Last Modified: Sunday, July 08, 2012 11:29 PM
I miss the Cold War.
Quick, bring back the big red menus.
We need the Russians to matter now maybe more than ever.
Not talking politics mind you. We are referring to the Olympics.
The Summer Games, which are now just days away from starting in London, have become as interesting as, sorry to say, the Winter Games.
If you listen to NBC, the world is ready to gather on the British Island and interest is at an all-time high. Then again, the network has invested a fortune into the Games so they might be a little over the top on the subject.
Fact is, the Games have lost their luster. Have for some time.
Just about when the Berlin Wall came crashing down, the Olympics became just a bunch of sporting events.
Then the Soviet Union collapsed and all the fun was gone for good.
Sure, we still had Americans to root for, but we lost something much more fun. We lost somebody to root against.
China, Cuba, North Korea, it’s just not the same thing as going up against the other big bully on the block.
We became Ali without Frazier, the Yankees without the Red Sox, the hare without the tortoise.
Give us a good, true rivalry and our media can milk it for all it’s worth. We turn the battle between paper and plastic into a social cry of correctness.
But this, Games with no rivals, it just doesn’t work.
As hard as we have tried, we can’t get fired up about playing Spain or Argentina for a basketball gold medal. They never pointed any missiles at us.
Is anybody concerned about the English knocking us off in rowing?
Truth be told, the only good Olympic rivals we have had over the past few decades was that cat fight on ice between Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding.
Give American men a good girl fight to watch and we will eat it up.
But that had spice, these Games just seem spiceless, even if they are taking place on the home turf of the Spice Girls. Heck, the most famous of their husbands can’t even get on the British soccer team now.
It is as if we as Americans woke up, took our bats and balls to the park and found out everybody else had stayed home. At least everybody any good.
I hear the cries now that the world has caught up to us and that there are other great athletes out that we need to watch. Not true.
Great athletes don’t make sports interesting as much as great rivals do.
We have become the good guys without a villain. We can’t proudly ride off into the sunset after victory if that win is hollowed.
The miracle on ice, when we upset Russia in 1980 at Lake Placid, was fueled by the fact the two governments were battling over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. We would boycott the Summer Games that year in Moscow and they would do the same four years later in Los Angeles.
That’s a rivalry.
Of course, you wonder if the Russians would be boycotting London this summer since both we and the British have troops fighting in Afghanistan now.
See, some interest.
I’m not proposing war or anything, but something more subtle sure would not hurt. Anything to liven up the Games without anybody really getting hurt.
What we really need is the Russian judge to figure out a way to steal the gold from one of our darling teen gymnasts. Or try to figure out just how the East German female swimmers got so big and so fast in the pool and still beat the steroid test but Manny Ramirez could not 35 years later.
I mean, would Rocky IV even matter without Ivan Drago?
Come on, we need a healthy Russia just to make these Games interesting.
I do blame Americans for this. We have opened up our borders so the athletes of the world can come here and get rich with us while playing professionally.
Hard to root for Team USA in men’s basketball when all the other teams are also littered with NBA stars.
Can’t really get fired up rooting against Steve Nash and the Canadian basketball team. That’s like beating your younger brother and then gloating over his broken bones.
Sure, it’s fun for the moment to you, but everybody else kind of looks at you funny.
Nope, we need the Russians, maybe now more than ever.
It may be too late to save these games, but hey, the 2014 Winter Games will be held in Russia.
What better time and place to rekindle some cold feelings.
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org