Olympic fever

4 08 2012

named-dropping – my friend and former boss, Chris McRae, and her son James McRae, with his bronze medal for the men’s quad rowing.

I don’t watch sport. I am known for this. I fall asleep if the football is on. I read the newspaper from the front and stop reading after the business section. I am unable to name any players of any team (unless they have made the front page for some scandal – and even then I may not know what sport they play).

Turns out however, there is an exception.

The Olympics. Every four years, for two weeks at a time, I will watch pretty much anything Olympics-related.

Diving? I love it. Swimming? It’s the national sport. Pole vault? Several hours of focussed viewing. Rowing? I name-drop the son of a work colleague from a decade earlier who is now in the team. Hockey? This becomes a family obsession. Soccer? Discussed at length around the water-cooler at work. Cycling? I might even drag out my bike for a ride. And how did I ever live without gymnastics and equestrian broadcasts?

So what is it about the Olympics that makes it such compelling viewing (despite the abysmal local television coverage)?

I think it is a combination of things….

1. It is a short-term committment. My attention span can last two weeks, but not much longer.

2. Pardon the pun, but I am starting on an even playing field. My knowledge of these sports is approximately the same as everyone else’s so I can hold my own in conversations. Unlike football, tennis or cricket where almost everyone else in the world knows more than me.

3. The variety of sport is sufficient to stave off boredom. Pole vault or sprint might not hold my attention for long, but a couple of hours….fascinating!

4. It feels like I am participating with the rest of the world. It is interesting to see people from all over the world competing, their team uniforms, the spectators, the flags and banners. It is a world event, and in a very small way, I am part of it sitting in the comfort of my living room, watching the flickering light of the TV. And part of team Australia. Without the hassle of doing any actual exercise.

So for a couple of weeks I become a sports fanatic, completely out of character.

But don’t be fooled. In a weeks time, I will be back to my normal level of disinterest.


18 09 2011

licensed under creative commons from gothopotam

I have written a bit about my concern about the impact that screens are having on society in general, and children’s brains in particular. And how the all-pervasive training of young brains through screen culture – TV, computers, DS, PSP, Playstation, Wii, X-box, etc – will impact not only the furture of those children through their ability to absorb education, display patience and delay gratification, and their tolerance for novelty and excitement versus their tolerance for boredom and perseverance, but also change the society we live in.

And these concerns, where possible, have been backed up by science.

However, now for a confession.

I suspect I am a screen addict myself.

Now I didn’t grow up with screens to any great extent. I can still remember our first colour TV in Australia – 1976 for the Olympics. I remember getting a Commodore 64, and I remember our school getting a couple of computers which, if you were lucky and in the top maths class, you got to “program” to display a flag made from asterix (I confess I cannot work out the plural of asterix….). I remember in Year 4, being taken to visit a computer at the nearby science and technology park – it took up and entire warehouse full of stacks with tapes whirring on the front, and probably had less capacity than my iphone does.

So my childhood was not saturated with screens. In fact my parents strictly rationed television time to 1/2 an hour a night (but enough on that – I am saving that story for the psychiatrist’s couch).

I do remember working before email. I worked in a pay section briefly and we programmed the computer (which was off-site somewhere) by filling in A4 sheets of paper with Xs in squares. Letters got written in longhand and sent to the typing pool to be typed out. They came back and if there were errors, they had to type the whole thing again. At that rate you were lucky to act on more than a couple of decisions a day. Think of the pace of emails today where I am making 80+ decisions on an average day (albeit some of them trivial).

So my confession is – as the purveyor of the No-Screen Sunday, I am myself a screen addict. Not the DS, Wii or Playstation for me – but I do find TV in the evenings very relaxing and am annoyed if there is nothing on that I want to watch. My computer is usually on if I am home – and my ipad travels with me for those opportune moments to update the blog, check my personal emails etc. Not in work hours of course, but on the weekend and in the evening….. And I am an e-scrabble fiend. Oh yes, and I do love LinkedIn.

So somehow I need to make the effort to set the example for my children about how life off-line is so much more satisfying.

Perhaps after I have finished studying I might have time to do that. There’s always some excuse.

If you like this posting you might also like The effect of Marshmallows on the DS Generation, and Sponge-Bob, Sponge-brain.