Hello, friends. I hope you’re well. Are you ready for the titanic competition which begins this weekend in the United Kingdom? Of course, I’m talking about the Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival, in Yorkshire. That’s a lot of scarecrows. It’s my favorite time of the year, because I love scarecrows.
Oh! You thought I was mentioning the 2012 London Olympics? That’s happening as well. And like you, I do love some Olympics. There’s nothing like sitting on the edge of your seat, likely drunk, glued to and watching sports you’d never remotely be interested in if they were on the Versus channel at two o’clock in the morning (I’m looking at you, BMX biking!). As we are solely here to inform, and in case you’ve never seen the Olympics before, I thought it might be helpful today to run down the first part of a two-part series on a few of the many, many sports going on over in Merry Olde England over the next fourteen days, so you’ll know what to expect when you turn on NBC, or any of its affiliates, in August. So let’s go, shall we, and look at The 2012 Olympics. If you are participating in the 2012 Olympics, I wish you good luck. We’re all counting on you. For the rest of you, as always, have a phenomenal weekend.
What it is: It’s diving. You have to be very, very quiet and then someone dives. There’s also synchronized diving, for divers who want to compete but need someone to blame it on if they lose.
What you should know about it: It is a proven fact that after watching a half-hour of diving you will feel like you are a good judge of how a dive looks, but you still will not be.
What it is: Traditional volleyball played in a sand pit. Beach Volleyball has only been an official sport included in the Olympic Games since 1996. Americans Misty May-Traynor and Kerri Walsh are the current defending two-time gold medalists in the competition and are hoping for a “three-peat” — which is a word I just made up, just now — in London 2012.
What you should know about it: The beach volleyball athletes will probably ask you if you want to join their game, but they really only want to make you look stupid and steal your girlfriend. Don’t fall for it. Didn’t you watch any movies in the 1980’s?
What it is: A tennis-style game featuring small racquets and a volleyed object called a shuttlecock. The sport’s defending champion is Chinese former gold-medalist Lin Dan, who’s totally into badminton.
What you should know about it: Every family in America has at some point owned a badminton set, and sometimes you set it up at barbecues or birthday parties, but no one ever plays it, and a few months later you can only find one racquet and the shuttlecock is in your kid’s toybox somewhere. If you’d taken that more seriously, you could probably be playing in the Olympics right now. Think about that wasted opportunity as your boss yells at you again at your data-entry job, lazy.
What it is: Handball consists of two teams, each of six field players and a goalkeeper, tossing a ball to one another while trying to score on a goal guarded by a designated player. It’s kind of like keep-away. Or if you were having a game of catch with friends and things got out of hand.
What you should know about it: You may notice that soccer referees may sometimes make the call of “handball.” Similarly, often a handball referee may sometimes make the call of “soccer.” This is because it is illegal to play two Olympic sports at one time.
What it is: The modern pentathalon event takes place over two days and includes shooting pistols, fencing with swords, swimming, riding horses and jumping over things, and then running. Yes, really.
What you should know about it: The modern pentathalon is an event created by Mrs. Katherine Henderson’s first-grade class at Chester Arthur Elementary School in Battle Creek, Michigan, who won a contest to have it included in the Olympic Games.
What it is: Debuting in the 1900 Olympic Games, the sailing events include a tournament-style match race where crews face off against one another to be the first to achieve three points with the winner of each race being awarded one point. Popped collars are mandatory both on and off-the racing course, and failure to abide by this rule may result in disqualification.
What you should know about it: “Sailing” was a number-one single for soft-rock musician Christopher Cross in 1980 and won the Grammy award for both Song of the Year and Record of the Year, even though Cross himself was not an recognized Olympian.
What it is: There are currently two Olympic wrestling events: greco-roman and freestyle. The major difference between the two styles is that in Greco-Roman wrestling, legs may not be used to help cause a “fall,” while in freestyle wrestling any fair leg hold or trip is permitted.
What you should know about it: One of the most exciting and memorable events in Olympic freestyle wrestling came in 1988, when The Honky Tonk Man was disqualified from his Intercontinental title match against Brutus Beefcake after manager Jimmy Hart hit Beefcake with a megaphone. In later rounds, Romanian Makharbek Khadartsev would defeat Beefcake to take home the gold medal. It was a sad, sad day for America.