Friday, August 19, 2016

How Boring Were These Olympic Events?

These Olympics, like all the ones before it, have boasted their share of awe-inspiring displays of athleticism, the burnishing of legacies, wild photo finishes, and heartwarming moments that might make even the most ruthless competitor tear up a bit. In Rio, all of that great stuff happened despite widespread corruption and protest, a messy "armed robbery" case, an embarrassing sex "scandal", and much else to make cynics roll their eyes at the very idea of the "Olympic spirit."

You know what else has been mixed in with all that goodness and badness? A healthy dose of dullness.

That's right; unsurprisingly, a one-size-fits-all athletic extravaganza that features 306 events in 42 different sports can get pretty boring at times. I've been thrilled by most of NBC's primetime coverage, sometimes even after the Internet has tried to spoil the events for me. At the same time, though, I've caught myself watching day-time Bravo events a few times and later wondered if my hours might have been better spent knitting. (I don't knit.)

So as the Games wind down, it should be funny -- and maybe a little depressing -- to look back at the time many of us should've spent knitting. In the spirit of sportsmanship, we'll avoid calling out specific individual or team performances here. Like, I won't mock the boring basketball displayed by certain teams during group play, or the terrible races run by last-place finishers in obscure events. Make no mistake, though: I'm here almost solely to make fun of those obscure events.

Here, then, were the 10 most boring moments and events of the Rio Olympics:

10) Archery (all of it) 
You need to constantly remind yourself how impressive it is that the archers can repeatedly hit a target the size of a dime. Because if you don't, the TV coverage will make you want to use an arrow to pull an Oedipus in your living room.

9) 5,000-meter Qualifiers 
When I go on long runs, I'm often so bored that I do math in my head to pass the time. Okay, I've gone 2.5 out of 10 miles. That means I'm a quarter of the way there. After just another mile-and-a-half, I'll be two-fifths of the way done. That's 40%! Not too shabby. I'm telling you this for two reasons. One, I'm a nerd and a weirdo. And two, distance running is so boring that it makes MATH seem like a fun idea. Races like the 5,000-meter run make math desirable.

The 5K isn't the longest running event, but the 10K featured continued dominance by legendary British runner Mo Farah and the rewriting of the record books on the women's side.

The other counter-argument to this whole section would be the marathon, but I made sure to avoid calling the marathon boring. That race is just too badass. At any moment during the course of watching a marathon, you can say to yourself, "Holy crap, they've run ___ miles and they still have ___ more miles to go." Try it -- plug in any two numbers that add up to 26.2 and it's amazing no matter what. Not true of the 5K, specifically the qualifying heats.

8) Men's Golf 
It looks like the top scores were pretty close, and the medals went to some big names -- Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, and Matt Kuchar. Still, aside from those three guys, I don't think people cared much about this tournament, which was formatted exactly like the sport's majors but meant much less. The powers-that-be need to make Olympic golf unique, especially if they can't convince the very best players to compete.

7) Women's Singles Tennis Final
This match featured two good-but-not-great players and three sets that weren't particularly close. It would've been great if Serena advanced to the gold-medal match, but alas. You'd have been much better off watching the women's doubles -- Martina Hingis for silver! Or, for that matter, mixed doubles -- Jack Sock and Bethanie Mattek-Sands' SOCKS!

6) Sailing Dinghy Races
First, they were rescheduled due to lack of wind. Then, when the races started, it was cool to watch for about 30 seconds. Then, I made the requisite Rodney Dangerfield joke. Then, I looked up the point of the America's Cup, which I now understand less than I did before. I wonder if poor people's brains just can't fathom the athleticism required to race yachts and their ilk. I guess their dinghies will just always be bigger than my whole boat.

5) Claims of corruption in boxing
The complaints of Irishman Michael Conlan and American Gary Russell led to the dismissal of multiple boxing judges. Whether the two fighters were robbed or not, I don't know what sport they thought they were participating in. Boxing hasn't ever exactly been a pinnacle of propriety and fairness. Sure, video of Conlan's curse-laden diatribe caught my eye, but it wasn't even the best blow-up by an Irish fighter this week. The most interesting thing in this news story was my epiphany that I would look so tough with a rosary bead tattoo like the one Conlan sports on his neck:


4) Men's Cycling Time Trial
The time trial stages of the Tour de France are always the worst, aside from the futuristic helmets. The best thing about cycling is watching athletes compete against the pack, not the clock. The victor of this race in Rio, Fabian Cancellara, won by almost 50 seconds. Ho-hum.

3) Shooting
Even worse than archery. I've always thought that guys who hunted with rifles were cheaters, too.

2) All equestrian events
I realize that sports like shooting and equestrian harken back to the days when real athletes were horsemen*, but these events are brutal on television.

*Like George Washington. No, really.

1) Race walking
To the best of our knowledge, no walker even pooped himself this year. And without pooping oneself, speed walking is really just walking. Absent poop, race walking was the dullest event in Rio, as it will be in Tokyo, as it will be on Mars in 2416.

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Follow Francis Tolan on Twitter @frantweet

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