Family fun, Olympic-style

Published On August 2, 2012 | By Alice Cook

The Olympics have been a family event for the Raisman family – and many other families – this summer. (Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)

It was 1996 and my son was 3 1/2 years old.  We were watching the Atlanta Olympics for several nights, and little Brendan was loving it. There he was, with his bare feet hanging off the couch, when my husband said:
“Brendan, you know your mother was in the Olympics, right?”
Brendan nodded his head, but looked confused.
“What sport did mama do Brendan?” my husband asked.
“Running?” he guessed.
“No,” my husband answered.
“No, winter sport, Brendan.”
Ah, from the mouths of babes.

I have received some interesting feedback on this little vignette (from a story I wrote about a pregnant Olympian) over the past few days — enough to inspire me to put some thoughts together about how the Olympics changes the family dynamic in homes around the world.

In 1976, I was a competitor. Ever since I have been involved in the Olympics as either a reporter or spectator. Through the years is how the Olympics helps foster good old fashion “family time.”

Little Brendan is now 19. He is still sitting … well laying on the couch while watching the Olympics. His “little bare feet” are now a size 11. His sisters are 21 and 16. This summer, we just so happen to be renting a house in the woods of Eastham the same two weeks of the Olympics.

It’s the best of both worlds, the beach and the Games. We are on the Cape on vacation, and every night the house is full of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers and a couple of dogs. We are not roasting marshmallows, having a barbecue or playing backyard volleyball on this vacation. We are watching the Olympics.

The Olympics have become “family fun time” for millions of Americans. Unlike miniature golf, we don’t outgrow the Olympic Games. It’s not “uncool” for teenagers to hang out and watch Michael Phelps win his 19th medal or to see 17-year-old Missy Franklin kick some serious butt in the pool.

We loved it on Tuesday night when Jordyn Wieber got her redemption after nailing her first vault on the way to a gold medal in the team competition. There was massive discussion when Phelps “coasted” at the end of the 200-meter butterfly to be out-kicked by South African Chad le Clos.

The Olympics is not a newspaper, magazine or radio event. It is a television event through and through. It is “made for TV”, and for so many people, it has become a special two weeks for family bonding.

The Olympics happen once every four years. Yes, I know the winter games are in-between, and they are great too (after all, I competed in the winter Olympics). But there is no denying there is something extraordinary about the Summer Games. Maybe it’s because the days are longer, everyone is home more, the kids are out of school, people are on vacation and there is extra time to watch TV.

For my family, the Olympic coverage has become the “white noise” of our vacation rental. The television is tuned in from 8 a.m. until midnight. People are in and out, but the television is left on.

Breakfast discussion revolves around ping pong, field hockey, and rowing. During lunch, it’s volleyball and equestrian. The evenings are all about the “main events” and everyone respects my insistence not to talk about any results before we watch the coverage. As far as I’m concerned, everything is “live.”

Most summer vacation rentals in these parts don’t come with state-of-the-art televisions. After all, it’s supposed to be about enjoying the great outdoors.  No problem — we brought our own. Actually, the flat screen we’ve been watching on belongs to my son, who offered it up before we left home.

We had to bring Brendan’s TV down just like we brought beach chairs, an umbrella and a cooler.

After all, this is our family time. This is the Olympics. Only the best will do.

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About The Author

is a veteran television sports reporter and Olympian. Her experience includes 25 years of sports reporting for WBZ-TV, the CBS and former NBC affiliate in Boston. Cook has worked for ESPN, Turner Sports, and WTBS. Cook is a feature writer for She's Game Sports and She is also President and Founder of She's Game Sports LLC.