I Had a Crush on Mark Spitz

This is going to sound unpatriotic, but I’m glad the Olympics are over.

I don’t like the Olympics. I’m not into TV spectator sports to begin with and when it’s a bunch of people you’ve never heard of playing sports that are not football, well, I’d rather watch that documentary about the Mexican guy who is the fattest person in the world. Again.

The thing I hate most about the Olympics is how normal, everyday, non-sporty people become overnight experts on the Summer Games. With an audience of one, they’ll start throwing around names of barely known athletes in barely understood sports, just to prove that they’re really into - addicted to, some will tell you - the Olympics.

For the past month you can’t have gone to a cocktail party and said the word “age” without hearing a crack about how young the Chinese gymnasts are; or the word “water” without hearing MichaelPhelps MichaelPhelps Michaelphelpsmichaelphelps. There are people who don’t know what sand looks like and they can tell you the stats of the women’s beach volleyball team, how many strained shoulder muscles they have and what high-tech methods they’re using to fix them.

Watch a little Bob Costas?

Maybe I’m just old and cynical, but the last time I got excited about the Olympics, I was in the eighth grade and Mark Spitz was the bees’ knees, the shits, all that and a bag of potato chips, the cat’s pajamas, as well as his meow.

I understand that this makes me appear as old as I am. When your Facebook friends are all lusting after Michael Phelps because they’re young and single (and in some cases gay) and they’re still watching the swim meet as the Speedos are walking to the locker room, and you pipe up with, “I used to have a crush on Mark Spitz!” there is a deafening cyber-silence.

Hey, he was really, really cute in the ‘70s. That California tan. The white teeth. The hairless chest. The jet black, dry-look hair. No visible moles. The ‘stache. Back then, that equalled cute.

In my scrapbook from 8th grade, I’ve got a newspaper clipping of his wedding photo. It’s between my snapshots of Bobby Sherman’s sleeve fringe at Idora Park Ballroom and a sno-cone wrapper that some cute carny touched at the Hubbard Homecoming. (I know, I should’ve gotten rid of that scrapbook years ago, but when I’m famous, it might fund one of my grandchildren's college tuition.)

I didn’t know a thing about swimming and I’m not sure I even watched the Olympics that year. Except when my boyfriend, Mark Spitz, was swimming. And doing interviews afterward. And smiling while holding up medals. Did I mention how white his teeth were?

Since then, there hasn’t been as compelling a competitor to keep me interested in watching the Olympics. Sure, the winter Olympics has tried, with their heart-wrenching stories about the skater whose blind mother drove her 150 miles and back every day just to train with a coach who would let her eat a carbohydrate a day and still get her to the Winter Games.

But for the most part, I don’t look forward to the Olympics and I’m not sad to see the ending ceremonies light up my TV screen. We’re going to have to think of something else to talk about, obsess over and make knowledgeable jokes about at cocktail parties. Have you seen that documentary about the fattest man in the world?

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