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Why can't Ryan Lochte skateboard on the Great Wall?

To: Maese, et al.,

You know what's weird? The fact that I'm staying on the 13th floor of our dorm-slash-hotel-slash-state sponsored living quarters. Most hotels in the United States don't even have a 13th floor, since it's allegedly bad luck and what not, but it seems the Chinese don't believe in that mumbo jumbo. I have to respect that. Sure, it's possible that the 13th floor is where designated "people of interest" are placed so that the state can keep and eye on them, but other than a handful of Michael Phelps anecdotes and some Scrubs DVDs, I'm not sure what I have that would interest anyone in the Chinese government. I think I'm probably in the clear.

I can report, however, that the air quality was pretty poor yet again outside my window. I had to put on some glum Ryan Adams songs to match my mood. Remember how in Empire Strikes Back, Han, Luke and the Gang ended up visiting Lando Calrissian and Co. at the Cloud City? I predict that someday, many years from now, New Beijing will be built on top of its pollution, and will be known as Smog City. And Yao Ming's son will be the mayor.

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You know what's the best line in Empire? When Darth Vadar says, "I'm altering the deal, Calrissian. Pray I don't alter it further." I can almost picture someone high up in Chinese government saying this to IOC president Jacques Rogge when the Chinese not only decided to limit what could be viewed on the Internet, but also decided to deny visas to people like Joey Cheek. I hate to bring up such a painful memory, but do you recall when we were in Omaha for the U.S. Olympic swim trials and we went and saw Hancock? Well, I only bring this up because I think China needs to hire Jason Bateman's character from that movie to improve its PR instincts. Because they're not very good. Had Cheek been allowed in the country, it would have been a one-day story. Deny him a visa, and suddenly it turns into a two-week story.

China had better be thankful that Angelina Jolie is busy giving birth to twins these days, because if she wanted to come to the Olympics and speak up about the country's ties to Darfur, no one could stop her. She's the most powerful person in the world, I think. I saw Billy Bush of Access Hollywood interviewing Ryan Lochte about his hair today (really, this actually happened), and I had this thought: If Jolie wanted Billy Bush to "disappear" she could totally make it happen. That makes her more powerful than the Chinese, I think. I bet she could win eight gold medals, even if she was only allowed to do the breaststroke. I bet she would be awesome at the breaststroke.

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How's this for an unfair turn of events: The U.S. cycling team shows up at the airport earlier this week wearing masks that were issued by the United States Olympic Committee, then is forced to apologize for wearing them. By the USOC. I know we want China to continue to manufacture everything we buy from Wal-Mart, but at what point does common sense officially outweigh potentially offending a host country for its awful air quality?

As for which “The Goonies” character I represent, I have to say Mikey, simply because I’m a dreamer and a do-gooder, and as a young man growing up on the hard streets of Missoula, Mont., I often rocked a denim jean jacket with blue jeans. I’d like to think Ryan Lochte has a lot of Data’s care-free spirit and rebellious streak in him. I asked him today if he’d be interested in riding his skateboard on the Great Wall, and his eyes lit up like it was the coolest thing he’d ever heard. Sadly, the U.S. coaches wouldn’t allow him to bring it to China. We should see if we can buy him one that would otherwise just get shipped off to Wal-Mart.


Here is a scary question: Do you think prolonged exposure to the smog will make us look like Sloth?

God, I hope not.

(Pitt and Jolie/AP photo; Goonies/handout photo; Lochte, AP)

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