FARNER: Novelty of Olympics delights novice fans

When the Olympics began, I set out to find the one sport that's akin to curling in the winter. The sport that you never hear a peep about in the three years between the Olympic Games, one that some people even question if it's a sport.

But then it turns out to be a fan favorite, and often you know someone who boasts that they could qualify for it in four years.

Turns out, the summer spectacle has at least a handful of sports that almost everyone has an opinion about. At least, once they watch it long enough to understand the rules.

That's what I caught myself doing while flipping channels the other day. Part of the time I tried to figure out the flow of the game in fencing or water polo, for example, and other times I was confused about the scoreboard.

The novelty of the games seems to be the draw that yields such high television ratings. And may be why NBC can get away with showing events on a tape-delayed basis in an era of social media when results are spread instantly after they happen.

The tape-delayed hubub doesn't bother me as much as most, because I most enjoy the commentators' reactions captured in real time.

In a badminton match between the United States and Korea, one guy said it's a "Kamikaze style" of play where it's more of a video game than your backyard garden variety game. Then, on a winning point, the analyst said, "Jump smash and he puts it away," which made me wonder what some of these commentators do during non-Olympic years.

The gymnastics events are always popular, and typically shown in prime time. Many people marvel at the gymnasts' physique, how small they are, or how strong their legs or arms are, depending on men's or women's events. But when the commentator boasted about a particular gymnast and said, "Those toes could crack walnuts," it made me sit up and wonder.

Of course, the rituals within a given sport also entertain me.

For example, after every point awarded in volleyball, both teams would come together and slap each other's backs. After the Brazilian women's team was awarded a point against the Americans because of a foot fault, they came together as if they had just met at an airport following a trans-Atlantic flight. It also made me wonder if your average office setting could duplicate the volleyball ritual.

"Ah, the printer has an error again that nobody's seen before. OK, OK, let's go, get 'em next time." Back slap, high five.So as we wait for regular fall television programming, like sitcoms, reality shows and football games to return, the Olympics offer a slice of novelty that provides unexpected entertainment.

Keith Farner covers Suwanee for the Daily Post. Email him at keith.farner@gwinnettdailypost.com.