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Have we learned nothing from the Olympics?

August 5, 2012
By WES BURNS - Copy Editor ( , Times-Republican

With NBC putting on a cross-channel, multinational cavalcade of coverage of the same six events, I know that you've seen SOME Olympic coverage.

The pageantry, the flag waving, that 40-foot-tall baby from the opening ceremonies that continues to haunt my dreams (why is it always laughing at me?); these are mere distractions from the true spirit of the games.

The Olympics prove that, once every four years, we can come together as a country, in our Ralph Lauren-approved berets, and pretend to care about competitive swimming.

And why do we pretend to care? Why do we sit through a seemingly endless series of interviews between the Napoleon of TV sports Bob Costas and the man-dolphin hybrid that is Michael Phelps?

Because it's the Olympics! If we don't all pull together as a country then the Chinese are going to win all the medals and we'll lose our seat at the cool kids table in the United Nations cafeteria. Do you think the United States is going to be forced to sit with the likes of Tuvalu and San Marino? I don't think so!

But these London games are different. Maybe it's the ubiquitous Union Jacks, maybe it's the constant series of "human interest" stories instead of coverage of judo, maybe it's the fact that the summer Olympics are being played in a place so cold and damp that the women's beach volleyball competition have replaced their regular uniforms (bikinis) with something warmer (already changed the channel), but these Olympics aren't building the same sense of unity we had in 2008.

I don't think the problem is with the Olympics, I think the problem is with us.

Americans have fallen into divisive infighting, with each group claiming the moral high ground while simultaneously demonizing their opponents. A division so deep that we cannot present a unified front to the rest of the world. And this division is readily apparent in our most cherished public institution: candy.

What did you think I was going to say, "politics?" That has been a rancorous endeavor since the days of the tri-corner hat, a look I desperately hope returns some day soon.

It all started last year with the separation of Mike and Ike. This longstanding duo of chewy candy went their separate ways, at least according to its marketing department, citing irreconcilable differences and stagnant sales to 13-17 year olds.

The move infuriated many. Candy lovers had the world over fretted that they may have to move to the unsavory knock off brand of Jim & Tims. Polycephalic Pundit Monster assumed that this split was something to do with gay marriage, since PPM seems to believe the definition of marriage is any two names joined by an ampersand.

Do you think Proctor & Gamble are married? Is an ampersand really all it takes? Look, I'm about to get married a whole bunch right now: Wes & Scarlett Johansson, Wes & Angela Merkel, Wes & Channel 13 evening news anchor Erin Kiernan (a man can dream). See how easy that was?

The toxic fallout from the Mike & Ike debacle has started to spread. Now the once venerable institution of Twix has succumbed to discord.

Twix has started a national campaign to explain that, long ago in the time of top hats and mustaches (A look I hope never comes back), Twix was split upon right/left boundaries following a schism between its founders, two men whom I can only assume were both named Mr. Twix. While open war was avoided, tensions persist to this day.

My fellow Americans, where does it end? Are we to see civil war between all former food allies? Will there be blood between burgers and cheese? Milk and cereal? Beer and cold?

Now is when we take a stand, as one country, like we used to. If Mike & Ike and Twix want to be segregated I say too bad! I say we eat all of them at once. Sure, it increases your chances of choking by a lot but remember, you're not choking on candy, you're choking on patriotism.


Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or



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