I think they're making up some of these sports here at the Olympics. I'm thinking specifically of "team handball."
This is not the kind of handball wherein two guys take turns whacking a little rubber ball against a wall. This is a sport wherein 12 guys race up and down a court, trying to throw a medium-size ball into a net while shouting in Swedish.
At least that's what they did at the game I saw, which was between Sweden and Switzerland. You don't think of these as being particularly in-your-face nations, but there was definitely some finger-pointing and trash-talking going on out there. I don't know exactly what they were saying, but the gist seemed to be "Take THAT, Chocolate Boy!" and "Our nation is more neutral than in yours is, Volvo-breath!"
Never miss a local story.
But my point is, did you ever hear of "team handball?" Neither did I. I think some guys just got together and invented this "sport" so they could come to the Olympics and lounge around the Olympic Village in cool warmup suits and try to pick up cute women gymnasts. (This would be easy, since the average woman gymnast is the size and weight of a Pez dispenser.)
I think that for an activity to qualify as an Olympic sport, it must meet the strict criterion of being some activity that I, personally, used to have to do in gym class. By this criterion, there would be no "team handball," nor would there be "air pistol," nor would there be any of those sports that sound like prescription drugs, such as "heptathlon." These would be replaced by traditional gym-class sports such as Dodge Ball, the Dreaded Rope Climb, the Squat Thrust, the Men's Towel Snap and "Spud."
One Olympic sport that definitely meets the gym-class criterion is volleyball, although they don't play it the same way here. For one thing, the server hits the ball from a completely different area code. Also, the players spike the ball so hard that it sometimes penetrates deep into floor, leaving behind only a smoking crater. Also, you keep waiting for somebody to yell "rotate," but nobody does.
The match I saw was between the U.S. and Chinese women's teams. There were some actual Chinese people in the stands, waving Chinese flags and chanting "Chi-NA! Chi-NA!" I tried to get the people around me to chant "WE HAVE FAR SUPERIOR TOILET FACILITIES! FAR SUPERIOR TOILET FACILITIES!" But the crowds here consist mostly of Southerners, who are generally too polite to attack another nation's plumbing.
There were, however, two guys with serious New York accents sitting in front of me, and as the game progressed, and the Chinese women (who are REALLY good) started stomping the U.S. team, the New Yorkers, showing the spirit that has made their city the world's pre-eminent producer of hand gestures, began shouting loud remarks about the Chinese team, including:
* "They're ROBOTIC! During the timeout, I saw one of the trainers CHANGING THEIR LEGS!"
* "I'm gonna go to a Chinese restaurant tonight and NOT LEAVE A TIP!"
Building international resentment: That's what the Olympic spirit is all about. And speaking of resentment, it's time for our:
* TRANSPORTATION UPDATE: The Olympic organizers are asking all residents of North or South America to please look out your window immediately. If you see an Olympic shuttle bus, please call the Olympic Transportation Hotline at 1-800-CLUELESS. Thank you.
* URGENT LATE-BREAKING BULLETIN: The U.S. Men's Water Polo team has players named "Kyle Kopp" and "Wolf Wigo."