John Shearer: Random Thoughts About Opening Olympic Ceremonies, Lookouts Beer Night, and Cold Restaurant French Fries
Tuesday, July 27, 2021 - by John Shearer
Like many, I watched the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo on Friday, and I have continued to follow the exciting first few days of the games.
Actually, I watched the formal ceremonies twice. I tuned in to them live beginning at 7 a.m. and enjoyed the opening announcements and entertainment, the marching in of the different nations that took around two hours or so, and then had to leave as the final entertainment and lighting of the torch were beginning.
As a result, I started watching them again during the rebroadcast on NBC Friday evening.
I came back from Nightfall and tuned back in a little before 10, just as the marching in of the nations was nearing its end.
Although it was done before a mostly empty stadium, I still thoroughly enjoyed it as much as any past opening ceremonies, despite the seemingly long time it took for all the nations to march in, including Tonga with the well-oiled and shirtless male flagbearer, Pita Taufatofua.
And there were several aspects of the opening show I loved.
The 1,800 drones circling overhead that were a big ball and then suddenly became a large globe with continents of the world perfectly outlined was downright genius, as was the re-creation of the pictograph symbols of the 50 different Olympic sports consecutively by the mime-like artists.
I also loved the way the old John Lennon song, “Imagine,” was used in a style that tied the whole world together in a theme of peace.
And the lighting of the torch was also interesting. A pyramid-like structure with a ball on top – symbolizing Mt. Fuji – was shown and mentioned as a backdrop on the field of the stadium. But no hint of its future main use was given.
Well, guess what? That ball at the top suddenly opened into several pieces, and it became the cauldron for the Olympic flame. It was lighted by tennis star Naomi Osaka, who has been in the news recently for skipping some major tournaments due to stress from media attention and other factors.
Unfortunately for her, she has already lost in her quest for a medal. It was also breaking Tuesday morning that some American teams in various sports had not done well, including the women’s gymnastics team after Simone Biles dropped out of that competition for stress and mental-health-related reasons.
But there has been plenty of inspiration, too, including 17-year-old swimmer Lydia Jacoby from the unlikely swim state of Alaska being the surprise winner of the women’s 100-meter breaststroke. That was almost as exciting as the spontaneous celebration that took place among her supporters back in Alaska attending a TV watch party and being overcome with emotion, as they jumped up and down like crazy after her upset win.
In sports, a celebration after an unexpected victory or after a long drought without success is always special to see or be a part of.
There have been plenty of other great moments so far, and it was not all with the gold medalists. That included watching 46-year-old gymnast Oksana Chusovitini from Uzbekistan compete in her final Olympics after decades of trying, even though she was long past her prime – as any 46-year-old would be.
America seems to be well represented and has already received medals in everything from surfing to shooting. Chances are a few cultural differences are represented among all those sports competitors when our country has become obsessed with wondering who is a liberal and who is a conservative, but these athletes are all pridefully representing their country as one. And this sense of unity has been a nice respite.
I grew up attending Bright School in the late 1960s and early 1970s when we were possibly the only elementary school in town that took part in both soccer and gymnastics, so I developed an appreciation for all sports early on. That continued when I helped the Knoxville News Sentinel on a freelance basis in recent years and would be asked to cover a variety of non-major sports, from golf to wrestling to even Lady Vols softball and volleyball.
I enjoy all the sports, so the Olympics fits me perfectly. I am not like the man I once knew, who was strictly a fan of the high-profile sports of football, basketball and baseball, and he remarked that the only thing worse than track is field.
I even enjoyed watching a little of the equestrian dressage competition and ping pong, or rather table tennis, over the weekend.
I also, of course, love baseball, particularly Atlanta Braves baseball, and last Thursday before the Olympics started, I went to the Chattanooga Lookouts game at AT&T Field. Going to baseball games was one activity I missed during the pandemic, so I have tried to make up for it this year.
I have been to two Braves games, including one in Cincinnati, and last Thursday was my second Lookouts game. I had gone about a month ago with my wife, Laura, and enjoyed it on a comfortable night before the crowds started getting heavier after more restrictions were lifted.
As I found out, last Thursday was Thirsty Thursday with discounted beer and soft drink prices. If there is one thing Americans love more than sports like baseball, it might be beer. As a result, a good crowd was on hand, and it might not have just been to see the beloved Lookouts.
I had a seat in one of the lower sections, and needless to say, a number of spectators were not staying in their seats. Yes, they were going to the concession stand regularly. I saw a few couples of people mostly about in their 20s go walking out to the concourse empty handed and coming back with a beer in each hand at least three times.
Instead of switch hitters, they were apparently switch nippers.
It was not bad or out of control, except for one gentleman who walked a little like he had done that dance-around-while-spinning-a-bat promotion between innings. And the Lookouts management seemed to do a good job of handling what was no different than other similar promotions in other ballparks.
But as I munched on a hot dog and some chili nachos and sipped my small Cokes that were also discounted, I was once again glad I had quit drinking more than 20 years ago, even though I know I am little bit of a party pooper and not very fun at places where alcohol is served.
Speaking of food, one of my great wishes in the world is that every order of French fries I get at a fast-food or even sit-down restaurant would be steaming hot. But I bet at least 75 percent of the time, the temperature is unacceptable to me.
They are either barely warm or room temperature, and I can’t even take them home and microwave or stick them in the oven for a few minutes to get them tasting adequately well, like I can do with chicken strips or fried fish in the warming oven.
Someone – maybe one of these successful and wealthy business entrepreneurs involved in the new space race – needs to come up with a system where the fries are adequately hot and perfectly salted when you get them. Or at least they need to invent a machine that makes them fresh again.
Those seemingly few times when the fries have been perfect are among the culinary highlights of my life. Having to cover a high school softball game in Knoxville a few years ago and enjoying some old-fashioned crinkle fries that were cooked by some school supporters after I ordered them is one Olympic-gold-medal-like-level of cooking performance that comes to mind.
Shoot, I like seemingly elusive hot French fries so much that I might even order a beer sometime with them if I could be assured that they would be piping hot and nicely salted!
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