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Talking About Ambient Scuzz, Athletic Transcendence, And The Olympics

Russian Olympian Kamila Valieva after completing her gold-medal performance at the 2022 Winter Olympics, with The Distraction logo at upper right.
Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Even before the tearful denouement of the women’s figure skating event dropped a neutron bomb of bad vibes on the proceedings, there was something off about these Olympics. It’s the same thing that’s off about every Olympics, mostly, and the difference is less one of degree or kind than simple aesthetics. There is always a great deal of executive fuckery and scuzz nibbling inward from the periphery, and there is always the sense that the legitimate athletic magic at the center of the games is being leveraged by some of the most odious cynics in the world. As with most sports stuff, the Olympics is only really fun when it isn’t hamfistedly reminding you of everything else.

The fun of it, or part of the fun of it, is the way that what’s transcendent about the games overwhelms everything prosaic and gross about everything around it. When it works, it really works. When the story of the games is a 15-year-old skating genius who may have been given banned drugs by her sadistic coach and her country’s notoriously dirty athletic institutions, and who then crashes out of medal contention amid tears and recriminations, it is not really working at all. For most of this episode, that was what Drew and I talked about.

Well, sort of. Drew talked about his colonoscopy and having his vas deferens complimented by a fired-up urologist before we got to any of that, and we also shared a brief and enthusiastic reappraisal of the horny Euro dance music of the early 1990s, and then it was time to dig into the Olympic stuff. Again, sort of: our Olympic expertise tops out at the Distracted Enthusiast level, but at some point addressing the strange spectacle of it all is as close to talking about the thing as anyone could come. At any rate, it was about as close as either of us is likely to get; I don’t imagine it’s spoiling anything to note that both of us agreed that the obviously bad stuff that made us feel gross/sad should be stopped immediately. We’ll be monitoring the situation closely to see how the IOC responds to this clarion call to “knock it off.”

At or just past the very last minute at which such conversation is permitted, Drew and I also talked about the Super Bowl, the delights and discontents of having A Defensive Line Game unfold on the sport’s biggest stage, and the mystery of who and where Rams fans are. This involved me saying “Orange County” a number of times in what I have been informed is a very New Jersey-accented way. In keeping with my longstanding policy of refusing to dignify such outrageous accusations, I will simply say that this issue was addressed in the episode.

When it was time to open the Funbag, we were joined by Defector Accomplice Luke Forster-Broten. His reward for supporting our website was pondering questions like “Can you fire a gun in space?” and “How did you grow up in Iowa and wind up a Yankees fan?” (He actually had a pretty good answer for that one.) We discussed the importance of “the juice” when using canned vegetables, and he and Drew were subjected to my brief review of Amazon Prime’s extremely dumb, totally delightful Reacher. How much of a reward this really was for him is debatable, I suppose, but we were damn glad to have him.

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