What’s the French Word for Merde?

Monday, August 11th, 2008, 12:14 pm

I didn’t watch the 4×100 relay in real time, but watching it this morning was almost as good. Odd–not so long ago, if you missed a performance like that you’d have to sit in front of the tube hoping and praying they show some highlights. If you wanted to see something a bit more obscure (the woman’s cycling road race, say) you were probably SOL. Today, you just hop on the net and visit NBC’s site (or use the Google and find the video elsewhere) to watch at your leisure. What a world.

Alain Bernard, he can’t be a happy guy today. When you’re the world-record holder in an event and you dive in the pool with the lead, that should be that. Lights out. It’s hard to say that Bernard choked, because how can you choke in swimming? Other than some water going down the wrong pipe, I mean. And Jason Lezak, of course, swam the fastest relay leg in human history, perhaps borne along by the huge wake Bernard generated. A performance for the ages.

The elation on the Americans’ faces after Lezak touched up was one of those perfect moments in sports, and one of the reasons why the Olympics are so compelling. Most Olympic athletes don’t make huge money, they aren’t famous (Phelps aside, of course) and they have to make huge sacrifices to reach this pinnacle of physical perfection. Which goes a long way to explain why I don’t like the Olympics all that much. I mean, did you see the French guys? Utter devastation. They’ve probably trained just as hard, sacrificed just as much…and they lost. By eight hundredths of a second. How long will those guys (and other athletes who see their dreams shattered) stare at a clock and realize that they missed out on ultimate glory and triumph by a fraction of the sweeping second hand.

And it isn’t like these guys get a chance to make things up in a couple of days. Maybe Bernard will win gold in the 100-meter freestyle (is that an actual event?) but for most Olympic athletes, you mess up, even a tiny bit, that’s it. You lose. And for many, that’s it for their career. You screw up, you have to work your ass off for 4 years to get another chance. And that’s assuming you can even make the team the next time around. That’s why I almost can’t bear to watch gymnastics or figure skating. It’s hard to appreciate the extraordinary skills of these freak athletes when all I can think is "Oh God, don’t take a half-step on your dismount!!! The judges’ll crucify you!!"

The stakes are just too high for me to properly enjoy what I’m watching. There’s no shame in winning a silver medal (or a bronze, I suppose, I guess) but who goes to the Olympics hoping for a silver medal? And pity the poor bastard who comes in fourth, you don’t even get a consolation prize. It’s like the bubble in a poker tournament, except that just about EVERYONE goes out on the bubble and goes home with nothing. And the participants tend to be a wee bit fitter.

Perhaps this is just my way of looking at the world, that I focus more on the depressed, downtrodden masses who failed in their quest than on those happy few exulting at the summit. As you might expect, I’m a hoot at a party.

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3 Responses to “What’s the French Word for Merde?”

  1. Darcy Says:

    Geno, you are a hoot.

  2. DuggleBogey Says:

    Those crazy French have a word for EVERYTHING!

  3. PB Says:

    Hi Gene –

    While he was with the Phoenix Coyotes, Georges Laraque admitted that after losing game 7 with the Oilers, Laraque was so devastated that he wished he never played the playoffs (or the final games).

    So, I *do* get what you’re saying, but if they didn’t talk the trash, the sting *might* have hurt less…

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