Unimpressive Olympic Sports of Yore

Every two years, I always watch in awe of the Olympians who are the greatest athletes in their respective sports. “How do you throw a javelin stick that far?” “How do you run so fast so far in less than 10 seconds?” “How are you doing a proper push-up on a v high bar?” “How are you swimming a marathon in the sea with jellyfish?” “Is this the best way for a human to get down a mountain?” These are just a few questions I ask myself when tuning in to these Games. Of course the skill level of any Olympian is impressive, but the athletes of the first Olympiad are amateurs compared to those in 2018. This improvement is so drastic in some sports that it seems ridiculous to even call it an Olympic sport. For example: Men’s vault in 1932 (see video here).

Homeboy just leaped over the vault while the South Korean dude did a bunch of flip-a-doos (technical term, don’t worry about it), and I guarantee you the crowds at both Olympics had their jaws dropped.

Let’s look at some early figure skating. Herma Szabo was undeniably graceful, but this barely looks like a warmup in modern terms:

 

Here are a few more sports from back in the day that aren’t as impressive as they are now. Also, I’m convinced we can do half of these if we tried really hard.

Tug of War

Tug of War is obviously not a sport anymore, and maybe it’s because it doesn’t require a lot of technical skill? Yes, you need extreme strength, but if it’s a sport kids play in elementary school when the gym teacher doesn’t really want to put too much effort in, it shouldn’t be a real sport.

Women’s Team Gymnastics

The sport of gymnastics has come far from the 1900s. Back then, large groups of gymnasts represented each country and took to the center of an outdoor field to do… gymnastics? Or rather really graceful dance/tai chi movements. Meanwhile, the men performed on actual apparatus like vault and parallel bars. See: The Margaret Abbott Awards.

Water Motorsports

Literal motorboating was only a sport at the 1908 Olympics, and it was discontinued for good reason – officials decided they were not ready for motorized competition. The race was comprised of five laps around an eight nautical mile course. Unlike a water sport like kayaking, athletes didn’t have hurdles or gates they had to clear, and also they had the assistance of a motor. I mean, have you seen the arms on Olympic rowers?

Croquet

Is it because I don’t understand why croquet is a thing people play in the first place? Yeah, probably. Like motorboating, croquet only lasted once, played during the 1900 Summer Games in Paris. Those French, man.

Live Pigeon Shooting

Look. We hate pigeons too, but this just seems a little extra. The 1900 gold medalist killed a whopping 21 pigeons. RIP.

Alpinism

When we were teens, one of our favorite gym class units was “orienteering.” Basically, we were sent into the large field between our school and our school’s abandoned priest mansion with a compass and had to follow directions. It was arguably athletic (we walked?) but definitely not a sport. Alpinism is like the Olympic version of that. In short, they climbed a mountain. Impressive, yes. Sport? Nah.

This event was a real stretch because they didn’t blow a whistle and send a pack of athletes up a mountain. That would have been the Agro Crag, and we would have loved it. They just awarded medals to whoever had climbed a mountain the best since the last Olympics. Medals were awarded during the winter games in 1924 and the summer games in 1932 and 1936.

Rope Climbing

The good news is this isn’t a crowd of Victorians standing in front of a gallows. The bad news is you can no longer get an Olympic medal for climbing a big rope. This event actually made it through 5 Olympics. 1904 winner George Eyser even had one wooden leg! And from the looks of it, two skinned hands.

Tandem Cycling

Tandem cycling – AKA two men on a bicycle built for two – was an Olympic event for decades. We’d argue that it was objectively the most adorable of all Olympic events and hereby ship every damn one of these 1924 couples.

Ski Joring

If you asked me what ‘joring’ is, I’d probably answer “not sure, but it sounds like an old activity from the 1920s.” And it is! In the 1928 Olympics athletes were pulled on skis by horses. That’s what joring is. Also, this looks like (a) a blast and (b) a sport that takes place right where you’re NOT supposed to hang out in relation to a horse.

Ski Ballet

Not only was ski ballet a thing, ski ballet was a thing until 2000! And while doing ballet on skis truly IS impressive, all I can picture is a clumsy mess with skis, arms and legs akimbo.

Military Patrolling

In a nutshell, people cross-country ski with heavy backpacks and then they shoot rifles, but not at anybody. To be very honest, if this sport would help certain people feel like they’ve proven that their country has good army men without getting into a nuclear war or putting those army men in actual danger, I am very for it.

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Where Are They Now: 2016 Summer Olympians

As we begin the last Friday of Summer 2016, I think most of us are ready to say goodbye and good riddance to the past 3 months. The news was almost always terrible, the weather – where I live, anyway – was the hottest and driest on record, and we didn’t even have a really good summer anthem. The best part of the summer: those two weeks we spent watching the Olympic Games. I STILL feel like I’m in Olympics withdrawal.

Since we’re closing the books on summer, I think it’s time to catch up on where our favorite (and not) Rio Olympians are now:

Simone Biles

Then: Simone helped Team USA achieve gymnastics gold, then went on to grab the individual all-around gold as well. She seems like a really fantastic person on top of it. And she met Zac Efron!

Now: Simone is leading the Final Five again – this time in a bid to host Saturday Night Live. Yes, please? I don’t even need them to be good. She also met Beyonce at the VMAs! What a year to be Simone Biles.

Usain Bolt

Then: Jamaican runner and fastest man in the world Usain Bolt snagged three gold medals.

Now: It appears that he has met some ladies.

Laurie Herandez

Then: Laurie, human emoji, quickly became one of our favorite athletes with her sunny attitude, sassy wink to the judges and self-assured reminder that she’s got this. She helped win team gold and took individual silver on the beam. We just love her.

Now: As much as I want to skip Dancing With The Stars (as per usual) due to Ryan Lochte, I think I have to watch: Laurie will be paired up with Val Chmerkovskiy. Anything that keeps this ray of sunshine on our tv screens, right? Like Simone, she also met Beyonce at the VMAs.

Katie Ledecky

Then: Ledecky, 19, took home four gold medals, one silver medal, and smashed a world record – that she set herself. What a superstar.

Now: Katie is already packing up those medals and is off to her Freshman year at Stanford. And to think I dreamed of having a freshman year roommate who brought a piece of the AgroCrag to the dorm (never happened). She threw out a pitch at a Nationals game, visited school kids and a children’s hospital, and met Bruce Springsteen after a concert. All in all, not a bad summer.

Ryan Lochte

Then: Lochte won gold, then created an international incident by lying about getting robbed and vandalizing a gas station, but also maybe really DID get robbed according to other sources. Jeah. We’re attracted to him? We’re not attracted to him.

Now: Lochte, whose jeans are ugly, per GQ, has lost four of his commercial sponsors. But don’t worry: he’ll be back on your screen in no time as part of the new cast of Dancing With The Stars! He’s paired with Cheryl Burke, who doesn’t feel very jeah about it.

Michael Phelps

Then: Decrepit 30-year-old man Michael Phelps (according to the NBC announcers) somehow managed to hurl his arthritic bones into the pool and eke out five gold medals and a silver. Not bad for a geezer wheeled in off the dementia ward, all told.

Now: It’s more like what ISN’T Michael Phelps doing now. He presented an award at the VMAs, everyone chanted USA, and I was flipped headlong into a bout of Olympics Nostalgia. He played a game with Jimmy Fallon and made fun of his poolside grumpy face. He went to a party at Aunt Becky (AKA Lori Loughlin)’s house. He even earned a Lifetime Achievement Wheaties box!

Fu Yuanhui

Then: This adorable Chinese swimmer won hearts the world over with her overjoyed reaction to winning bronze, and very casually mentioned that she had her period during a race which I’m pretty sure is the first time I’ve heard an athlete say that.

Now: Along with a delegation of athletes, Fu visited Hong Kong for the first time for a diplomatic visit. She’s always wanted to visit Hong Kong Disney but explained that they were visiting for a more important purpose and it would have to wait for next time. For the love of all that’s good, SOMEBODY get this sweetheart tickets to Disney! Can you IMAGINE this girl in Disney?! Come on now.

Goodbye, Rio: Olympics GIF Wrap Up

The 31st Olympiad has come to a close and it lived up to everything the Games are supposed to be. It was inspiring, heart-wrenching and downright bizarre. We quite literally laughed, cried, and learned about life every single day of the Games. In two weeks we saw children perform almost superhuman athletic feats – and we saw a few adults old enough to be their parents do the same. We marveled at the way a talented competitor can affect society beyond the bounds of mere sport. We saw international friendships form and international scandals break. Zac Efron was there. Leslie Jones was there. As always, the Olympics were a display of athleticism, drive and international cooperation that simply defied words. But where words fail us, gifs do not. Let’s look back at the Rio Games with the clips, quips and reaction shots that will come to define your tumblr dash in the weeks to come:

The pride of Brazil, Gisele Bunchen, showed off her walking skills at the opening ceremony. And then she danced with the commoners in a gold, sequined jumpsuit, because that’s what they do in Brazil

First of all, these people on bikes leading each of the countries in. It’s next level Ms. Frizzle. Second, this is the most recognizable flag bearer in the world – Oiled Up Dude From Tonga. He became so popular that he even made a second appearance in the closing ceremony by dancing on stage.

For the first time, a team comprised of refugees from around the world competed in the Games, and what you can’t see in this gif is us letting out the first of many tears shed throughout the Olympics.

Best cauldron ever?

#Teammates

tfw when you lift a shit ton of weight & manage to not smash it on your head

Argentina’s Juan Martín del Potro unexpectedly gave Britain’s Andy Murray a run for the gold, but the four hour match ended in favor of the Brit, leaving underdog del Potro in tears. It was heartbreaking.

Super underdog Monica Puig, who ranked 34th in the world, managed to win gold in women’s tennis – and the first gold for Puerto Rico. Add a notch to the cry count.

As soon as we work through the language barrier, our girl Fu is gonna be our next best friend.

Simone Manuel became the first black woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming competition in the history of the Olympics and this moment when she found out she won the 100m freestyle will forever go down in my favorite Olympics moments ever. She was an underdog and came from behind, but more importantly, she now stands as a hero to all black swimmers, in a sport which was rooted in racism in the U.S.

Katie Ledecky slayed so hard, her closest competition barely fit in the same shot.

This is going to be one of those memes that will resurface again in a wave of nostalgia in about two and a half years.

Well.

Oblig Michael Phelps Section

It’s no leaking goggles disaster of ’08, but it’s still pretty stressful. In the middle of the 4×200 relay, Phelps’ cap breaks into two, forcing him to borrow teammate Connor Dwyer’s cap (he went first in the relay). What’s most fascinating to me is that when it broke, you could tell he said, ‘DANG IT!”. I can think of at least 5 other curse words I’d say in succession if that ever happened to me.

#Phlochte

You’ve seen this already. See it again.

And this is why Michael Phelps leaves the trash talking out and does work inside the pool. Suck it Le Clos.

*Look at where you are. Look at where you started.*

These three rivals may have tied for silver (after being edged out by a young whippersnapper) but they win the gold in the most awkward hand holding medal ceremony ever. Seriously, the history between these three is epic. Look it up.

Ryan Held. Sweet cinnamon roll. Enjoy it bud.

GOD BLESS THIS CAMERA MAN.

For some reason err’body was proposing to their loved ones at this Olympics, including this Olympics volunteer who proposed to her Brazilian rugby player girlfriend after the first-ever rugby game was played at the Olympics. If you can’t tell, she tied a ribbon around her finger, so that’s officially my fave proposal of the Games.

This Chinese diver also got in the action by proposing to his GF after she won a diving medal of her own. This is the most reserved ‘Yes’ I’ve ever seen in my life.

Japan’s Risako Kawai won the gold medal in wrestling and if you thought she was tired after winning – she wasn’t. She flipped her coach in celebration. Watch the vid to see what she did next.

Any time I see athletes from North Korea doing not so well in the Olympics I get nervous for them and their return home. But in this moment, I felt nothing but pride an unity as two gymnasts from North and South Korea stopped to take a selfie during competition. This is what the Olympics is all about, folks.

Oblig Final Five Section

New patron saint of this blog: Laurie Hernandez

Also our new mantra we’re telling ourselves in the mirror each morning.

Lynn & Rick Raisman, never change.

CRY COUNT: WHO KNOWS ANYMORE.

It’s almost as if we CGIed this.

MAYBE MY FAVORITE THING TO COME OUT OF THESE OLYMPICS.

After the gymnastics competition is over, they have a gala, which is basically an exhibition of gymnasts who won medals, but also showcased possible events like synchronized trampoline and Tokyo 2020 sport, karate. The gala is known to be way more casual – enter American Danell Leyva, who won silver on the parallel bars. He decided to go all Magic Mike on the crowd and did this. Where my Brazilian Reals at to make it rain on him???

Ok, not a GIF, but if you’ve ever wondered how the field athletes get their various items back (discus, shotputs, javelins, etc.), a remote control car is used to zoom across the field. It is wild.

No, this Japanese pole vaulter’s junk was not the reason he couldn’t clear the bar.

Allyson Felix lost out on the gold by a mere dive across the finish line.

JK this might be my favorite story from the Olympics. When an American track runner falls and a New Zealand competitor stops to help her up. And they cross the finish line together. They even got a rare medal of sportsmanship from officials, so there’s another cry count for the books.

Fierce women sweep their way up to the podium.

Oblig Usain Bolt Section

Friendship goals

And then a Malaysian diver did this. Oops.

Brazil had the most epic win at the Olympics, and even though I care not for soccer, this brought me to tears multiple times.

Gold medal for most supportive American athletes : superstars of the basketball team. They were spotted in the stands to cheer on Michael Phelps and Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross, among others, and always looked so incredibly hype and proud of their fellow athletes.

The U.S. Men’s basketball team scored yet another gold medal, and this is why I need to be friends (slash date) every single one of them. Deandre Jordan, I’m looking at you.

the time when the prime minister of japan lit’rally popped up from a mario tube to help introduce Tokyo 2020. We are ready for Japan.

and of course, this guy.

 

Point/Counterpoint: I’m Attracted to Ryan Lochte

This is Ryan Lochte:

This is also Ryan Lochte:

But if you’ve been paying attention to Olympic swimming since 2008 or watch reality TV or have paid any attention to the news over the past few days, you already know who this is. Ryan’s been embroiled in a bizarre case of “Who’s Telling The Truth”, after he and three other members of the U.S. Olympic swimming team (Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger) stopped at a gas station to use the bathroom after a night out. One of them “committed an act of vandalism” and as a result, they got into an argument with two armed gas station security staff who brandished their weapons. They demanded the swimmers to give them money for the repairs of said vandalism, and once they gave them money, they were allowed to leave. In Lochte’s version, says they got held up at gunpoint by men pretending to be Brazilian police. All this in Rio, a city that was already plagued with rumors of its criminal activity.

It’s truly one of the most outrageous stories to ever come out of the Olympics, but in a nutshell, this is what’s happened so far after Ryan came forward with his story:

  • Each of the four guys gave their testaments to Rio police, but a Brazilian judge says they gave contradictory reports.
  • That same judge ordered Lochte and Feigen to remain in Brazil as authorities continued their investigation. She also ordered a search and seizure warrants for Lochte and Feigen’s passports, but Lochte had already landed on U.S. soil. Feigen is still in Brazil and in touch with local authorities.
  • Lochte’s lawyer said he already gave a statement to the police and offered to cooperate, while reps from the U.S. State Department, United States Olympic Committee and the FBI looked on. Shit got real. At the time, they didn’t ask him for more info, and didn’t ask him to stay in Brazil.
  • Meanwhile, Bentz and Conger were pulled off their flight in Brazil on Wednesday night & were interviewed by police. Police told media they gave statements denying they were victims of a robbery, and Lochte’s version of the events were not true. They were released and free to go back to the U.S.
  • Security footage surfaced showing the men at the gas station
  • Both Brazilians and the U.S. swimmers all agree on one thing: a gun was taken out during the incident at the gas station, and money was exchanged.
  • While they could face criminal charges, it’s unlikely.

What. Is. Going. On? Who’s telling the truth? Are Lochte and co. victims of attempted robbery, with Rio police trying to save face? Or are the U.S. swimmers swimming in B.S.? As the investigation on #LochteGate continues, another mystery has come to our attention – the fact that maybe, just maybe, we might be semi-attracted to Ryan Lochte? Using evidence gathered throughout the years, we argue the pros and cons, point and counterpoint of why this man could be our favorite male sex symbol at the moment.

Point: I am attracted to Ryan Lochte

Sometimes I think I really missed out on picking up swimming as an extra-curricular.

Counterpoint: I am unattracted to Ryan Lochte

No. No to the grills.

Point: This is Ryan Lochte

Counterpoint: Ryan Lochte caused a diplomatic crisis

Is Sarah Koenig already recording phone calls with Jack Conger in Brazil, or…?

Point: His relationship with Michael Phelps

We just like it when cute boys hold hands, okay? All right, this might be like 70% Phelps that we’re feeling.

Counterpoint: His relationship with his mom.

In 2012, Ryan Lochte’s mom bragged about how many one-night stands he had. There’s also a theory that Ryan’s current snafu (/diplomatic crisis/ waste of government resources) is due to him lying to his ma about what went down during his wild night out. I think we can all agree that those guys whose moms back up their terrible choices well into adulthood are not the ones you should spend your time on.

Point: This smile.

Counterpoint: That hair.

The smile was an accident of birth. The hair was a choice.

Point: Kind of funny, sometimes.

Counterpoint: But like. Not on purpose.

Point: Knows the words to the national anthem?

Counterpoint: Spelled the word scissor “siccor.”

Point: Knowing he could be the man of your dreams

Counterpoint: Knowing he understands (kinda) what dreams are

Point: He has a boylike charm to him

It can be endearing!

Counterpoint: He has a teenage boylike demeanor to him

Ryan Lochte is like that guy in high school that was uber athlete and would want to cheat off your test so he could play in the game/meet that night and is not the sharpest tool in the shed.

Point: He’s an inspiration to young swimmers

In the photo above, Ryan is legit putting the gold medal he won at the World Short Course Swimming Championships in 2012 around the neck of a nine-year-old Turkish fan. Lochte explained that when he was younger, he asked an unnamed Olympian for his autograph, but he said no. Lochte promised to never do that in his career.

Counterpoint: His inspirational quotes aren’t that… inspirational?

I continue to get life from this video.

Point: He’s one of the best swimmers of our time

If you’re one of Michael Phelps’ biggest rivals, you’re pretty good.

Counterpoint: Jeah

Playlist of the Month: National Anthems

Obscure individual sports aren’t the only thing we care about once every four years during the Olympics. We’re also temporarily interested in a musical category that we don’t bother with otherwise: national anthems. National anthems always sound kind of like church music and kind of like an easy classical piece you’d play in a 4th grade band concert. The lyrics – even when you speak the language – are all run-on sentences and jingoism. Yet when gold-medal athletes tear up during their national anthems, we can’t help but get a little emotional. As residents of a country with a hard-to-sing, hard-to-remember national anthem, we also have some anthem envy. We still love the Star- Spangled Banner for sentimental reasons, but these non-US anthems have become the soundtrack to our Olympic games:

Great Britain

Heard at medal ceremonies for: Cycling, Rowing, Gymnastics, Swimming, Track

You know why Americans co-opted this song and changed the lyrics to a crazy run-on sentence in My Country ‘Tis Of Thee? Because it is a 17th century plainchant melody for which various lyrics were used to accommodate numerous secular or religious purposes. Because the melody sounds so much better than The Star-Spangled Banner. Thanks, Great Britain. You’re the greatest. The lyrics are still kind of dopey – rhyming victorious, glorious and over us? – so it loses points there.

Switzerland

Heard at medal ceremonies for: Cycling, Rowing

Switzerland: so peaceful, their national anthem sounds like a nice lullaby. Have I made up lyrics that begin “Go to sleep, my Switzerland?” Yes. And you know what? I hope gentle, sleepy Switzerland rests well.

Italy

Heard at medal ceremonies for: Shooting, Fencing, Judo, Swimming, Cycling

Are you positive we’re not on a carousel? I don’t know about you, but I like my national anthems to make me feel like I’m enjoying a nice summer day at an amusement park by the seashore.

Oh Canada

 

Heard at medal ceremonies for: Swimming, Trampoline, Track and Field

Being from the part of NY that’s near Canada, you can count on a few things. Tim Hortons outnumber Starbucks in my city, I struggle at least weekly to get machines to accept Canadian coins, and I know Oh Canada about as well as I know the Star-Spangled Banner. A few of my nephews even sing Oh Canada (and the Star-Spangled Banner) before their living room hockey games. Anyway, if you’re from the north or watch a lot of hockey, you probably have some anthem envy for Oh Canada, especially the True North strong and free part.

Russia

Heard at medal ceremonies for: Fencing, Judo, Gymnastics

Is this the score played over the opening credits of an animated movie about Russia? I’ve never seen Anastasia (I know), but I’m assuming their national anthem is was the soundtrack sounds like.

China

Heard at medal ceremonies for: Weightlifting, Diving, Table Tennis

China’s bouncy and uplifting national anthem sounds like the theme song from Bonanza. Just imagine country hero Jackie Chan riding a horse through the country and galloping on the Great Wall. I think I was watching the live stream for a swimming medal ceremony, and the Australian commentator said, “It’s kind of a smart anthem, isn’t it?”, and the other Aussie replied, “Yeah it’s punchy.” Fair.

Hungary

Heard at medal ceremonies for: Swimming and Fencing

My initial thought was that this song could easily be used for a pairs figure skating routine, then started thinking that Hungary could be really good at ice skating? My thought process makes no sense, because I know barely anything about Hungary besides… goulash? Ugh ignorant American, so sorry. Anyways, they’ve only won 6 medals at the Winter Olympics, and all have been for figure skating. What I’m saying is that Hungarians love figure skating so much they incorporated it into their national anthem. But also they could have been inspired by their love of 1950s Disney films.

Thailand

Heard at medal ceremonies for: Weightlifting

Thailand’s anthem is so patriotic sounding that it’s one of those songs that makes me think I know the lyrics. I don’t.

Japan

Heard at medal ceremonies for: Swimming, Gymnastics

If I said John Williams composed this would you believe me? Yes, because this is exactly the type of track he’d make for a Steven Spielberg movie set during Japanese war times. For the record, he didn’t compose this.

 

The Margaret Abbott Awards For Baffling Treatment of Female Olympians

There’s been a lot of talk surrounding the sexism that’s been happening at the Olympics over the past week, with men being “responsible” for female athletes’ victories and descriptors such as “wife of famous football player”, etc. So with this in mind, we decided to take a look back at the history of females at the Olympics, and we have learned a lot, y’all.

First of all, despite the fact the first Olympics kicked off in Athens in 1896, women were not included in the competition. Obviously. It wasn’t until 1900 when the second Games were held in Paris and 22 of the 997 athletes were females. They eased into the competition by only participating in “ladylike” sports such as golf, tennis and yachting.

Among the athletes was golfer Margaret Abbott, who was the first American woman to win an Olympic event (she even beat out her novelist mother Mary Abbott, who placed seventh). But we can’t even call her a “gold medalist”, because the 19000 Games were the only Olympics at which winner received valuable artifacts instead of the gold, silver or bronze. Instead, Margaret went home with a porcelain bowl.  On the plus side, there was some gold in it…?

But the gag here friends is that Margaret didn’t even realize she was competing in the Olympics. She lit’rally died not knowing she was a “gold medalist”, let alone the first female to win such an honor. Since it was just the second Olympics ever, the Games were more or less what we call a “shit show”. First of all, they took place over a five-month period between May and October during the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris. The French sports union decided they were in charge because the Games were taking place at the World’s Fair. The International Olympic Committee, which was fairly new at the time, was all, ‘I guess they’re right, we should give them control’. Because of this, most of the Olympic Games didn’t even have the word “Olympics” attached to it, with the press using terms such as “International Championships” or “Grand Prix of the Paris Exposition”.

So it makes sense Margaret thought it was just another competition like any other. She died in 1955, and it wasn’t until after her passing that historical research established the event and her win as an official Olympics victory. Can you imagine?? Mags is a historical figure in the world of sports and she probably just used that porcelain bowl to serve her husband a fresh summer salad!

While women’s sports has clearly come a long way since 1900 (thankfully that long skirt uniform has been done away with), we’ve still got some ways to go with equality, and that’s unfortunately been prominent in Rio over the past few days.

In recognition of Margaret and her lack of knowledge as an Olympian, we’ve decided to introduce The Abbies in honor of her achievements that went unrecognized – by giving it to the folks who have made some questionable sexist comments throughout the Games so far. Just like the 1900 Games, we’re handing out bowls, but these are based on level of baffling commentary from critics who should just take a seat. With these bowls at their side.

Gold Bowl = Ultimate dirtbag in dirtbaggery contest

Silver Bowl = Sucks the big one

Bronze Bowl = Still not OK, but willing to let slide


Dan ‘He’s Responsible’ Hicks

Longtime NBC commentator Dan Hicks hit headlines after the 400m individual medley in swimming, when Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu won the gold but also shattered the previous world record. During the program, he noted that Katinka’s husband and coach, Shane Tusup is “the man responsible” for making his wife the swimming champion she is today. Viewers were quick to take note of Dan’s wording, because, homegirl just killed it in the pool, yet this dry dude on the sidelines is “responsible” for the gold medal? OK. Dan Hicks later clarified his comments, saying, “It is impossible to tell Katinka’s story accurately without giving appropriate credit to Shane, and that’s what I was trying to do.”

There’s also more of a backstory with this couple, because apparently Shane’s poolside enthusiasm can turn scary, with other swimmers noting his extreme anger, calling it “inappropriate” and “not OK”. But again, Dan Hicks has an interesting view on his hard love, “It’s been a little disturbing to some of the other swimmers who have observed it,” he said on-air, according to the AP. “But he has turned her into a tiger in the pool.”

Dan Hicks is awarded… The GOLDEN ABBIE

Perfect for: The blood, sweat, and tears of Katinka, Shane Tusup in mini-form to stay afloat for all eternity

The Journalist Who Wrote This Headline

“Corey Cogdell, wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein, wins bronze in Rio”, is what Tim Bannon wrote as the headline to his article on Monday. Listen, as someone who writes news for a living, I have to play devil’s advocate here. This is a story for the Chicago Tribute, where the Chicago Bears are the kings and a point of reference that everyone reading will get. If his headline read, “Corey Cogdell wins bronze in Rio” everyone would be like, ‘WHO?’ ‘WHY DO WE CARE?’ then move on to the next article. Their angle is that Bears fans would be interested in someone close to the Bears organization is a medallist in the Olympics. That being said, I also understand why there has been such an uproar about this. She’s obviously much more than a football player’s wife and is her own person. It’s akin to when we say things like, “Calvin Harris’ ex-girlfriend, Taylor Swift” as opposed to “Multiple Grammy-winning artist Taylor Swift”. It subconsciously tells the reader that the person the article really is about is a secondary character in the narrative, which is clearly not the case. It’s just a necessary evil to write things like this sometimes.

Chicago Tribune Writer is awarded… The BRONZE ABBIE

Perfect for: A selection of better words

It’s About To Be A What? A Girl Fight

(Sidenote: do y’all remember that Girlfight song? No? Ok, moving on) Majlinda Kelmendi of Kosovo became the country’s first ever Olympic medallist after winning the gold in judo, which according to a BBC commentator is not a sport, but rather a “catfight”. Or at least that’s what he described the match as. A “CATFIGHT”.

BBC Commentator is awarded… The GOLD ABBIE

Perfect for: The remains of the BBC commentator if he ever had to be in a real “Catfight” with gold medallist Majlinda.

“Female Michael Phelps”

Katie Ledecky, 19 years old,  won four gold medals and a silver in the 2016 Olympics. She set a world record for the 400-meter freestyle … then she broke it herself. She finished the 800-meter freestyle so quickly that she had 11 seconds to cool her heels before the silver medalist even reached the wall. All of this is enough for the Daily Mail to name Ledecky the “female Michael Phelps.” For its part, NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines remarked that “some people say she swims like a man” before telling us why that’s false. Few things here:

A.) “Some people say” is a tired vehicle for introducing opinions a journalist or commentator doesn’t want to own (see also: “some people say women aren’t funny” in any interview with a female comedian).

B.) “Some people” need to stop saying a woman does something “like a man” when she does it well. Clearly Katie Ledecky swims like a woman since she, you know, is one.

These Male Rita Skeeters are awarded… The SILVER ABBIE

Perfect for: Serving alphabet soup so they can figuratively eat their words.

NBC Doesn’t Think Female Sports Fans Exist

Annoyed by NBC’s tape delay and bizarrely packaged primetime coverage? Blame women. According to NBC chief marketing officer and slant-smiled bag of dirt John Miller, we wanted it this way so the Olympic events would remind us less of sports and more of the Bachelorette: “The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one.”

NBC also broadcasts NFL football (45% female viewership) and NHL hockey (42% female viewership). But since they don’t think women are “particularly sports fans,” perhaps they wouldn’t miss nearly half of their audience if we went elsewhere.

John Miller is awarded … The GOLD ABBIE

Perfect for: Potpourri made of the discarded petals of past rose ceremonies.

Let’s Go To The Mall!

The U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team – the Final Five – are a group of powerhouse athletes who easily won the team gold medal, the gold and silver all-around individual medals, the vault gold and the beam silver and bronze. In addition to their superhuman strength and tremendous drive, the teammates are kind and supportive of each other, offering hugs and encouraging words because when one of them succeeds, they all succeed. Or, in the words of NBC gymnastics announcer Jim Watson when the team was talking among themselves on the sidelines, “they might as well be standing around at the mall.”

While we always welcome an opportunity to burst into a chorus of Let’s Go To The Mall, we have to point out that these athletes don’t really hit the mall too often what with their focus on world domination. Watson followed up “Don’t boys hang out in malls too? I did.” They do, but something tells me Jim wouldn’t have said the same thing about, for instance, the US men’s basketball team.

Jim Watson is awarded …. the SILVER ABBIE

Perfect for: Serving Orange Julius, one of the premier mall foods.

 

 

Trolls Go Low

During the Olympics it’s fine to express your opinions on the games and the athletes on social media — within the bounds of decency. If you’re complaining about or even complimenting someone in a way you wouldn’t face-to-face, don’t @ them and theoretically force them to respond. And if the range of things you WOULD say to someone’s face includes racist or sexist insults, don’t @ them then either… in fact, don’t write it at all. During the games, some viewers have decided that Gabby Douglas was disrespectful to the flag or unsupportive of her team. That, alone, isn’t really the problem. It’s the onslaught of truly vile Twitter trolling that has followed.

Considering the trolling has included the complaints that Douglas doesn’t smile enough, needs to change her hair or has had breast implants, it’s safe to say that the online harassment has taken a gendered edge.

The Internet is awarded … the Silver Abbie

Perfect for: A nice helping of Alphabits cereal, any random 140 characters from which you could create better tweets.

Fox News Had To Say Something Too

It wouldn’t be a celebration of journalistic disappointments if Fox News didn’t crash the party. Fox, a network that doesn’t broadcast the Olympic games, got in on the action with a segment about whether or not female athletes should wear makeup. Sure! Or don’t! Who cares!

On their website, Fox News frames the question as why female athletes “feel the need” to wear makeup, as though they might not just want to. Or not. Again, who cares.

Weighing in on the issue: Bo Dietl and Mark Simone, two men.

Fox News is awarded…. the GOLD ABBIE

Perfect for: stashing some nice cold cream to take all that makeup off. I prefer good old Pond’s.


We’d love to call this our first and last Margaret Abbott Awards For Baffling Treatment Of Female Olympians, but let’s be real. This picture of Margaret Abbott was taken over 100 years ago, and seems to depict her standing around waiting for a man to get with it.

Friends, I think she’s still waiting. Chances are, we’ll be back at it awarding another round of Abbies for the 2018 Winter Olympic games. And possibly for regular sports before that. Change is coming, but if ol’ Maggie Abbott has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes you have to wait 50 years to find out what that porcelain bowl was for.

Mid-Olympics Round Up

It seems like the Opening Ceremonies just happened, but we are now halfway through the 2016 Olympic Games. Crazy, right? We like our athletic competitions with a heavy dose of pop culture and human interest stories – so while most Olympics recaps will focus on who won what, we’re more interested in the hilarious, inspiring and hard-to-believe moments of the games. Here’s our round up of some of the most captivating moments of the Rio games so far:

Tonga Changed Lives

Dropping The Racket And Getting The Point

Raise your hand if you would’ve just given up and fell to the ground in agonizing defeat.

I Don’t Think The Leg’s Supposed To Bend That Way

French gymnast Samir Ait Said, and expected medal contender, landed completely wrong after going on the vault, leaving him in pain and had to be carted away on a stretcher. Turns out his left leg had a double break but he’s miraculously already back on his feet and on the mend. Obviously he can’t compete in the Games anymore, but at least he can walk! GRAPHIC IMAGE OF HIS 90 DEGREE LEG BELOW:

The Summer of Leslie Jones Continues

SNL star Leslie Jones got unwanted attention on Twitter when she had to put racist and sexist trolls on blast, but she also garnered support from the thousands of other nice human beings with the Love For Leslie J tag and even got the attention of Twitter bosses to help change their policies. This time around, she’s trending for a much more positive reason, thanks to her energetic tweets, pix and videos supporting Team USA. Former SNL producer/Late Night with Seth Meyers producer Mike Shoemaker took note of Leslie’s posts, and got the attention of Jim Bell, the executive producer of NBC’s Olympics coverage, and next thing you know, he officially offered Leslie a correspondent job at the Games and she’s down in Rio giving her commentary live! The power of social media, y’all.

And she’s been killin it at the Olympics too:

So What Do You Say To Second Chances

Laurie Hernandez MVP of Life and the Olympics

She also winked at the judges before her final floor routine during the team all-around, so she’s basically our favorite.

Ellie Downie Gets Knocked Down But Gets Back Up Again

17-year-old British gymnast Ellie Downie, another medal contender, was in the middle of her floor routine for the qualifying round when she turned too slowly on one of the passes and basically landed on her neck. It was scary (as evidenced below) and she decided it didn’t feel right and had to walk away without finishing. She got checked out and instead of pulling out, she surprisingly returned for the vault and help move the Great Britain team to the finals.

The Most Enthusiastic Chinese Athlete

Fu Yuanhui placed third in the semifinals of the 100m backstroke, but she thought she placed fourth until this reporter told her she was one second faster than she thought. Her response: “I was so fast!” This video went viral and here we are obsessed with her and her hipster glasses and dorkiness.

Aly Raisman’s Parents

Lynn & Rick continue their 2012 streak of being the best and most stressed parents in the stands. Katie Ledecky’s parents come in a close second.

 Name All The Babies Simone

August 11th, 2016: A really great day for Olympians named Simone.

A) Simone Biles lived up to expectations and won the gold for the all around competition. She also cried when she finally won, which is emotion she’s never really shown before. Whereas I tend to cry every 5 seconds during the Olympics.

B) Simone Manuel, who didn’t exactly have as much attention on her as Simone Biles, seemingly came out of nowhere (to pedestrian swimming fans) to win the women’s 100m freestyle and tied for gold. On top of that, she scored an Olympic record and became the first black American woman to win an individual swimming event. Basically, she is now America’s hero athlete and should probably be on the Wheaties box now? 

Monica Puig’s First Gold for Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico isn’t doing great (short recap: the US gov’t attracted business to PR with corporate tax breaks which expired in 2006; financial collapse followed; PR borrowed money by issuing municipal bonds – mainly to private investors; the gov’t cannot repay their debt obligations; the island isn’t eligible to file for bankruptcy or seek funds from the IMF; terrible budget cuts have ensued;  yikes). But last week, Puerto Rico got a much-needed morale boost from Monica Puig, the first-ever athlete to win a gold medal for the island. Even more amazing, she was unseeded and beat the #2 seed, Angelique Kerber, for the win after rounds of improbable victories. The crowd chanted ‘si se puede’ and we both definitely cried.

In related news, I have a lot of Puerto Rican relatives-in-law – a few of whom are tennis pros – and literally every one of them used the word ‘wepa’ in their Facebook statuses that night.

We Want To Hold Ryan Held

Ryan Held was overcome with emotion during the medal ceremony after winning the 4×100 meter relay and began crying during the national anthem. Then WE began crying during the national anthem — not because we felt bad for him, but because we were so happy for his success and because masculinity is a prison and we’re so proud when someone breaks out.

Katie Ledecky Is Waiting

Katie Ledecky finished her race before any other swimmers were even in the frame. It’s fine; she can wait.

The Pool Looks Bad

The pools in Rio, while technically safe, look very murky and gross thanks to an interaction between peroxide and chlorine. It has since been drained. I’m sure this did nothing to help public confidence in the Brazilian water quality.

7th Best Steeplechaser In The World With One Shoe

Ethiopian steeplechaser Etenesh Diro (ranked 4 in the world) lost her shoe with two and a half laps left in the race. She still finished seventh and advanced to the finals. If you had any delusions that Olympians really are like you and me, now’s the time to let them die.

Phelps Face

We’ve already discussed this, but Michael Phelps’ grouchy face earned him the coveted (?) prize of most memed athlete of the 2016 Olympic games. He also won a few other competitions this week, so it’s fine.

Teach Us How To Say Goodbye

First of all, we’ve reached that point where Hamilton has so saturated popular culture that news outlets feel the need to show off that they know what it is. Second, One Last Time from Hamilton is the only proper way to express how we feel about Michael Phelps’ final race, so we don’t at all blame NBC for going there. Twenty-three gold medals and 16 years since we were first introduced to the 15-year-old baby Olympian, it’s time to teach us how to say goodbye. Enjoy your vine and fig tree, Michael.

 

Ryan Lochte Reaches Peak Ryan Lochte

Just when you thought Ryan Lochte had reached his maximum ‘jeah’ level he bleaches his hair, gets distracted playing with a bend-y thing when Michael needs him, and – best of all – responds to BRAZILIAN KIDNAPPERS with a simple ‘whatever’ when robbed at gunpoint.

“We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over. They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground. And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet — he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”

Oh, Ryan. Then he said that Michael Phelps would be back in 2020 (wishful thinking, maybe?) and his best bro was forced to tell a major news outlet that Ryan “doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Summer Memes Make Me Feel Fine: Michael Phelps Everything

We’re nearly a week into the Summer Olympics and like it’s been since Sydney in 2000, America (and the world, I’m assuming) has been struck with Michael Phelps fever once again, as he scoops up even more medals to add to his collection. But earlier this week, we were blessed with Michael Phelps mania in a whole other way that would’ve not even made sense 16 years ago – the Internet meme.

In 2012, the London Games had McKayla Maroney, who was not impressed during the medal ceremony, and therefore became a viral sensation.

McKayla, for the record, is totally fine with #PhelpsFace, telling TMZ: “I looked at his pictures and was like, YES! Go, Michael, take it away, please!” {x}

This time around, the Olympics meme has been rewarded to the GOAT, after he was spotted giving the stank eye in the ready room to his South African rival Chad Le Clos. To back it up a bit, Chad Le Clos was an Olympics rookie in 2012, and even admitted he had always looked up to Michael as a young swimmer. But when they raced next to each other in the 200m Butterfly (Michael’s best event), Chad surprised everyone by beating out Michael for the gold by five-hundredths of a second, igniting a rivalry that has just gotten worse over the years. Which brings us to Rio and #PhelpsFace.

Chad needs to literally take a seat here, because he’s clearly just doing it to annoy Michael, but like Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines said in the video, “… This is… GREAT television!” and “I could watch this all night!” Thanks to the Internet, we can remember the moment forever with all the immediate memes that popped up. Here are just some of the best ones from #PhelpsFace that will go down in World Wide Web history forever.

 

MEMECEPTION:

He got it from his daddy…

Of course, we all know now that Michael got revenge on Chad and let his skills do the talking by redeeming himself in the 200m Fly on Tuesday and winning his 20th gold medal. Chad le Clos? He didn’t even made it to the podium. Enter adjustments to the #PhelpsFace meme:

But really, Chad, I know you’re really into sneaking a peek at your competitors, but here’s one thing you can take out of this year’s Games:

Worry bout your own lane

A post shared by Daquan Gesese (@daquan) on

BONUS:

Real or Not Real? Olympic Sports Edition

I’m assuming like most of the world’s citizens, we’re not experts on any of these Olympic sports, but any time we ever spend more than an hour watching something like synchronized diving, we immediately consider ourselves at-home-commentators who’ve suddenly become qualified to literally judge the sport from our couch.

But we know the truth. I forget synchronized diving is a thing people train for a month after cheering for David Boudia as he wins a silver medal. I forget synchronized diving is even a sport all together! So while all of us couch potatoes are obviously on the verge of becoming professional athletes, there are some sports that we might need to brush up on. Canoe Slalom? Rhythmic Gymnastics? Croquet? JK That last one isn’t a real sport. But can you tell the difference between these real and fake Olympic Sports? Time to brush up on your athletic knowledge.

Softball

Softball: the sport that is for women! Because we can’t possibly handle a smaller ball to hit with a bat!

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Softball is… not an Olympic sport! Not anymore. It WAS when the Olympics began in 1936, but in 2005, the IOC decided to discontinue Softball and it was played for the last time in 2008, when the gold medal was won by Japan. This was the only time the U.S. did not win the gold, and ended up with silver. There are a lot of theories as to why the IOC decided to pull the plug on softball, and one of them is that the U.S. was simply too dominant in the sport and were like, ‘um forget it. We can’t keep handing these gold medals to the Americans.’

Golf

Fun fact: I used to be super into golf. The PGA Championship was held in Rochester one year, and I went and saw Tiger from afar and other pro golfers in the flesh. Then I randomly got into it and would spend my Sunday afternoons with a tournament on the TV. What I’m saying is that I’m actually a pro-golfer and I’ve been lying about my other job this entire time.

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Golf… IS an Olympic sport! The Rio Olympics are the first time Golf has been played since 1904. And before that, it was only played in 1900. Golf at the Olympics are set up as an individual competition, so it’s none of that Ryder Cup group mentality. It’s every man and woman for themselves. Interestingly, a bunch of the world’s top golfers, like many anthletes, decided to pull out of the Olympics because of Zika. They’ll just continue to be bit by mosquitoes everywhere else.

Rugby Sevens

Rugby is cool. It’s popular in New Zealand, it’s more intense than American football, and you pass backwards. The offsides rules make no sense. There’s normal rugby, and there’s rugby sevens – 7 players vs 7 players with 7-minute periods. (I briefly dated a doofy rugby player when I was like 20, it is what it is).  The players from NZ do cool chants.

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Rugby Sevens… IS an Olympic sport! And 2016 is its debut year. I happened to be home when a women’s rugby sevens match was on this weekend and it was actually really, really fun. Men’s finals are on Thursday and the women’s competition is over. It was Australia v New Zealand which we bet is a big rivalry!

Trampoline

My word association with trampolines:

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Trampoline… IS a sport! The moves from Saved By the Bell’s Hot Sundae music video are not the same thing they do on the Olympic level.

Equestrian Vaulting

Did anyone ever watch that move Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken? It sounds like a slogan that would be on a t-shirt from Forever 21 along with a photo of, you know, a wistful girl in a flower crown, but I promise that it’s real. It’s about a girl who used to be a horse diver – like, took a living horse to the top of a platform and dove into water in the 1920s when that passed for entertainment – until she went deaf from horse diving. Or maybe the horse did. In any case, that’s how I imagine Equestrian Vaulting – a horse jumping over or from a tall thing.

The reality is so much better. Equestrian vaulting is “gymnastics or dance on horseback” – like dressage, but where the human is the one doing the fancy stuff. That is so hardcore. There are so many equestrian events that equestrian vaulting as an Olympic sport sounds entirely plausible.

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Equestrian Vaulting is … not an Olympic sport. But it was in 1932 when people were still really into doing weird things with horses, and if dedicated vaulters have their way, it would be back. We support this motion.

Lacrosse

Was Lacrosse a really big sport at everyone’s high school or was that just in like, Western New York?

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Lacrosse… is NOT an Olympic sport. It was only a sport in 1904 and 1908, and both times Canada won. There were demonstration events at three Olympics, but those net sticks haven’t helped anyone win a medal in over 100 years.

Tug of War

Yes, THAT Tug of War that you played in elementary school gym and had rope burns on your hands for the rest of the day.

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Tug of War… is NOT an Olympic sport. But believe it or not, it definitely used to be! And it lasted longer than both Lacrosse and Golf, as it was a team event between 1900 and 1920. Tug of War in gym class would make so much more sense if we could’ve been building up to be Olympic athletes

Roller Hockey

When I hear Roller Hockey, I think first of all of children from the 1990s wearing neon kneepads playing on roller blades in a driveway with a net in front of a garage door. (I think this because that happened in my childhood.)

Then, I think second of Roller Derby, and surmise that there are sassy nicknames, lots of fishnets, and more than a little violence.

Upon further research, roller hockey is played by athletic adults on four-wheeled skates with sticks more resembling field hockey sticks. It seems legit enough to have sneaked into an Olympics or two.

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Roller Hockey is … not an Olympic a sport. But at was in 1992 in Barcelona, which is apt because it is the most 1992-sounding sport I can think of.

Water Skiing

Weird water sports are an Olympic favorite, and skiing is hugely popular in the winter games. Water skiing conjures images of synchronized human pyramids and music videos featuring The Go-Gos. Without checking, I would almost guarantee that it is not an Olympic sport because most sports don’t use things like engines.

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Water skiing is… not an Olympic sport. However, it WAS a “demonstration sport” at the 1972 games in Munich, which is way closer than I thought it was to being an Olympic sport. There was FIGURE SKIING.

Cricket

Here are the things I know about cricket:

  • It’s like worse baseball.
  • Whenever my brother, who writes for an online outlet, does an article about the cricket tournaments in India he gets like a bazillion hits.
  • They play it in this one episode of Road to Avonlea, an early 90s CBC show about Canadian children from the 1800s.
  • It’s not croquet, which is different.
  • They play it in Great Britain and India, mostly.
  • Named after a friendly bug.
Sport or not a sport? 

Cricket is…. not an Olympic sport.

It was featured in the 1900 Olympic games, cricket proponents would like to bring it back, but cricket hasn’t been an Olympic sport for over a century.

Canoe Sprint

Canoeing – kayaking’s chilled-out older brother – can get fairly intense. It can involve small teams, like a bobsled race. There can be a cool outdoor venue and inspirational athletes who have competed since childhood. All of that points to sport.

My Google research tells me that canoe sprint can actually involve canoes OR kayaks, and is conducted on smooth water. It kind of resembles smaller-scale rowing.

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Canoe sprint … IS an Olympic sport! An Olympic Sport taking place next week. It actually looks really athletic and fun and is one of the last remaining sports that I can pretend that I could still take up.

Flonkerton

Is Flonkerton even a word?

Sport Or Not A Sport?

Flonkerton … is NOT an Olympic sport! It’s not even a real sport! It’s a fake sport from the fake Office Olympics on The Office. And at the Opening Olympics, it kinda looked like they were playing Flonkerton!

Pop Culture Phenomena Of The 1996 Olympics: Where Are They Now

Once an Olympic year has ended, most of the athletes move off of my radar. Within the next four years some of my favorites always retire. Others morph, within the span of 3 or 4 Olympic cycles, from teenage wunderkinds to competitors in their prime to the aging stalwarts of their field. I’m almost 30, so this year I am watching my dewy-faced peers from 2004 become respected veterans contemplating retirement.

Nothing highlights this passage of time more than the 1996 Olympic games. We have images burned into our memories of tiny teenage gymnasts accepting their gold medals, and it’s hard to fathom that they are now married mothers on the cusp of middle age. Tennis scamp Andre Agassi is 46. Michael Johnson works for Arsenal – imagine that.

I think we’re all a little stunned that the last summer Olympics to be hosted in the U.S. happened a full twenty years ago. Because of that, Where Are They Now features for the top athletes of the Atlanta games have abounded. I still had some unanswered questions, though: remember Whatizit? Where’d they put the cauldron? And does Bela Karolyi still think I can do it? Let’s investigate:

Whatizit

Izzy, officially known as Whatizit, was the baffling, bug-eyed mascot of the ’96 games. I’m not sure why the Olympic Mascot can never just be, like, a regular cartoon kitten or an animated tiger, but for whatever reason they always go for amorphous CGI blobs – a tradition that started with Izzy. Prior to the Atlanta Games, mascots always were cute or at least identifiable, but the new millennium was on the horizon and we were really proud every time we managed to computer-generate something.

In the 20 years since the Atlanta Olympics, Izzy’s legacy has endured. The 2004 mascot: an abstract take on an ancient Greek doll; looks like a BBC cartoon from the late 80s that PBS would air before Mr. Rogers. 2008: I don’t even get it, they each correspond to a word of Welcome To Beijing but ALSO to five elements but ALSO they bear a wish but ALSO they represent the color of the Olympic rings. Obviously had quite a committee there. 2012: just terrible; standing blobs more or less. Look what Izzy started.

After the games, Izzy appeared in a 1997 special, Izzy’s Quest for Olympic Gold, which aired on TNT one time. There was a computer game (on CD Rom, naturally) and a video game (Super Nintendo, as was the fashion).

As of 2016, Whatizit can be found on eBay for relatively uninflated prices, since nobody really liked him (her?) in the first place.

The Cauldron

In 1996, Muhammad Ali lit the cauldron and ushered in the modern Olympic Games on their 100th anniversary.

Cut to 20 years later, and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young is calling the cauldron an “embarrassment” and comparing it to “the bridge over the river Kwai.”

Basically, a bunch of architects were put into a team to design the cauldron. The result was kind of funny looking, further illustrating why group work is the actual worst. GROUP WORK. Ugh.

The Cauldron is now perched on the edge of Turner Field at the top of some kind of a steel staircase that looks like the steps to a water slide.

 

The Macarena

The Macarena fad celebrates its 20th birthday this year, but in 1996 it was the cool dance craze sweeping the nation. Delegates at the Democratic National Convention bounced along, every kid in America knew the steps, and – in what I will call the high point of its existence – the Magnificent 7 performed the dance at the gymnastics arena. Somehow, Dominique Moceanu even manages to move her hands like she’s doing that weird vogue stuff they always do in the corner during a floor exercise. Shannon Miller rounds it off with a sassy flip. Kerri Strug avoids putting weight on her ankle, still in a brace after her injury. Dominique Dawes, objectively speaking, is the best at it.

Macarena quickly met the fate of all cool dance crazes: old people learned how to do it, it became terminally dorky, and it is now standard fare at weddings.

Bela Karolyi

We’re not discussing athletes here, but coaches are fair play. Besides, in the public sphere Karolyi was not just a coach, he was a pop culture phenomenon. Remember how the phrase “you can do it” took off as a catch phrase after Bela encouraged poor, injured Kerri to finish her event?

As could be expected, in the years that follows allegations of Karolyi’s harsh – even abusive – coaching style began to surface. He became the team coordinator of USA Gymnastics, publicly reviled for his intensive camps while still somewhat respected for his professional success. Karolyi’s wife Marta became the U.S. team coordinator in 2001, a position she still holds. Bela has served as a gymnastics commentator occasionally and continues to own the infamous Ranch. A NBC Sports documentary about the Karolyis is forthcoming.

The Olympic Village

I don’t have the talent, drive, or correct height to become any kind of Olympic athlete, but I would give anything to experience the international camaraderie of the Olympic Village. It always seems like such a downer to see photographs of the village months and years after the games – abandoned, crumbling into ruin, a waste of planning, budget and infrastructure.

But not in Atlanta! The city built athletic facilities with the future in mind, then retrofit them for the games. As a result, almost all of the sites are in use today (except for the tennis courts, which don’t look great.)

My favorite reuse has to be the Olympic Village dormitories, which are now Georgia Tech housing. I can think of no better afterlife for Olympic dorms – I’m just trying not to think about how most of the people using them now weren’t even alive for the ’96 games.