LITTLE ROCK — First Cleveland, then Philadelphia, and now Rio — staging areas for weeks of flag-waving, introduction of new faces, and critiques of performances in prime time.
Both of the country’s major political parties spent most of four days and nights laying the groundwork for acceptance speeches and the general election; beginning Sunday, there will be two weeks of award ceremonies in Brazil and NBC will provide live coverage of most of the good stuff since Rio is only two hours ahead of Arkansas.
With competition in 34 so-called sports, discrimination is a must when it comes to watching.
Citing lack of interest, archery, beach volleyball, boxing, canoe/kayak, diving, equestrian, field hockey, fencing, handball, judo, modern pentathlon, rhythmic gymnastics, rowing, rugby, sailing, shooting, synchronized swimming, taekwondo, tennis, trampoline, triathlon, water polo, weightlifting, and wrestling are off the table.
Checking out some of the other events is more about personal participation of sorts and communication.
For example, badminton in the backyard involved a clothesline instead of a net, ping-pong (table tennis to Olympians) occurred on a dining room table with sloped edges that sent a precise shot caroming sideways, and a bicycle was for transporting a baseball glove and bat to the pick-up game in the big field several blocks away.
Volleyball was a staple of gym class in college when it rained and remembered for the day a friend decided to bolt the gym with the ball rather than serve. Thirty-plus folks gave chase.
Gymnastics and soccer will get a glance or two because of a 13-year-old. Fascinated by the SEC gymnastics meet in North Little Rock, she is already talking about attending when some U.S. gymnasts tour this fall. She has played soccer for years and recently painted a “Manchester City” plaque to be glazed and fired in a kiln in a local arts and crafts store.
That leaves basketball, golf, swimming, and track and field with the latter at the forefront.
The U.S. is supposed to win in basketball. Period. The team is loaded with NBA All-Stars and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is 52-1 as the U.S. coach since 2005. Note to self: check on the finals on Aug. 21.
Although a big golf fan, the Olympic version will not get as much attention as a normal PGA Tour event. After all, the field is not as good without Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and others concerned about the Zika Virus.
Swimming is mostly about Michael Phelps. A swimming dinosaur at 31, the winner of 18 gold medals has cut way back on the number of events, but he is a threat to win the 100- and 200-meter butterfly, and the 200-meter individual medley.
The fact that he went to rehab and worked hard to get in superb shape after a second DUI arrest in 2014 is applauded and teammates recognized his efforts, electing him to carry the U.S. flag in the opening ceremony Friday night.
Beginning Aug. 12, track and field will be part of NBC’s primetime coverage through the end of the Olympics on Aug. 21 and nightly drama is promised although the competition might not be any more compelling than the U.S. Olympic Trials, complete with exultation and anguish, celebration and pain, surprises and predictable results.
On site in Eugene, Ore., former Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy nailed it when he said the trials are the same as the NFL playoffs — no matter what happened previously, it is perform or go home.
For contrast in Rio, check out 16-year-old Sydney McLaughlin in the 400-meter hurdles and 41-year-old Bernard Lagat in the 5,000 meters.
The U.S. athletes with Arkansas connections who have the best chance to earn a medal are competing in the men’s long jump and women’s pole vault. The final is Aug. 13 for Razorback Jarrion Lawson and Sylvan Hills High School grad Jeff Henderson and Aug. 19 for former Razorback Sandi Morris and current Razorback Lexi Weeks.
Harry King is sports columnist for GateHouse Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org