I'm all smiles

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By Tommie Kendall

Man, it sure is hard to stop smiling. It’s something that happens to me this same time every four years. I’m not sure what to call it. Maybe Olympicitis, acute sportsmania, or Olympic fever. The symptoms are simple: uncontrollable shaking, constant cold chills, sore cheek bones, nervousness and an intense desire to play every sport imaginable.

It’s odd and a little funny, but kind of serious at the same time. Actually, it’s hard to get anything done with all the excitement I’ve been feeling lately. I haven’t put my finger on it yet, but I think it could have something to do with the Olympics.

It started in 1992, came back in 1996, again in 2000 and once more in 2004. Now, with the Beijing Olympics just days away, it’s back for another go around. When the Olympics officially start this Friday, it will most likely be hard for me to even catch my breath. It’s that bad.

My first vivid memories of the Olympics were from Barcelona in 1992. I turned 11 years old during those games. I remember watching, in awe, the Dream Team — composed of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson — sweep away their competition on their way to Olympic glory. Sure I remember other sports like track and field, gymnastics and ice skating, but it was the Dream Team that inspired me to play from sun-up until sun-set in rain, shine or snow. I still can name every player on that team, and every once in a while I still pretend to be one of those players while shooting hoops in my driveway.

In 1996, I really started to get into all the action, and I was truly caught up in the Olympic spirit for the first time. I religiously watched the USA basketball team again, though they didn’t impress me as much as four years earlier. Personally, my Olympic highlights from those games included Michael Johnson winning the 200- and 400-meter races, Carl Lewis winning his fourth long jump gold medal at the age of 35 and, of course, Kerri Strug’s dramatic one-foot landing in the vault.

In the two Olympics that followed — 2000 in Sydney and 2004 in Athens — I was glued to the television, watching as much of the nonstop action as I could. For the events I couldn’t watch, I taped for a later viewing.

When my seventh Olympics start this Friday at 8 p.m., I’m not exactly sure where I’ll be but I know it will be somewhere in front of a television. It’s a place I’ll be until the Aug. 24 closing ceremonies. And in between, I’ll probably find some time to go out for a bike ride, a run, shoot some hoops, kick a soccer ball or swing a bat — acting out my childhood dreams like I do every four years.

Then, I’m certain the symptoms will clear up, the smiling will be less frequent and I’ll be normal once again. Well, until London that is.

Tommie can be reached at sports@hclocal.com.