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A headache ofOlympic proportion

Aug 17, 2004 6:30 AM

I spent a couple of hours the other night watching NBC’s mishmosh coverage of the Olympics, and turned off the tube with a host of questions.

Most pressing: Can this Olympics, with $5 billion or so in cost overruns and stadiums running from 25 to 70 percent of capacity, bankrupt Greece and can future ones survive economically? Will they want to?

Question 2: Do all those shiny new cars that pay TV’s freight really have wheels that spin backwards when the car is going forward? You would think a country that can get close-up pictures of the rings of Jupiter and have guys walking around the moon would be able to figure out a way to make the wheels go in the same direction as the car.

Question 3: Would the skilled oddsmakers of Las Vegas give me on a prop bet that those millionaire tourists (Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony) wandering around Greece as the U.S. basketball team that beat Puerto Rico by 25 points on July 31, would lose by 19 two weeks later! I spend most of my time with the horses, and a performance like that on the racetrack would call for immediate urine tests for reversal of form, or lack of effort, or both.

Question 4: Drowned and gasping after watching four seven-minute quarters of water polo, I wondered how guys 6-feet-6 and weighing 250 pounds, trying to strangle one another while treading water, swim for 28 minutes and survive? And why did the Croatian goalkeeper keep ducking underwater and disappearing every time the U.S. scored a goal in its dramatic 7-6 victory? Certainly he knew he had to come up for air sometime, and the cameras would still be on him.

Question 5: Does Bob Costas know something we don’t know about impending doom? He has a wide-eyed look of consternation, or apprehension, the entire time he is on camera, as if there were terrorists lurking outside the studio door and the Ridge alert has just gone from orange to red.

Besides those questions, and mildly dizzy from watching those water polo guys splashing back and forth, I grew totally nauseated from the more dizzying display of 35 or more different sponsors flashing across my screen in quick succession during the hour and a half I watched.

I know the Olympics cost a huge pile of dough to produce, but the eye and mind of the average man can separate and sort only a limited number of images. The crushing weight of repeated commercials, end to end and endless, became a form of self-flagellation.

Like a kid in school going to the blackboard and writing out a sentence 100 times as punishment, I started jotting notes, and after an hour of Olympic TV I came to this conclusion:

Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Cadillac, Kia, Buick, BMW and Chevy (that American Revolution) all are wonderful, insurable by Allstate or AIG, and can be financed by Financial Services or put on a Visa credit card. If you prefer a military vehicle that will withstand fire from insurgents in Iraq, there is Hummer. You can call from any of them with ATT, wash them with Palmolive, remove the wrinkles of worrying about them with Botox, stop them to eat at Chili’s and have a Bud Light.

If Tylenol doesn’t cure your headache, you can check in at GE Healthcare, fix your bruises with Neosporin, wash your hair with Alberto VO 5, get back in shape with Bally Fitness, go home and watch Donald Trump announcing his show was resuming after his bankruptcy, "Did You Miss Me?"

No, Donald, we did not miss you, but we will try very hard to miss you this fall. We also won’t miss not watching the rest of the Olympics on NBC. We’ll read about them in the newspaper, without the commercials. One of those commercials (we can’t remember which) blared, "Imagine the Olympic Games Without You," then said, "We can’t."

Please do.