsledder Johnny Quinn got stuck in the shower. They've heard about the malfunctioning snowflake/Olympic ring.
They've watched The Russian Police Choir perform a rousing rendition of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky." And they've laughed at the open-mouthed expression of figure skater Ashley Wagner because they remember gymnast McKayla Maroney's similarly hilarious "not impressed" meme from the 2012 London Summer Games.
If my sons had to choose between entering a bobsledding or skeleton event, they'd pick the former. "I don't think I want to go down headfirst," said Christopher.
Wise boys. I'd have to concur.
The Closing Ceremony -- sniff, sniff -- are in three days. Before Sunday, we will learn many more new names and be told many more new inspiring stories of competitors.
I, for one, will be very sad to see it all end. Then again the Rio Summer Games are only two years away.
I can wait. I'll have to wait.