In Britain today, we are allegedly in the grip of the biggest threat to our existence since mad cow disease, H5N1 bird flu, and even ManBearPig.
I am, of course, referring to the OBESITY EPIDEMIC.
So, of course, the logical response of our enlightened government and the Dear Leader is, of course, to ban junk food advertising and preach at us yet more by putting traffic-light style warning signs on things we eat. This is, of course, totally misguided, because us fat bastards are going to try and break the world ice-cream gluttony record by ordering a Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownie Milkshake with Extra Caramel Sauce regardless of whether Ben & Jerry's serve it in a plain tub or a dangerous-looking red one. They will still log onto, and generate the recipes on, sites like Pimp My Snack which, among other things, offers such delights as Giant Creme Eggs (an easter egg full of the creamy stuff from normal creme eggs), Mars Bar Limos (two conjoined king-size Mars Bars with icing sugar headlamps and chocolate button wheels), and Humongous Iced Gems (a.k.a. instant diabetes) regardless of whether holier-than-thou politicians preach to us about whether this orgy of cholesterolic perversity has "no place in our society" or not. So it all smacks of showboating by our lords and masters at Westminster.
But simply to look at the obesity crisis in the narrow terms of what you shovel down your gullet alone is not enough. As everyone with a GCSE in Biology knows, if the amount of energy you swallow is greater than the amount of energy you expend by moving about, you'll pork it on. And if you move about more than you eat, you'll slough it off. There's a few more things to it than that, but I wouldn't want to confuse the political classes by overcomplicating things. Yet, in Britain, exercise is seen as a duty, an obligation, and as something that doesn't count unless you're hating every minute of it. Get down your local glossy chain gym and you'll see large numbers of people thoroughly hating every minute of it, as they grunt and puff and pant and wheeze their way on a steel and rubber road to nowhere, or grunt themselves into lifting a number of heavy metal bricks from the end of a cable to the other end with only a highly polished lever stapled to a rack because, if you're enjoying yourself, it can't be good for you. And then there's the complaints afterwards about how you feel all stiff and creak about. And people pay for this? No wonder we're a nation of lardarses.
I think it's only right that I expose my biases at this point. I do not gym for those very reasons. I have beforehand, and I found it thoroughly dull. I'm sure it did me some good, but I found the experience akin to how I would if I weren't a Catholic, yet was press-ganged into joining a parade of flagellants. So, of course, the obvious solution for me - and for Britain - is to persuade people to get their exercise in amusing and strange ways. And it's with this in mind that I now present to you the antidote to the vulgar display of power that is Beijing 2008.
The Oddball Olympics
This would be a proposed alternative Olympic Games in which weird and unusual and downright alarming sports are practiced on a global stage. Think of the sort of things shown on ESPN 8 in the film "Dodgeball" if you want. These would be the sort of sports that I'm sure people would find far more interesting and amusing both to watch and to engage in than standard running and jumping and so forth. After all, I've ever preferred the Winter Olympics with sliding down a tea tray arse-first and skiing across miles of trackless countryside before feverishly shooting at some targets and so forth, simply due to the sheer insanity of the events.
Why would this help the OBESITY EPIDEMIC? Because it, to use a sickly phrase I have ever misliked, raises awareness of the existence of these activities, and that you can get into shape without having to splash out on a gym membership and a ton's worth of designer athletic gear so you're looking socially acceptable while grunting your way to postponing your inevitable heart attack by six months in case a tasty member of the opposite (or even same) sex wheezes by. And at the same time, you can have enormous fun while doing it. After all, think about it... in the 1990s, we had the golden age of action game shows like Body Heat, the Krypton Factor, Gladiators, Fort Boyard, and so forth, and we were less bulbous then...
The sports I propose to be included in my Oddball Olympics are as follows. In time, as I engage in them for myself, I'll do individual writeups on each event, but as for now, here's a quick digest:
Powerbocking. You may have seen people doing this. Powerbocks are giant leaf-springs that attach to your feet on which you can bounce, flip, run, and cavort to your heart's content, and hopefully not fall on your arse and bust your coccyx. This is, of course, a wide-ranging activity, and as such there'd be multiple disciplines within this sport. Speedbocking, for instance, in which competitors must hurtle round a banked track a bit like a velodrome, but with eight-foot hurdles that must be vaulted over, while wearing crash helmets and full-body condoms. Then there'd be freestyle bocking, which is akin to a cross between freestyle BMX and the floor event in gymnastics, with judges holding up cards and all that. Not to mention all-terrain bocking, which is a marathon-type event but with amusing obstacles that you can leap, vault, and roll through. Maybe even bocketball, which is like basketball but on powerbocks... you get the picture.
Bicycle Jousting. You on a bike on one side of a barrier, the opponent on the other. Pedal at breakneck speed towards them and try to unseat them with the lance attached to your handlebars while they try to do the same to you. Some rules apply merely because we're not trying to kill anyone here, so no going for the throat or for the crotch. This would have at least two events in it, the singles, and the doubles, which are performed on tandem bikes in which the front person steers and the back person holds the lance, and if either's unseated that team loses.
Chessboxing. The Game of Kings meets the Noble Art. Inspired by a Belgian comic artist and put into existence (for real) by a consortium of Dutch and Germans, this is an absolute shoo-in to be honest. Five rounds of chess. Six rounds of boxing. Decision by checkmate or knockout. Division by weight and ELO rating. Step up if you dare.
Roller Derby. Women in fishnets and knee pads charging round and round on rollerskates till everyone gets dizzy and then crashing into each other, what's not to like? There are rules, but nobody really knows what they are. Still, having met some rollergirls in my time, once they got into it they never looked back, or so they say. This is a sport for people who wanted to go to a roller disco but decided that they'd rather waltz it up in a mosh pit than slip a disc to Donna Summer.
Postmodern Pentathlon. Just as the Ancient Olympics' Pentathlon comprised the disciplines most apt to the Hellenic infantryman, and the Modern Pentathlon comprises the disciplines most apt to the 19th-century cavalryman, so does the Postmodern Pentathlon comprise the disciplines most apt to the 21st-century lager lout. Of necessity, these will include, in this order, speed pint-downing, speed kebab-munching, the 100m sprint, a round or two of mixed martial arts (okay, let's be frank, totally undignified and shameful brawling), and then the high jump, which is no more than these reprobates deserve. Naturally, anyone who fails to keep down either the pint or the kebab will incur a penalty. A Pint and a Fight - A Great Olympic Night!
Dodgeball. A sport comprising two disciplines, Anglo-Saxon and American. Anglo-Saxon dodgeball is the one played in British schools during PE lessons, which involves small rubber balls being whanged at high speed into a pack of competitors who, if they are hit, are out and become ball-chuckers themselves. Gold, silver, and bronze go, respectively, to the last three standing. American dodgeball involves six, larger, rubber balls which teams of six whang at each other as in the film "Dodgeball". For the former and the latter, there would be a tournament structure - in Anglo-Saxon, it would be the top third from each heat who go to the final, and in American, it would be a standard single-elimination affair.
Octopush. A form of hockey played underwater using a small, one-handed stick by folks in snorkels. It was invented by snorkel divers as a way of keeping in condition during the off-season and looks seriously, seriously, fun.
Human Powered Chariot Racing. You too can wish you were a square-jawed dead American gun nut! In this, teams of four well-built men pull a chariot with a driver in it for a number of laps around a flat track and the winner is the first across the line. This one was inspired by the drunken studenty pastime of racing supermarket trolleys round Sainsburys' car park. Except this isn't likely to get the participants bollocked by the supermarket's management or to leave a dent in anyone's car.
Pole Dancing. Well, my local sports centre had a poster up a while back offering pole dancing classes, and certain ladies in the press have attributed to it their new washboard stomachs, so why not, audience? This event is included also to annoy Daily Mail readers, militant feminists, and other assorted wowsers, and in this day and age, is open to both men and women. Categories include artistic, which includes an emphasis things like slithering up the pole while upside down and similar stunts, and rhythmic, in which timekeeping is rated more highly. Both are judged in the time-honoured Olympic method of having a panel of judges hold up cards to determine the marks, which seems to be absent from the current real-life Games in Beijing. After all, a lot of people in Britain do hit the gyms both to increase their chance of scoring later on, and also to possibly score there and then, so why not have a sport in which getting better at scoring is part of it? It's only logical...
Track and field. You don't think I'd let all the exotic stuff hog the limelight, would you? Track and field events are, of course, a part of the Oddball Olympics but are a little on the offbeat side. So rather than javelin, or discus, or shot put, we'd have welly whanging or caber toss. Rather than the 100m sprint or the 110m hurdles, we'd bring back the former Olympic strangeness of the walking race, in which competitors must not run (running being defined as one foot leaving the ground before the other's touched down). And maybe we could smush up the long jump and pole vault into one discipline, and put it on skates, for the roller pole-vault bodyhurling event, in which you try to pole-vault, on roller skates, over a bar a mere two metres high, but increasingly further distances away from the line.
I think you get the picture.
Of course, the Oddball Olympics are their own bosses, celebrating all that is good, bad, and ugly about the world of sport. Not here massive sponsorship deals for individual players or teams; the Oddball Olympics, much like its longer established mainstream counterpart, requires that all competitors be amateurs. Thus, sports can be added because people are engaged in them and want to compete against others in them for the love of the game, and for a chance at that elusive gold medal. Ideally, I'd encourage a network of grass-roots leagues and so forth in these disciplines, but as for now, it'll just have to stay as the one-off brain-wrong of the maniacal man-mental that is myself.