Littlefield: What It's Like To Watch The Olympics Abroad

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Russia (blue) topped France in the women's handball final. (Elsa/Getty Images)
Russia (blue) topped France in the women's handball final. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Which games you see when you watch the Olympics depends on where you’re watching the Games. For viewers here in the U.S., NBC presented lots of coverage of sports in which the home team excels…and was criticized by some for doing so. Bill Littlefield, who was on vacation in Europe during some of the recently concluded Olympics, found what seemed to him an exotic alternative.

While you were watching swimmers or the folks playing basketball
(The former sleek as porpoises, the latter mostly tall)
Or runners, jumpers, or the gymnasts hauling in the gold,
I found myself abroad in places left a little cold
By those pursuits pursued by our much-celebrated sorts…
And where I was the people followed very different sports.

It seemed that every time I passed a glowing TV screen
While I was on vacation there was nothing to be seen
But handball. It’s a team game, and it’s popular in France,
And Denmark’s excellent as well, and Poland’s in the dance,
As is their neighbor, Germany, nor is that list complete…
But those four were the best among the men, and it was neat
To watch them thump each other. It was nothing short of grand,
Although what they were up to I could not quite understand.
They didn’t have to dribble, though at times they bounced the ball.
They grabbed each other quite a lot, and sometimes they would fall
While trying hard to throw the ball into a guarded net,
Where stood a quite un-padded goalie. It’s a certain bet
That goalies in this sport endure lives likely to be rocky…
Much worse than soccer goalies or the goalies who play hockey.

The women representing France are handball hotshots, too…
Or, more precisely, runners-up, as they were number two
To mighty mother Russia. The Norwegians and the Dutch
Were only slightly not as good, and that by not so much.
They played the same aggressive game the men had undertaken,
And when the clock ran out they were unbowed if somewhat shaken.

Team handball is a game of skill and stamina. It’s hot.
But did you see it on TV? I’m guessing you did not,
Unless you were, like me, away from hearth as well as home,
But if – when the Olympics happen – you should chance to roam,
You may learn of a game that TV here would never dream
Of showing you, because the U.S. didn’t send a team.


Headshot of Bill Littlefield

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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