This week, I became the kind of person who gets so angry, she kicks her couch and breaks a toe. If you weren’t aware already, this is indeed a type, and I can now check that box off. I’m sure there’s some medical form or mental illness assessment somewhere that asks, “have you ever been so mad, you’ve done something to injure yourself?” I will now have to face the choice of lying about this bad behavior or fessing up to it and enduring a whole new round of invasive, personal questions from a medical provider.
We’ve all done things in anger: punched pillows, screamed, stomped a foot – you know, the usual. Kicking something hard enough to break a bone seems extreme at first, until you consider that toe bones are fairly easy to break (based on my extensively non-existent medical knowledge) – but nonetheless, it feels like I’ve entered into a whole new level of competition. You could say that I am now peering over the ledge into Olympic-level self-destruction.
And you know what I got so pissed about that I needed to kick my couch?? The Olympics. Yup, that’s right. I kicked my couch because my not-so-smart TV would not allow me to stream the Olympics even though the TV in the basement was able to access it perfectly fine with the NBC app two years ago for the summer games. Not on this TV. Incompatible. And as much as I might blame my particular brand of TV, which is apparently incompatible with quite a lot that I’d like to access, the TV is not the real problem. The corporate assholes who broadcast the Olympics are the problem. Excuse me, let me correct that, the corporate assholes who control access to the Olympics are the problem.
Close your eyes and think back with me to days of yore – or, more specifically, about 30 years ago. All three major stations – NBC, ABC, and CBS – each had a hand in the Olympics, showing their own little niche of events. All you needed was an antennae and someone your family disliked enough to send onto the roof to twiddle it until your father yelled out an open window to hold it right there. That’s it. The global amazingness, the global patriotism that is evoked by the Olympics was available to all. Sure, you had to watch endless rounds of commercials (I think they were still McDonald’s even in those days…oh, and Wheaties), but you were given a golden moment to watch men and women who have devoted themselves to perfection in their event perform for you, to put everything they had out there on that slope or on that gymnastics mat or in that pool. All across this country, across this world, we were watching them together. What an amazing thing that had been – I realize, now that it’s gone and forever – to have been in community with so many brothers and sisters across this country and across this planet.
Now, like so much else about our world – our political system, our education system, our healthcare system – watching the Olympics is a privilege gifted only to those who have the $49.99, or $89.99, or (can you believe it?!) $129.99 a month to throw at the price of admission, in this case a cable company (and I’m sure there are plans that cost even more for those who desperately need 1,000+ stations). It’s like you’ve shown up to the bi-annual family reunion, and someone’s put a giant Reserved sign all over it. Sure, go right over there to where someone else erected a ticket booth and show them you’re part of this clan; if you think it’ll work for you, remind the person behind the plexiglass that you’re an American dammit, and shouldn’t that count for something? But unless you have the price of admission and a willingness to commit to a 1-year contract with a lifeless company that will stream trash at you 24/7, you’re not welcome anymore.
Now, I’m about the least sporty person you’ll find, but I do love the Olympics. I love the comaraderie, the sportsmanship, the athleticism, the teamwork, and the sense that for all of two weeks, all the schmoes who wouldn’t be caught dead doing things like the luge or the ski jump or anything else remotely aerobic are both devotedly cheering for the representatives of their nation and doing it all together. The whole world. Together. One voice cheering for a hundred different countries. Across time zones, across oceans, across continents.
I lost a lot more than the ability to see the Olympics when I screamed at my TV and slammed my foot in the couch. In my crumpled, defeated state, I lost a sense of being part of US (as in you and me and our brothers and sisters across the ocean, not the United States. I lost that one very bad night in November 2016, but that’s a post for another time). It was just me in that moment. Me and my throbbing foot. My foot will heal and I’ll laughingly tell this story to friends, just as I did today when I went to Ash Wednesday service, but some things can’t be healed. And the things that used to heal us – things like the Olympics? – will we even notice in our consumer-crazed, digitized, TV-brain obliterated state that they’re even gone? I don’t know. I just don’t know anymore.