Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Those Extra Holidays

I've decided that all those "Monday only" holidays are, in fact, pretty good to have on the calendar. Think of everything we get from them. True, there is no mail delivery, but you get a chance to see different (and more) tennis players instead of the usual Monday crowd. You get another reason to put out the flag, just to show that it isn't owned by the Republican Party. You get a chance to see trivial things in a historic context - Madison, our smallest and shortest president, nevertheless had a huge role in the government we have today. But at 5'3" and not much more than 100 lb., he publicly deferred to the 6'2" 200 lb. Washington. Ideal stuff fot Presidents Day, yesterday.
It took me a long time to finish the Lincoln book on which the current movie was partially based. Too bad I already knew how it came out, but I learned some things, too. For  instance, Lincoln was a huge fan of the theater, and went there almost weekly as president. I was also impressed with his sense of empathy (mentioned in this space a few weeks ago), which allowed him to see things as others would, but also almost crushed him mentally as he struggled to deal with the suffering of our own most destructive war. For what it's worth, I finished the book on Lincoln's birthday, Feb. 12th.

I've thought for awhile that the two most interesting things that ever come on TV are Election night coverage, and the Olympic Games. Neither are completely predictable, and there's the chance that a broadcaster, an athlete, a candidate or a commentator will blurt out something no one expected. The question of which Olympic sports to include and which to dump must, I suppose, be continuing. And I have nothing against events which are a little off the beaten athletic path: rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming, biathlon or the oddly-named modern pentathlon, which combines skills taken from cavalry soldiers from the Napoleonic era. Air rifle, judo, sailing, archery - they all require plenty of work and skill, so I won't sneer at any of them.
But some events go back so far that they shouldn't have to prove themselves just on the basis of mass audience or number of countries involved. How long, would you guess, have humans been wrestling? It is mentioned in Genesis in the Old Testament, referring no doubt to a time several thousands of years ago. It has to predate anything involving arrows, spears or balls of any kind. What's more, it remains a sport with participants as small as children and as large as, depending on how the sport is defined, 400 lb. or more. Wrestling is almost, if not completely, worldwide.
And yet the IOC is going to dump wrestling in its two current forms (freestyle and Greco Roman) in favor of  - what, golf? Darts? Speed eating? Creative nagging? I just don't get it. If we have to make sure the whole world knows the difference between real wrestling and the heavyweight acrobatics that comes on TV every week, then I'm in favor of doing so. The heritage of wrestling, as hard and sweaty as it is, is still too much and goes too far back to justify dumping from the Olympics. On this question, even the most unlikely national allies ever find themselves on the same side of the issue - The US and Iran.           


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