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That Irks Me.
Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2004

by Bill Hogan


Thanks to thousands of hours of Olympic coverage by NBC on seven broadcast and cable television stations, I've been able to watch just about as many different sporting events as is humanly possible since the games opened last Friday.

That fact has contributed greatly to the sleep depravation from which I currently suffer. When I don't get my eight hours, I'm simply not my usual, jovial self. When I'm tired and grumpy, everything – no matter how irrelevant - irritates me.


For starters, it irks me that they are calling the 2004 Olympic Games the "XXVIII Olympiad." The first modern Olympics took place in Athens in 1896. One hundred and eight years later, it would stand to reason that this would be the year of the 28th Olympics.

However, the games scheduled to be played in Tokyo in 1940 were canceled. As were the London games in 1944. Something to do with the second "war to end all wars," I believe. You don't have to be an expert with an abacus to figure out that 28 planned Olympics, minus 2 canceled Olympics, equals 26 actual Olympics.

It was the guys in charge of the 1948 games that really screwed up this whole Roman numeral thing. They must have forgotten that the last Olympics that actually took place - in Berlin 12 years earlier – were the games of the XI Olympiad; leaving themselves no choice but to count backwards by fours to 1896. How else could they logically get from 11 to 14?

Maybe they already had the XIV printed on all the 1948 marketing materials and engraved on all the medals. Maybe they thought nobody would notice – or care about – something so seemingly insignificant. Well, during the 5am men's doubles badminton match, it sure did seem like a big deal to me.

All this talk about how shocking it is that the stadiums and arenas are half empty has me vexed. What did the Greek Olympic organizers expect? A flood of Western tourists to flock to an island nation that sits a shot put away from the Middle East?

In the weeks leading up to the start of the games, we read article after article about how heavily fortified the Olympic sites will be. Every possible security precaution – from bomb sniffing dogs to Patriot missiles – will be in place. Welcome to paradise.

I don't know about you, but when I have to be protected by ground-to-air heat seeking missiles in order to "safely" watch the Women's Eight rowing preliminaries, it's time to make other vacation arrangements. A week at Yellowstone, perhaps.

I'm happy that there's been no terrorist activity since the games have started – knock wood. But it gives you reason to pause when some Bozo can walk out of the stands at the Olympic Aquatics Center and up to the top of the three meter diving board undetected.

Especially when the man is wearing a purple tutu and polka dot tights. Granted, nothing says "don't shoot, I'm not a terrorist" more convincingly than a boob in a clownish ballerina outfit, but it's scary when the Greeks view the incident as a wake-up call to "beef up security." How do you "beef up" a security system that already includes anti-aircraft missile launchers?

I find the fact that the stands are half full more surprising than the sobering reality that the seats are half empty. It may just be fatigue, but it bugs me that all the so-called pundits are so bewildered by the sluggish ticket sales.

NBC commentator Jimmy Roberts did an interesting primetime program segment on the history of the Ancient Olympics. It would have been great had it not further pushed the men's 4 x 200 freestyle relay beyond my bedtime. The best swimming event of the day and I have to splash water on my face waiting to see it because Jimmy wants to tell me about the art of the naked discus toss.

And I don't buy his assertion that the boxing matches were so vicious that one fighter lost his inheritance because his face was so badly mangled that his family didn't recognize him. That kind of exaggeration really annoys me.

If you don't find any of this the least bit irritating, get up at four in the morning, flip on MSNBC, catch an hour or two of the women's judo quarterfinals, and read this again. It makes a lot more sense when you're exhausted.


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