Commentary: Olympics prove mesmerizing once again

I always feel like the Olympics create some kind of twilight zone for TV watching, but this year seems to be even more twilight-y than usual.

Whatever my normal routine is, it will invariably get interrupted by the sight of a gymnast doing some amazing floor routine or people racing so fast their legs are blurred in the 100-meter dash.

I was recently eating lunch at Wegmans, in Abingdon, and was sitting in a back room with a table full of soldiers in fatigues. They were closely following the beach volleyball being shown on the TV, as were many other people in the room.

The Olympics just seem to suck you in no matter what is going on.

Some of the events remind me of something designed by a kindergartner, like the long jump. I feel like running and leaping into a huge sand pit is something you would have done in school, just for fun.

But obviously in the Olympics, everything gets perfected to a high art form. These are the best athletes in the world, in their field, which is also kind of mind-boggling to me.

Take Michael Phelps, whom some of you might have heard of. My dad said it seems crazy that he grew up right in Towson (and, for a short time, in Harford County) and is now worshiped around the world as one of the greatest athletes of all time.

I don't know if that's crazy – I feel like there are a lot of really successful people from this area – but I do wonder what it's like to know that you are the greatest swimmer in the whole world, maybe of all time.

There are 7 billion people on the planet and he is a better swimmer than every last one of them. That's crazy.

The other thing you can't ignore about the Olympics is the opening ceremony.

After the 2008 opening ceremony in China, which was impressive in a terrifyingly organized way, I really enjoyed the opening of the London Olympics.

If you didn't see it, it focused on England's key role in global industrialization and involved recreating the U.K.'s transition from an agrarian to an industrial past, with hundreds of volunteers "building" factories and smokestacks out of farmland.

For some reason, everything that comes out of England seems "educational" to me, like the country never misses a chance to remind you of its storied past.

But it was really cool to watch. Plus David Beckham rode a speedboat down the Thames, so that was fun.

The Olympics always has its controversies and behind-the-scenes tension. This year was the 40th anniversary of the murder of 11 Israeli athletes during a hostage crisis at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The Olympic committee refused to have a moment of silence for the event during the London opening ceremony, saying it did not fit the positive atmosphere of the Olympic ceremony.

I don't know how I feel about that, but it is true that the Olympics at least attempts to be about peace and global unity.

Unlike other major sports competitions, like the oddly-named World Series for baseball, the Olympics really does bring together people from all parts of the world to show what they have to offer.

And that, unfortunately, is something you don't see every day.

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