Anyone watching the Olympics? Why?


I don’t pose that question as a challenge or anything. I’m not criticizing you for watching the games, if you are. I just think that right now, with the “asterisk games” going on, in defiance of the will of so many people in Japan, it would be interesting to have a discussion of why we think these games should or should not be happening, and why or why not we are interested.

Put me in the camp of those who believe that 1) the Olympics are a fine thing in the abstract, and I applaud those folks who revived them in 1896, but that 2) when the 2020 games were called off for COVID, everyone should have settled down to wait for 2024 to satisfy whatever craving they have for viewing Olympic competition.

Near as I can tell, there is only one reason to have gone ahead and had the games in 2021, rather than waiting, and that would be for the sakes of individual athletes for whom it’s either now or never. This was their moment, and they wouldn’t be at the same peak in 2024, so for them, not going ahead would have represented a personal loss.

I am not at all unsympathetic to that argument. It makes me think of my old friend Rayford Collins. Rayford worked in the composing room at my first newspaper after college, The Jackson Sun. As a compositor, he had a job that was essential to publishing a newspaper at the time — he would take the strips of copy that came out of the gigantic cold-type printer, cut them into columns with scissors, run them through a roller that applied molten wax to the back of them, and stick them onto the page under the highly irritating supervision of smart-ass college kids in their early 20s who came to the back shop to approve release of the pages that we had laid out and edited up front in the newsroom.

Rayford Collins in the early 60s during his own boxing career, long before I knew him.

Rayford Collins in the early 60s during his own boxing career, long before I knew him.

You should have seen the artistry of these guys as they cut the type and applied it, and often corrected typos we found by trimming out individual letters and sticking them over the errors, saving us from sending new copy back through.

But it was a job that would disappear long before my own did, as we moved to pagination, which meant we put the pages together on computers in the newsroom, and output them whole.

That wasn’t all Rayford was known for, though. An ex-boxer himself (he would end the process of applying type to the page with a BAM from his fist, which would be startling if you weren’t used to it), he had for years trained local young people in the art through Golden Gloves. He was such a good coach that a huge opportunity came his way: to coach the U.S.A Olympic boxing team in the 1980 games. His protege Jackie Beard had made the team, and they wanted Rayford on board, too.

We were all pretty excited for him. But then, the Russians invaded Afghanistan, and Jimmy Carter pulled us out of the Moscow Games. Raybord’s shot at the big time was crushed. I felt bad for him at the time, and I still do. But I don’t fault my man Jimmy for making the call he did. There are issues that are bigger than even the hopes and dreams of our friends. At least, that’s what I think, as a child of the Cold War. Maybe I’m wrong.

Anyway, Rayford still made his mark as a coach. When he died, he was celebrated for that, not for being a retired compositor after 45 years at the paper. We know he made it to the Olympics, even though the games were called off.

Anyway, these kids today are getting their shots.

Should they be? Should the Games have gone on? Are you following what’s happening over there, and rising and falling on this or that athlete’s accomplishments or lack thereof?

If so, I’m curious to hear about it…

5 thoughts on “Anyone watching the Olympics? Why?

  1. Barry

    Yes, watch them every night with my wife and teen daughter. Enjoying it immensely

    Don’t give a rip about anyone else’s opinion if they should be occurring or not. I could not care less.

  2. bud

    I’ve watched the games a lot. It’s so refreshing to have something to watch besides MLB and the NBA.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Wow. It would be so nice if I COULD watch MLB.

      The fact that I seldom can is the only thing I regret about not having cable. Of course, I don’t regret it enough to pay the absurd fee charged for that service…

  3. Bryan Caskey

    Yeah, the games going forward is the right call. Some of the athletes have a very short window in their life to be competitive. Cancelling the games for four years would have meant that many people who trained their whole lives in pursuit of the goal of representing their country in the games would have been irrevocably told all was in vain.

    As for watching? Yeah, I’ve casually watched a little. It’s always nice to see sports and competitions in things you don’t often see. Outside the Olympics, I don’t ever watch volleyball, swimming, archery, or cycling, or all stuff like that. However, the competition is great. If America is competing against anyone I’m here for it.

  4. Barry

    Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen,”

    “Handwritten notes taken by Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue in December and released on Friday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee painted a damning picture of Trump as he desperately sought to get the Justice Department to take the unprecedented step of intervening to try to upend his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden.

    The fact that the Justice Department let congressional investigators obtain the notes marked a dramatic shift from the Trump administration’s repeated assertion of executive privilege to skirt congressional scrutiny.

    “Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen,” Trump told Jeffrey Rosen, referring to Republicans, in a Dec. 27 phone call days before Rosen was appointed acting attorney general.”


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