Olympic apathy at all-time high

By Jeffery Armstrong

Forgive me if I sound unpatriotic, but I am not very interested in the Olympic Games at all.

I'm not upset that the U.S. isn't in the lead in the medal count, I'm not looking forward to seeing attractive female gymnasts and I could care less if those poor-shooting U.S. men's basketball players ever win another game. I don't even care if I miss the track and field events, which were my favorites.

And by the looks of things, I'm not alone in my apathy. It seems like the Greeks haven't been coming out in droves to see several of the events. I think the biggest crowds have been at the men's basketball games just to see if those American "bricklayers" will be upset by another country the U.S. used to dominate in years past.

There was a time when I truly looked forward to watching the Olympics. I can remember as far back as the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, where athletes like Bruce Jenner, Nadia Comaneci and Sugar Ray Leonard captured my attention and the world's attention.

I always cheered the American athletes, booed the Soviet athletes and had a good time watching it all. I even watched the Winter Olympics, especially the 1980 winter games at Lake Placid, N.Y., feeling pretty good as the U.S. hockey team made everyone believe in miracles en route to the gold medal.

I remember getting very upset when boxer Roy Jones, Jr. lost a chance at the gold medal when he wasn't declared the winner in the 1988 Olympics. I marveled at how fast Carl Lewis could run and I loved looking at the style, grace, beauty and speed of Florence Griffith Joyner in the 1988 Olympics.

And who can forget Mary Lou Retton's gymnastics performance in the 1984 games? Her perfect 10s made her the toast of the United States, putting her on Wheaties boxes and in commercials for years. it's hard to believe that was 20 years ago.

I heard a story that the tickets to the Games are very expensive, which may be a reason why many people aren't attending all the events. High ticket prices may be one reason for low attendance, but I have a theory as to why the Olympics aren't on everyone's radar this year: there's just not a lot of marketable Olympic athletes any more.

The Olympic athletes of today are either accused of or actually have used drugs or they don't truly respect the former Olympic athletes, like this Michael Phelps kid who dang near guaranteed that he'd break Mark Spitz' record of seven gold medals in swimming.

The scandal with sprinter Marion Jones, her boyfriend Tim Montgomery and the BALCO drug situation soils track and field, a sport I used to love to watch, especially since I ran track as a kid. Granted, track athletes like Ben Johnson admitted using drugs and people wondered if FloJo took steroids, but drug scandals are much more prevalent now than then. And I used to follow Olympic boxing, but I couldn't name one boxer on the U.S. team.

It's sad to say, but I'd lean toward watching regular-season pro basketball and baseball games before breaking my neck to watch Olympic events. And that's a sad situation, indeed.

Jeffery Armstrong is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Thursdays. He can be reached at jarmstrong@news-daily.com .