Somewhere around 10:30pm, as the announcers were declaring that Paul Hamm, fresh off a disastrous fall on the vault, had no chance of winning the gold, the narrative chained me to the sofa. I mean, I knew Hamm had won, but it didn't matter. I had to know how he had managed to win against impossible odds. The expression on his face after his dismount from the high bar, his last rotation, was beautiful. Watching him say, "No, no" in disbelief as his coach and teammates told him of his improbable triumph was even better. By the time he was wearing his floral crown, listening to the national anthem, I was starting to feel liquid in the corner of my eyes.
That's what the Olympics American-style is all about, really: succumbing to the storyline in spite of yourself. I did it as a four-year-old barely comprehending Mark Spitz's seven golds or the day of Jim McKay looking way too somber. And I did it again tonight. Maybe I should go watch some of Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia to free myself from the prison of top-down narrative.