FIRED UP ABOUT the Olympics? Oh, you betcha. I'm sitting here in front of my grainy big-screen TV, with the remote in my fat, Cheetos-stained fingers, counting the minutes until I can punch in the satellite coordinates and watch Team USA kick some butt.
Yeah, I sprung for the home-theater concept expecting NBC's usual, thorough coverage of the games, which should look like this on a typical night:
7: 00-7: 01: Modern pentathlon.
7: 05-9: 05: Dream Team vs. Brazil.
9: 08-9: 09: Judo.
9: 11-10: 11: Dream Team post-game interviews.
10: 15-10: 16: Badminton.
10: 20-11: 00: Dream Team analyzes its next opponent.
11: 02-11: 03: Handball.
11: 05-11: 30: Dream Teamers reminisce about their first dates.
11: 32-11: 33: Archery.
11: 35-12: 00: Dream Team discusses the importance of good nutrition.
12: 02-12: 03: Synchronized swimming.
12: 05-12: 30: Good-night from the Dream Team.
Yes, once again much of the focus of these Olympics will be on the Dream Team, the powerful NBA all-stars expected to crush (YEAHHHH! U-S-A! U-S-A!) Yugoslavia and Croatia and all those other sissy, pimply faced Eastern European whiners and breeze to the gold in men's basketball.
The Dream Team tuned up for Atlanta with victories over Pine Tree Elementary School of Monroe, N.Y. (440-2) and the Peoria, Ill., Jaycees (331-4), and will now take on seven or eight patients from Greenhaven Nursing Home of Hartford, Conn., in their final exhibition.
"My guys are ready," said Dream Team coach Lenny Wilkens, shortly after lodging a protest against the Brazilian team.
Apparently, the Dream Teamers were under the impression that Brazil was fielding a wheelchair team.
Instead, the Americans were understandably shaken to discover they'll be facing a dozen able-bodied athletes who might actually give them a game.
The Dream Team aside, be prepared for the usual spate of hardship stories emanating from these Games.
It's not enough anymore for an athlete to simply win a gold medal. Now he or she has to have overcome some incredible adversity to justify the requisite 15 minutes of fame.
Consequently, just about every interview with an Olympian goes like this:
TV reporter: "Kelly, when you were 9, your leg was severed when the 7: 35 Amtrak out of Philadelphia -- the Silver Meteor, I think it was -- jumped the track and made an unfortunate detour into your living room in Wilmington, Del. A year later, your arm was gnawed off by an enraged alligator during a family trip to Disney World and South Florida.
"Yet you never quit and here you are, captain of the women's volleyball team."
Athlete: "That's right, Bob. My goal now is to bring home the gold for my father who, as you know, was walking past a construction site recently and had a tool box fall on his head from 15 stories up. He's still in the hospital, but doing much better. I love you, Dad!"
Give me a break. How come we never hear from the athlete whose greatest hardship was pulling into the Dairy Queen five minutes after closing time?
In a related story, all week long we've been hearing about the blistering heat and humidity of Atlanta.
Apparently, Atlanta in July has the same airy feel as a mango grove in Panama, only without all those dead burros in the ditches.
Anyway, to avoid the sight of thousands of fans dropping as if from a mustard gas attack, fans are being urged to drink plenty of fluids, wear loose-fitting clothing and stay the hell home.
In a major concession to the athletes, the marathon will now be held in the Hard Rock Cafe on Peachtree Street, where each competitor will circle 61,000 times around the guitar-shaped bar while Mind Erasers and Sea Breezes are offered at each water station.
The track and field finals, meanwhile, will be held at the Gap in Atlanta Underground. There, bored, gum-snapping 19-year-old sales clerks toting heavy key rings will move among the spectators asking: "You wanna try that on?'
And they wonder why I went big-screen for these Games.
Pub Date: 7/18/96