If embarrassing yourself was an Olympic sport, I'd be spending the rest of this week locating my passport, buying one of those velour-wrapped neck pillows and packing for a trip to London.
There's not a day that goes by that I'm not involved in some kind of mishap, ranging from the innocuous (baptizing my keyboard with coffee) to the catastrophic (accidentally memorizing Nicki Minaj lyrics).
Today's dose of Derp happened when I hurriedly tried to sidestep a 'Caution: Wet Floor' sign and — IRONY ALERT — ended up tangling my own ankles and falling forearms-first into a shelf full of jarred gravy. (I live in the American South. Of course we have a gravy aisle.) As several jars shattered, splashing my legs with artificial sausage flavoring, I though "Yeah, I'm gold medal material."
Even though Being A Disaster isn't one of the 26 sports featured in the Summer Olympics, I'm still looking forward to them, and not just because we'll see Ryan Lochte's torso in glorious 1080p. As much as I dig the main events — swimming, the always-anticipated 100-meter track showdown and the artistic gymnastics routines — I pull the hardest for the unknowns, the athletes who don't have Subway ads or shampoo commercials, the ones whose Olympic dreams have been subsidized by day jobs.
It sounds like a poorly paraphrased NCAA commercial, but there are 530 athletes on Team USA, and a lot of them have gone pro in something other than sports. Wrestler Chas Betts is a freelance motion designer and animator. Men's eight-team rower Jake Cornelius started an academic counseling company. Judoka Marti Malloy is a receptionist at a doctor's office. Triathlete Gwen Jorgensen is an accountant (but she's taken an extended leave of absence, so don't ask her about your refund.)
Or taekwondo practitioner Terrence Jennings, who took up martial arts after spending every after-school afternoon watching a VHS tape of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (By contrast, they just inspired me to eat my weight in pizza.) Jennings says that winning a medal in his first Olympics would be a way to repay his parents for their support. "[Winning] would be the ultimate thank you to them," Jennings admitted.
Or Greco-Roman wrestler Dremiel Byers, who is known as Army Sgt. 1st Class Dremiel Byers when he's outside the mat. The supply sergeant scrapped a football scholarship after one year so he could enlist. Now part of the Army's World Class Athlete program, "his first mission is the Olympics, and his second is to assist in recruiting."
That's why I love those "smaller" sports, which is kind of a misnomer, considering that they outnumber the big draws. This year, there are almost twice as many rowing competitors (44) as there are basketball players (24). There will be more Sailing Olympians (16) than Gymnasts (13). And of the 125 crowded into the spike and spandex category of Athletics, only three will run that marquee Men's 100m race.
I love the fact that, for 17 days, the world will pay attention to the sports we typically only see in the Hunger Games (Hello, archery!) as Girl Scout badges (Hey, canoeing!) or on Hollister T-shirt designs (Hi, Windsurfing!).
These consistently overlooked athletes will have a potential audience of four billion people. On the other hand, holy cow, they'll have an audience of 4 BILLION PEOPLE watching NBC's wall-to-wall coverage.
Summer Olympics in London (NBC)
Video: 14-time gold medalist Michael Phelps is pursuing a new piece of history in 2012.
It's even harder to get my head around the amount of dedication and sacrifice it takes to earn a bunk in the athletes' village (but I'm sure there's a soft-focus, narrated montage that will tell you about it).
I sincerely wish everyone on Team USA could be recognized for their accomplishments and not just because their moms send newspaper clippings to their relatives.
Soooo, here's where I'll go all imperative sentence on you and say that before Paul McCartney and a pile of sheep kick off the opening ceremonies, we should check out some of those unfamiliar faces and their underfollowed Twitter feeds.
Who? Just focus on one sport or the athletes who live in your home state (Or, if you live in New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Carolina or West Virginia, the ones who live in your neighbor state).
That said, I'd still give my phone number to Ryan Lochte. Anybody know if he likes gravy?