Judging by interest, importance, improbability, inanity and insanity, these, we believe, were the 10 biggest stories of the XXIV Olympic Games:
1. TRAGIC JOHNSON’S FAST BREAK.
A world-class hurrier, Benjamin Sinclair Johnson Jr., had to hurry “home” to Canada, where he was last seen washing his Ferrari with the “9.83" license plates. Because of his dishonorable discharge, the 100-meter gold medalist was left considering offers to (a) sell his life story to a West German magazine for a couple million marks; (b) play football for either the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, a Canadian football club, or the Detroit Lions, who are often mistaken for a Canadian football club, or (c) discover Jamaica, competing for his native island in the 1992 Olympics, either in the 100-meter dash or the women’s synchronized swimming, depending what effect those steroids have on him.
2. BEN RUNS LIKE THE DICKENS.
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. The best was 9.79 seconds, a time breaking his own world record and personal vanity plate of 9.83. The worst came later, when traces of urine were discovered in Ben’s steroid sample. Before the bad news, though, Johnson’s incredible run, in which he defeated Carl Lewis by a full stride even though Lewis ran an American-record 9.92, was a sight to behold. Too bad it no longer counts. Benny, we hardly knew ye.
3. HEY, SOMEBODY GET THIS GUY OUT OF THE RING.
A South Korean boxer, bantamweight Byun Jong Il, went to his neutral corner and stayed there. And stayed there. And stayed there. For 67 minutes. The referee, Keith Walker of New Zealand, meanwhile, got into a better fight than Byun did. South Koreans from outside the ring came after him. Byun just sat there. He’d still be sitting there if he had his way. South Korean officials were ashamed, until they found out NBC was telling people about it. And telling people. And telling people.
4. HEY, SOMEBODY GET THIS GUY INTO THE RING.
Anthony Hembrick, U.S. Army, trying to be all that he could be, was supposed to fight another middleweight. Anthony missed the bus. By the time Anthony got to the ring, his opponent was getting out of it. This is a new form of technical knockout. The technicality was that Anthony’s coaches brought him 10,000 miles from Ft. Bragg, N.C., but couldn’t get him from the Olympic Village to the boxing arena, maybe 5 miles away. Oh, well. Anthony’s hero, Muhammad Ali, had a slogan, “I Am the Greatest!” Anthony’s new slogan is, “I Am the Latest!”
5. WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN?
“Tell the American people about this !” the South Koreans cried. OK. A California kid named Troy Dalbey, whose excuse is “Hey, I’m only 20!” swiped an expensive ornamental mask from a hotel wall, then placed it on the seat next to him at a restaurant for a joke. Some joke. It was the joke that nearly touched off two international incidents--one between the Americans and South Koreans, who do not understand the concept of “high jinks,” and one between the South Koreans and Japanese, because Dalbey’s accomplice was an American who now coaches Japanese swimmers. Don’t these guys know that robbers are supposed to wear masks, not steal them?
6. THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE OLYMPICS.
Greg Louganis, distinguished diver and novice stand-up comedian, returned to California before the end of the Games, put on a tuxedo, then did a comedy routine at The Improv about conking his head on the springboard. “Does anybody know how long I’ve practiced that dive?” Greg asked. Nobody laughed. “What is this--an audience or an oil painting? " Greg, away from the pool, your timing needs work. “Practiced that dive! Get it? How many times I hit my head in practice? These are the jokes, folks!” Aw, forget it, Greg. You got two new golds, to go with your two old golds. Now get outta here, you platform head.
7. AND AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PEDESTAL STANDS A BIG, BIG MAN, BIG JOHN.
He stood 6 foot 10 and weighed 305, and everybody said you didn’t give no jive, to Big John, Big Bad John. He came from the States to coach our cagers, our cagers in Seoul, and everybody said they’d have to give the Gold, to Big John. Big Johnnnn, Big Bad John. But the semifinal game was a loss to the Russians, and that turned out to be a real crusher, for Big John. Big Johnnnn, Big Bad John.
8. STABBED IN THE HEART, JUST LIKE LUGOSI.
Bela Karolyi, coach of U.S. gymnasts, host of American Handstand, and One Tough Romanian, said, “I feel like I was stopped on the highway, robbed, kicked in the mouth, and you go home naked.” Which was his way of saying he sort of disliked the way an East German woman gymnastics official, Ellen Berger, got a vital half-point taken away from the Bela’s American women, for a rules infraction. Bela obviously thinks of Berger as bossy, because he referred to her as, “That cow.” On our insult scale of 1 to 10, 10 being nastiest, we give Bela Karolyi: 10.0, 10.0, 9.5, 9.5, 10.0.
9. GET IN HER WAY AND SHE’LL SCRATCH YOUR EYES OUT.
Not that Florence Griffith Joyner has a mean bone in her body. It’s just that if you leave your lane, those 3-inch fingernails might just claw you. Griffith Joyner is the only runner in the world nobody wants to hand a baton to, for reasons of personal safety. She won the 100 meters in a wind-aided record time, the 200 in a no-wind situation, the 400 relay with a little help from her friends--well, teammates--and nearly won the 1,600 relay, too. We really had our FloJo working.
10. I’D LIKE TO TAKE YOU ON A SLOW BOAT FROM SINGAPORE.
At this point, I know some of you want me to mention Janet Evans, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Kristin Otto, Matt Biondi, Steve and Carl Lewis, or maybe that teeny-weeny Turkish weightlifter whose name is Naim Suleymanoglu or Naim Suleimanov or Name Thattune or whatever. Sorry. I like Lawrence Lemieux better.
Old Double L epitomizes everything the Olympic ideal represents. Lemieux is the Canadian yachtsman who saw a Singapore sailor’s boat capsize, jumped in the water, even though he was in second place at the time, and made sure the Singapore guy was safe. As a reward, Olympic officials gave the Canadian his second-place points anyway. Personally, I would like to give him a medal, the Order of Lemieux, and award it to another Olympian, every time we hold one of these things.
In the bad deed vs. good deed count, I make Canada 1 for 2.