There are few times in my life when I am overcome with patriotism. As discussed on this very blog, I have a powerful aversion to politicians, and tend to equate pride in my country with things like country music and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Don't get me wrong, I know that America is way ahead of, say, Bangladesh as far as crappy places to live, but every time I see that Chevrolet commercial with "This Is Our Country" playing in it, I'm caught between aggravation and nausea. However, every four years, one event inevitably brings out the proud American in me, despite all of my eye-rolling and judgment. That's right, I am an Olympics junkie. Specifically the Summer Olympics...I find the Winter Games to be a nice diversion, but a) the male athletes tend to compete in sports in which their uniforms actually qualify as clothing and b) all of my favorite TV shows go into repeats for the duration of the event.
These past two weeks were no exception...I was in bed alone when Jason Lezak won the Men's 4x100 Meter Relay, and was actually pumping my fist and cheering for the USA. Granted, the NBC announcers were prattling on about how Michael Phelps could still win 8 gold medals because of Lezak's swim and I was far more interested in watching the male swimmers help each other out of their skin-tight body suits, but I CARED. I was thrilled when Nastia Liukin won her All-Around Gymnastics gold medal, and was almost overcome when Shawn Johnson, in her final event of the games, won the gold medal on balance beam. I was so into the US for the past few weeks, I might as well have draped myself in an American flag and taken a lap around Carroll Gardens while handing out apple pie, chanting "Iraq Sucks!" and rooting for the Yankees.
Until August 23rd.
What happened on August 23rd, you ask? August 23rd was the final night of competition in Beijing; most of the events being broadcast were Track & Field, but one great eye-candy competition remained: the final of the Men's 10m Platform Diving. For those of you who don't watch the Olympics, diving is about as popular as oxygen over in China, and whenever the coverage moved to any diving event, the Beijing Water Cube was rocking like a Bon Jovi concert in New Jersey. And on this particular night, the Chinese divers were attempting to sweep the entire diving competition, winning gold in all 8 events, a number which NBC officials were sure to tell viewers at least fourteen thousand times was very significant in the Chinese culture. The audience had reached critical mass, and I was half expecting the fans to throw beer bottles at each other.
Diving also happens to be about as popular as oxygen in the gay community, largely because swimmers no longer wear Speedos, and water polo takes place underwater. Divers generally spend more time out of the water than in it, and also do things like run directly to shower next to other hot men in teeny-tiny little briefs before jumping right into a hot tub with their aforementioned compatriots. Believe me, I am not a general supporter of the plum smuggler as bathing suit...I tend to think that most people could benefit from more rather than less coverage. However, Olympic athletes tend to have the kind of bodies that can not only pull off the banana hammock, but actually just use it as a framing device for rippling abs and ripped thighs.
However, in addition to this, Diving was also the home to the only out male athlete competing in the entire Olympic games (naturally, softball and soccer had a few lesbians, but let's face it, the women are, by and large, much more sporty than us). Young Matthew Mitcham from Australia was carrying the torch for all of us. He has said that he doesn't want to be known as "the gay diver" but just as "an Australian diver who did really well at the Olympics," a request that I think most people can understand. Nevertheless, tough tits, Matthew was the only gay we had in the Olympics, and we in the community were glued to the TV watching him.
And as we were glued to the TV, the following happened. Matthew won. In the final round of dives, trailing China's Zhou Luxin by over a hundred points, Matthew hit his most difficult dive in the competition, earning the highest point total EVER awarded in the Olympic Games to get the gold medal. To say that I was beside myself would be an understatement. I was actually sitting next to myself, and looking at myself jumping up and down like a crazy person, for while my patriotism might be suspect, my gay loyalty is extremely strong. It made me want to drape myself in a rainbow flag and take a lap around Carroll Gardens while handing out condoms, chanting "George Bush Sucks!" and rooting for the end to the production of all acid-washed denim. I couldn't wait to listen to the NBC announcers talk about all of the hardships (depression! anxiety attacks! early retirement!) Matthew had overcome to end up one of the greatest stories of these Olympics. I was poised to see his medal ceremony, and ran over to my computer to make sure that "I Will Survive" was playing, so Matthew would be honored by both the Australian and Gay National Anthems. Eagerly, I awaited the inevitable post-dive interview where he would thank his boyfriend and his mother. I looked up from my computer, having cued up Gloria Gaynor, and saw...NBC had switched to another event. It was probably Michael Phelps winning his eight gold medals for the eighteen thousandth time (yes, we get it, he swims very fast). I quickly grabbed my TiVo remote and rewound, convinced that I had accidentally jumped ahead in the recording, but no. NBC had just cut away after Matthew won and spent no more time on the event or it's historical significance.
To say I had an acid flashback to when Crash won the Oscar over Brokeback Mountain would only be a lie insofar as I have never dropped acid. For all of the gay film-makers, actors, and writers, we as a community really produce some abysmal movies, many of which play directly into the stereotypes we spend most of our time fighting against. We get one movie, ONE, that truly deserves to win the Best Picture Oscar, and we lose to Crash, a pandering, obvious morality tale with all the shock and originality of Two and Half Men repeat. We get one athlete, ONE, that not only competes in the Games, but actually wins, and we get no athlete profile, nor any real broadcast time devoted to his event. NBC claims that they don't discuss athlete's sexuality, but they have no problem talking about the (female) track and field star whose boyfriend is on the New York Giants, or the Italian swimmer who stole her chief rival's boyfriend and coach in early 2008. So, actually, NBC just doesn't discuss athlete's homosexuality, as if they are afraid that they are going to produce the FCC's follow up to Nipplegate.
For those of you that may have missed Matthew's final dive, you can go here, and see the last three divers in the final round. And for those of you who, like me, wanted to see the medal ceremony, you can go here; just make sure you have your gay anthem of choice cued up! Oh, and I recommend watching the whole clip...at the end Matthew climbs up into the bleachers and kisses his boyfriend on the cheek, which was apparently far too much for NBC to show on national TV. They're right, the raw display of sexual energy is really out of control.