Some athletes at the professional level, many more now than there used to be, are very imposing without even opening their mouths. Some are even scarier after hearing them speak.
One would expect football linemen, especially the offensive type, (or the type on offense to be clearer) to be physically intimidating. But I am not speaking to the size or appearance of football players, as such.
I am long past remembering his name, and since it is generally irrelevant to the subject of this writing, not inclined to spend hours of search-engine time trying to word the inquiry just right. But the guy was a weight-lifter, and I believe he hailed from Poland, perhaps Bulgaria..
I just know that he was one of the most daunting spectacles I have ever seen in the many years I have watched the summer olympics. If he failed to lift the enormous amount of weight that made the bar flex to the point of breaking, you would not want to be the only guy in the locker room afterward, especially if you were in the Flyweight division.
But he was probably a sweetheart of a guy. Not that one could ever get the chance to hear him speak. Until the communists loosened their grip, and control, of eastern European athletes, the olympians weren’t exactly shuffled up to the microphones so that the American broadcasters could delve into life behind the iron curtain.
I would like to think life got better for the Polish lifter in later years, and he was able to pursue his true passion of writing poetry and running a flower shop — that’s what I’d like to think.
But, without a doubt, easily the scariest olympians I can recall were not the weight lifters... nor the heavyweight wrestlers. It had to be the women’s East German swim team. They apparently figured out the steroid cocktails before anyone else and were absolutely the most bulked-up mermaids anyone has ever seen — before or since. The girls were just enormous, and overcame the hydrodynamics with sheer muscle power.
As strong as the American and Australian teams were, the East Germans owned most of the swimming events during the era, and were always in the top three in the medal counts at the end of the games.
I know the use of the now-banned enhancers were not exclusive to the East Germans, but I’m guessing the women’s swim team were the ones hosting the parties.
My mom was probably one of the most devoted followers of the Summer Games (and the Winter Games, as well).
At a time when the Olympics were exclusive to the American Broadcasting Company and ruled the airwaves, she would stay up all hours to watch live broadcasts of competition, rooting for the U.S. team... men or women, boys or girls... swimming, gymnastics or badminton. Didn’t matter.
And she had a job to go to the next morning. Some of the olympiads were pre-VCR and before there were upteen affiliates to rebroadcast events in prime time.
Are the olympics as “special” as the use to be? Did I hear a resounding “NO!” Yeah, I thought so, and I agree.
There is too much competition and too many competitions to “protect” the sanctity of the olympics anymore.
I started to count the sports stations, including the specialty types (baseball, football, golf, curling — well, just you wait), and quit when I remembered I do not subscribe to even a minutae of the regional networks.
But my opinion change toward the games is not a recent one. When the USA began overtly putting professional players in the mix, my respect took a nose dive.
Yeah, I hear the clamor. The Eastern bloc sent “professionals” in more sports than just ice hockey and we have the right to send our very best, too. I get that.
The debate itself takes as much wind out of my olympic sails as anything.
The London Games begin on Friday. I hope all goes well and that all the ‘bad guys’ take a couple of weeks off (if not longer... like, forever) so the games can be enjoyed by those on the island and around the world.
And though I may not watch very many minutes of Kobe and crew as they destroy Croatia, I will watch (and DVR) some of the preferred fare and root on the USA.
I think badminton is on between 3:05 to 3:12 a.m. Sweet. USA! USA!