Things That Muddle My Mind

There are any number of things that don’t seem to bother the rest of you that manage to keep me awake nights.  One of these is the Olympics.  Why, I find myself wondering, does the world every four years turn its entire attention to athletic events it will then totally ignore for the next four years?  I make no bones about the fact that I have no interest in the whole shebang, but how is it that the rest of you don’t suddenly start devoting the same attention to 12-year-old gymnasts, discus throwers and synchronized swimmers that I do to baseball if you find these and sundry matters so darn enthralling?

Next, why is it that you can’t wait to gorge yourself on roast turkey every Thanksgiving but don’t even think about having it on any of the other 364 days of the year?  I am even willing to bet that no condemned man ever ordered it for his last meal unless, of course, he was slated to meet his maker on the fourth Thursday in November.

This brings us, inevitably, to politics.  Of course with the 2012 presidential campaign being well under way, everything these days brings us inevitably to politics.  But what I specifically have in mind are Iowa and New Hampshire.  Now, please understand I have no problem with either place.  I once even spent a pleasant week in and around Des Moines.  But how was it determined that those two improbable states would be given so much importance?  I understand that for reasons I can’t quite fathom they get to kick off the primary season, but so what?  To me it makes about as much sense as inflating the importance of winning the coin toss at the start of a football game.

The plain facts are these: The Hawkeye State doesn’t even have a primary election, but merely a caucus at which a few hundred people get to root for their favorite candidate; while the Granite State is so small that in 2008, Obama and McCain divvied up a mere 701,528 votes.  Shoot, you get bigger turnouts than that in mayoral elections in a slew of American cities.

But if you listen to the various pundits, you would think that instead of Iowa and New Hampshire, it was California and Texas or at least Florida and New York that were up for grabs.  In the general election, Iowa and New Hampshire will account for a total of 11 electoral votes.  That would mean that even if one of the presidential candidates swept both of them, he or she would still have to rack up another 259 votes before collecting the keys to the White House.

Two other things keep gnawing at me.  How is it that people who drive around with bumper stickers that read “War is Not the Answer” aren’t the least bit embarrassed to be seen in public?  Of course, as most of us realize, there are many occasions when war is exactly the right answer.  There are also, I grant you, many occasions when it isn’t, as, for instance, when the question is “Who portrayed Dr. Watson to Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes?” or “Which team won the 2002 Super Bowl?”  (Because I don’t wish to cause any of you sleepless nights, the correct answers are Nigel Bruce and the New England Patriots, 20-17, over the St. Louis Rams.)

A related question that comes to mind is, why the hell are we still squandering money and lives in Afghanistan or Iraq?

For that matter, who are we to decide who should be running Libya?  Considering the presidents we’ve elected in the years since 1988, it’s clearly not something we’re good at.

©2011 Burt Prelutsky. Comments? Write Burt!
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Author Bio:

Burt Prelutsky, a very nice person once you get to know him, has been a humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine. As a freelancer, he has written for the New York Times, Washington Times, TV Guide, Modern Maturity, Emmy, Holiday, American Film, and Sports Illustrated. For television, he has written for Dragnet, McMillan & Wife, MASH, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Bob Newhart, Family Ties, Dr. Quinn and Diagnosis Murder. In addition, he has written a batch of terrific TV movies. View Burt’s IMDB profile. Talk about being well-rounded, he plays tennis and poker... and rarely cheats at either. He lives in the San Fernando Valley, where he takes his marching orders from a wife named Yvonne and a dog named Angel.
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  • JDO

    I (and, I know, many others) fell in love with Nadia Comaneci, when I saw her at the first Olympics I paid attention to (that is, probably the first my parents paid attention to), the Montreal Olympics in 1976. I was (almost) 10. She was 14. Yes, she was older. Yes, she was stuck in a Communist country thousands of miles away. Yes, she had no idea I existed. It didn’t matter, I was hooked. Since then, I’ve watched the Olympics every four years, but have devoted less and less time to them as I’ve gotten older (after all, after the 1984 Olympics, falling in “love” with a 13 or 14 year old girl would’ve been just wrong on my part, really wrong), but I still watch them.

    As you say, every four years we get to see people compete, at a very high level, at sports we’d never watch otherwise, and we get to celebrate their success or “feel” their failure. People who we’d have never heard of without the Olympics. People we hardly ever hear of after the Olympics (until the next one, for some of them), other than the occasional boxer or two (I’m not counting our “amateur” basketball team). It’s a “good feeling” thing to watch these people that have trained all their lives, some from countries you hardly ever hear from, to have this opportunity for a few minutes, or even seconds, of glory in front of the entire world. Any parent who has spent hours taking their kids to Little League or swim team or whatever can relate (somewhat, of course, not totally) to the proud parents of the Olympic winners. If you’re younger, you can dream of one day standing on that podium, representing your entire country, and receiving your medal. At this point in my life, I might still have a chance in the air rifle competition … that is, if I actually owned one, but the chance is still there!

    The Olympics is still special. It’s a lot of hard work all in the pursuit of a hope and a dream, and it’s nice to see that it doesn’t matter what country you’re from, we all can share in the same thing … for at least a little while.

  • Paul Borden

    USA Today is at least partly responsible for the emphasis on the Olympics. When the paper started, the sports editor realized he didn’t have a hometown team for the newspaper to follow. So, he once told me, they decided the Olympics would be the paper’s hometown team. Of course, TV coverage also has contributed greatly, though not in my house. I don’t care remotely about most of these sports the rest of the year, as you noted is the case with many people. Why should I every four years? But if you look back, most of the Olympic hoopla has its roots in the 1980s, when USA Today was coming on the scene.

  • Clarence De Barrows

    Bravo, Bruce: I was feeling a little down, but you made my day with that one – I spit my coffee all over the computer screen!

  • Bruce A.

    Heres something else to muddle your mind.
    Why does the ATM in the drive thru. lane at the bank I use have braile on the keys?