Look at those nice even lines there. Someone put in some overtime.

When you watch the Olympics, the focus is understandably on the athletes. Everyone is interested in Michael Phelps breaking the record for most gold medals all-time; no one gives a crap about the guy (or more likely team of guys) that makes sure the water temperature is optimal for swimming. When you’re fixated on Misty May and Kerri Walsh’s barely there bathing suits, you may notice during timeouts, the group of gentlemen who come out, rake the sand, smooth out the court, and straighten the boundary lines. Then again, if they’re playing anyone from Poland, you might not.

This post is dedicated to five obscure jobs I’ve grown to appreciate over the course of this year’s Olympics. 

1. The guy who sets up the hurdles properly for the 400m hurdle race

“Take that, Osaka!”

Since this race is 400m, the runners start staggered. That means in a hurdle race, the hurdles have to be staggered as well or else you’ll get a wildly uneven race course where some guys are having to jump to soon, and others not soon enough. And as they go around each progressive corner, the stagger gets less and less pronounced until the home stretch where everything is back to even. Maybe it’s just because I have a liberal arts degree and have trouble relating to practical math applications, but this seems like a difficult thing to do.

I mean sure, there’s probably a diagram, and some glasses-wearing dork in a cubicle somewhere figured out the distances eons ago, but in this “get it done now” world where no one has time to consult a diagram, this job seems impressive. I suppose you could just measure the appropriate distance in each lane and set up the lanes one at a time, but again, who has time for that?

I’m willing to bet each Olympic track & field crew has someone on staff that’s a cross between Rain Man and Will Hunting that can eyeball the distances at the drop of a hat and set up each hurdle on its own without measuring. And considering it’s China, I’ll bet there’s not just one, but five on this staff.

So here’s to you, long distance hurdle set-up guy! Your measurement skills impress me. Now get your ass back out there and pick up the hurdles in lane 8. Some white guy knocked them all over.

2. The two guys who rub the lactic acid out of Michael Phelps’ muscles

“On to the massage table, Michael? Please?”

These guys should get a nice basket of Omaha Steaks from Michael Phelps for the next year for all the work they did keeping his lanky ass fresh, and for keeping his muscles from seizing up on him during one of his races.

After each race, Phelps heads over to the warm-down pool, swims leisurely for several minutes naturally working some of the acid out of his aching muscles, and then heads to the massage table where two creepy mustachioed guys work him over like they’re tenderizing tonight’s chicken piccata. When I watched them shake his legs about, it occurred to me that I do the same thing to Buttfore when I get home from work everyday. He lays on the ground and I work my fingers all through his body while his eyes turn Japanese, and his claws spread out like he’s getting ready to trace them to draw a turkey for his third grade class before Thanksgiving break. I’m not sure what that means, but I’m sure it’s something.

It also occurs to me that there are about 100 women that I can think of just off the top of my head who would give up two months’ salary to have this job at the Olympics.

“Hi, we’d like to put your hands all over Michael Phelps after each race for 9 days. Are you interested?”

“Put me on the fucking plane!”

3. The diving judge that consistently scores dives higher than the bitchy announcer

“Ouch ouch ouch! I hit my cold sore with my knee!”

It doesn’t matter which country this judge is from, and sometimes it’s all of them, but I’m always happy when the real judges like a dive better than Needler McBitch-a-lot on commentary. And no, I’ve yet to hear her real name. And no, I can’t be bothered to look it up. In fact, I think this should become a permanent position in the Olympics: Underminer of the Commentator.

There has to be a commentator like this in every country, except maybe the Scandinavian ones. They’re far too pleasant and upbeat there. But no matter where you go, there’s always some uptight bitch who is impossible to please. Therefore, I suggest instituting a judge that’s sole purpose is to offer a score that makes the commentator look like an idiot and/or spiteful pile of jealousy. How great would this be? And not only do the scores come up on the screen, but said judge gets to explain the score orally as well.

“He didn’t get all of this dive like I saw in practice. His knees were bent, and he went in past vertical. That’ll be a large deduction.”

“I gave this dive a 9.5. I thought it was nearly perfect, and you have your head up your ass. P.S. You’re ugly.”

This is my #1 suggestion for improving the Olympics.

4. The guy who sets the weights correctly in weightlifting

“Can you set that back where you found it please? I’m tired of moving the weights.”

Who is the guy (or guys) that gets to do this? Think about it, you’ve got Olympic weightlifters lifting more than anyone else in the world – who is the one that has to put the weight back in place when the lifter is done? I mean, I realize the weights roll and that the floor is relatively slick, but still. The guy from Germany who won the gold yesterday lifted 258 kg in the clean & jerk. That translates to 567 lbs. Have you ever tried to move something that weighs 567 lbs. from here to just over there?

I don’t care how slick the floor is, when you’ve got 13 beefcakes all doing 6 lifts over the course of a day, moving that shit around gets tiring.

Our apartment building’s mainline backed up recently into our bathroom (Don’t get me started on what a fun Saturday afternoon that was), and so our plumber who smelled like death had to bring in his uber-machine to unclog the pipe. Well, this sumbitch must weigh in excess of 200 lbs. and it has wheels, but I watched the bullets of sweat drip off his face as he maneuvered it around tight quarters in our bathroom. I can’t imagine these poor fuckers in the Olympics having to push these weights around all day, just so some side of beef can lift it up, grunt like he’s passing a peach pit, and drop it wherever he feels like. I wonder how many hernias happen by some idiot trying to nudge it with his foot to get it back into place.

5. The poor bastard that schedules NBC’s commercial rotations

“He’s a man living two different lives…” I know, I know, just shut the fuck up about it already!

I realize this person doesn’t actually work at the Olympics, but I feel for him or her nevertheless. Can you imagine how batshit insane you’d be thinking about those god-awful “Kath & Kim” commercials that air approximately 4,000 times per day? Or how much you’d hate Christian Slater after watching your one millionth promo for “My Own Worst Enemy”? As a sidenote: I am amused to see that Christian Slater has been rocking the same haircut for the last 20 years or so. I say hey, it worked for him in Kuffs, why ruin a winner?

People who work at television stations are generally insane as it is, they’re moreso during events with live coverage and repetitive commercials. This is especially true when a network is forcing a couple of a semi-wretched looking shows down everyone’s throat and has to air the promos for them to fill in during extra commercial breaks on top of the already excessive scheduled airings.

I was intrigued by “My Own Worst Enemy” because I like Christian Slater, and it seemed like a reasonably interesting premise. After seeing a zillion promos for it, I don’t care if it ever makes it to air. It’s like when the World Series was on and Joe Buck wouldn’t shut up about new episodes of “Prison Break.” I had heard enough talk of it to last me a lifetime, so I never gave the show a chance. I heard it was terrific, but I couldn’t have cared less. All I could think about was the exciting-as-balsa wood Joe Buck droning on about the show between mentions of how dominant the American League has been in recent years.

I understand that whoever has this job is only marking time until they can move up to a more glamorous job, and for those delusions they deserve whatever insanity they incur. But still, suffering through the hideously unfunny jokes of “Kath & Kim” is nearly too much for any person to suffer. And for their suffering that provides us with free television, I salute them.

As you finish watching the Olympics this week, ponder some of these jobs. For the Olympics cannot go on without them. And without the Olympics, you’d be stuck watching reruns of “Law & Order” or “30 Minute Meals” or some shit. Or you might *gasp* have to actually talk to those around you. And lord knows we can’t have that.

Until next time…