There comes a moment in every sports fan’s life when he realizes that he cannot hit a curveball, that crossover dribbles end up going off his foot, that skating backward is a lot more difficult than it looks on television. This is a depressing realization. (I live in denial, myself; I’m convinced I’d be a better backup catcher than Jose Molina, and no evidence will persuade me otherwise.)
Fortunately, we have recourse: While athletes were single-mindedly focusing on their chosen sport, we, the average fan, were following a more well-rounded path. We studied the great authors, learned how to work an Excel spreadsheet, mastered the art of HTML. Sure, they can dunk, but we can multitask. Anyone who has ever been to a Northwestern home football game, in which the home fans, no longer able to cheer for a team losing 54-7, begins chanting “Hey, hey, that’s okay, you’ll all work for us someday,” can understand. We need to feel as if we’ve won one event in the genetic pentathlon; we need to feel smarter. It’s something, anyway.
But what if an athlete has you beaten at that too? What if you’re just inferior in every way? What if you are cheering or jeering an athlete who has you beat in matters both mind and body? (This is roughly equivalent to learning that not only is Barack Obama better than you at basketball, but John McCain, Senator Ted Stevens and Maureen Dowd are as well.) Allow me to introduce you to Ivies in China, a Website sure to remind you that in the game of humanity, you’re losing.
The site offers a comprehensive look at all the Ivy League graduates (and current students) competing in the Beijing Games — which actually began yesterday with the women’s soccer preliminaries. (Diana Matheson, Princeton ’08, by the way.) There are more than you’d suspect. Sure, rowing is Ivy-dominated (seventeen Americans, five Canadians, one Australian, one Croatian, one Serbian, and a Brit), but who knew the Ivy could provide us gymnasts (Alicia Sacramone, Brown ‘10), shooters (Sandra Fong, Princeton ‘12), shot-putters (Adam Nelson, Dartmouth ‘97), swimmers (Bryan Tay, Princeton ‘12) and, lo, even triathletes (Jarrod Shoemaker, Dartmouth ’04)?
Professional sports have a few Ivy guys hanging around, but most of them are backups or water carriers; Ryan Fitzgerald might have graduated with honors from Harvard and notched a near-perfect score on the Wonderlic test, but around Cincinnati Bengals camp, he’s a clipboard holder. (And you just know his teammates refer to him exclusively as “Harvard,” as in, “Hey, Harvard, go fetch me my shoulder pads, would ya?”) Probably the most famous NFL Ivy Leaguer was Ed Marinaro, a Cornell grad who ended up an actor who played Joey Buttafuoco in the TV movie Amy Fischer: My Story. Their lives don’t seem appreciably better.
But these Olympians, these Ivy Olympians, they’re at the peak of their physical prowess, in front of billions of people, representing our country, achieving feats you wouldn’t think possible … AND they whupped you on the SAT. Remember those two Harvard guys who invented a social-networking site right after Facebook, and are suing Mark Zuckerberg for taking their idea? Those guys are Olympians. Seriously: Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, brothers, Harvard men, genetically superior cyborgs. Look at these guys: “After seeing how much their neighbor enjoyed the sport, Winklevoss and his brother began rowing during the freshman year of high school. Training at a local club in Westport, Conn., they eventually started the crew team at their high school.” Agh! Jesus, just stop it, honestly.
Just by reaching the Olympics, these athletes are set for life, and they still have the Ivy education to fall back on. They have you beaten. The Olympics exist to celebrate global harmony and glorify the limitless potential of human physical achievement. And now, they remind us just how little we’ve accomplished, and how little we ultimately will. Thanks, NBC!
Oh, and if you went to an Ivy School, bragging rights go to Princeton, which is sending thirteen athletes to the Games, just edging Harvard’s nine. That will be one more thing to boast about when we’re working for you, if we don’t already. —Will Leitch
Related: Special Olympicks [NYM]
Calvinball, Quidditch, and Other Fictional Sports We Wish the Olympics Would Adopt [Vulture]