There were many strange things about my upbringing, but one of the strangest is that I did not grow up watching commercial television. I’ve never seen an episode of "Spongebob." I never watched the Disney Channel or Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon. My TV experience came in the form of episodes of PBS Kids shows, lovingly taped by my grandfather. My first encounter with reality TV came in the form of "The Biggest Loser" when I was 14. My family’s cable TV blackout was total — in all respects except one. Every two years, for two weeks, I glue my ass to the couch and my eyes to the screen to watch impossibly athletic humans perform feats of speed and skill in order to earn disks on ribbons made of precious metals. Yes, I’m talking about the Olympics. The Olympics have ruined me.
The Summer Olympics are fine, for the most part, since they’re in the summer and I’m usually free of responsibility at that time of year. During those two weeks, I cease to leave the house, leaving the couch only to go to the bathroom and to obtain more food. If my Summer Olympics watching habits were a sport, it would be Extreme Couch-Potatoing, with points awarded for the longest time elapsed between shifts in position and the largest drops in resting heart rate. I have a system for the Summer Olympics. The system works. The Winter Olympics, however…
With the 2014 Games, I got lucky, as my typically temperate hometown was snowed in for a decent portion of them. Not compelled to leave the house for school, I entombed myself on the couch and watched them almost straight through. This year I’m not so lucky. I’m hovering on the edge of real adulthood. I have school, and worse than school, I have work. There are myriad responsibilities preventing me from achieving my ultimate goal: to become one with the furniture as I cheer on whichever country seems likely to win a particular event. There’s no such thing as country loyalty for me when it comes to watching the Olympics. Patriotism is nonexistent in my attempt to consume as many sports as possible over two weeks to make up for the rest of the time when I consume no sports at all.
We’re not even a week into the Winter Olympics, and the cracks in my respectable public façade are already beginning to show. My eyes twitch unnervingly. I steer clear of social media, living in fear of spoilers for events that haven’t even happened yet. Instead of asking my coworkers and classmates if they had a good weekend or how their classes are going, I demand “Did you see _____ event at the Olympics last night?” and shake my head and cluck my tongue when they say no. I am a purist. I am obsessed. I make other people nervous.
Like all true and good things, however, the Winter Olympics will come to an end at some point — most likely in two weeks, at which time I will lurk around my apartment in varying stages of withdrawal. In time, the symptoms will fade. But the disease will lurk somewhere in the back of my mind, ready to spring out in summer 2020.
I am a marathon Olympics watcher. I am unstoppable.