Politics and sport are inextricably linked, perhaps never more so than in the Beijing Olympics. There's fury over human rights (or lack thereof), censorship and environmental issues. We'd like to say that this makes it morally impossible for us to enjoy the games, but we can't. In fact, we are enamored of them: We marvel at how twentysomething athletes speak of their impending retirements. We get teary-eyed when we hear about an Olympic team of just a handful of athletes. And it's not just us. The spectacle of the games makes otherwise normal journalists churn out daisy chains of blubbering adjectives, like this from NBC Sports' Alan Abrahamson: "The U.S. men's 4x100m free relay team won gold Monday in the most exciting, most record-breaking, most amazing, thrilling, unbelievable relay anyone could ever imagine..."
We know that O'Leary's, a sports bar in Sunset Hills, has plenty of flat-screen televisions — including a half-melted one that's mounted over their front door, a warped, eerie reminder of the fire that partially destroyed the place two years ago. So we go to take in the Olympics opening ceremony, and order the most American-sounding drink on the menu: The Bomb Pop Martini ("O'Leary's Famous!"). The other thing O'Leary's is famous for is its part-owner, Affton native John Goodman. Our bartender says Goodman came in a few weeks back for karaoke (he sang the Blues Brothers).
During the opening ceremony, we keep thinking how odd it is to see the Chinese army feature so prevalently in the exhibition that also emphasizes innocence and harmony. The juxtaposition is a bit jarring. But what does it say about America when one of our most beloved childhood treats from the ice-cream man is a red, white and blue Bomb Pop? We've had plenty of time to mull this over, because the bartender is nowhere to be found. She finally greets us by the time Chinese Taipei processes in. Which is to say, it took a really long time.
The Bomb Pop Martini is Smirnoff Vodka, Rose's Blue Raspberry Infusion and lemonade. It's the color of Windex that you've watered down to make it last longer, and there's an exceedingly tart, shriveled cherry at the bottom of the glass. (It doesn't make an appearance in the second one we order, which is fine by us.) It comes in large martini glass with a stem that's crinkled like a thick, crushed-out cigarette. And yes, it really does recall a Bomb Pop. The sour lemonade is softened by the blue-raspberry infusion, but it stops just shy of being too sweet.
Sometime during our second Bomb Pop martini, we get a little tipsy and pledge our full Olympic support to Cambodia, whose four athletes who are positively beaming, and decide that their flag bearer, marathoner Hem Bunting, has the coolest name we've ever heard. A bit of digging reveals that he lives in the decrepit stadium where he trains. We also learn the average Cambodian makes $380 a year, which is about half the cost of the Americans' drab Ralph Lauren sport coats, which, when paired with caps, are best described as "cruise director meets Old Newsboys Day."
And so we'll spend the next several days near the television, ignoring the phone and Googling "funds support Cambodian athletes." We'll root for one of them to win their country's first ever medal, while we undertake the Olympian feat of pretending there's something in our eye.
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