Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: Fine China

Today, Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know him as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may also have read his best-selling book Ebbetts Field and Johnny Unitas: Why Everything Good in Sports Has Already Happened. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show I Disagree With You. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

Greetings from Beijing! Or should I say, “How Knee”! That’s how they say “hello” here in China, which is where I am, covering this year’s Summer Olympian Games! It’s so exciting to cover a special event such as this, something I look forward to so much every year! Except for those years when there aren’t any Olympics.

It took some doing to get here, of course. I had to convince my editor that I would actually do some work on this trip and not spend the whole time consumed by my favorite off-hours hobby. But I assured him that China would give me very few opportunities to collect Lawrence Welk memorabilia.

The trip itself was no picnic, either. I figured I’d try to sleep away most of the 18-hour
flight, so I decided to take some of my wife’s sleeping pills before we took off. She pops a few of those and she can sleep a whole weekend sometimes.

But I guess I took one pill too many, because the next thing I knew I was waking up in a holding cell in a Singapore airport. They told me I started acting belligerently when the plane ran out of Nutter Butters. That’s me all over–I don’t get my Nutter Butters and I’m not a happy camper!

Mind you, I don’t have any memory of ripping up the duty-free catalog and throwing it around like confetti as I ran up and down the aisles. Who would’ve thought a prescription medication could be so dangerous! And I didn’t even wash them down with two bottles of chardonnay like my wife does!

Now, a person can certainly say plenty of bad things about the Chinese. In fact, I filled a whole column with bad things last year. As some of you readers might remember, led to a formal apology and several dozen hours of community service.

But you really have to hand it to the Chinese. They’ve put on a heck of a show here. Those opening ceremonies have to be the greatest spectacle I’ve ever witnessed–and I’ve been to Branson. I’m sure all of you were impressed watching it at home, but it can’t compare to actually seeing it live here in China, while eating a room service hamburger in your hotel room.

No, I didn’t get to see the opening ceremonies in person. And I haven’t been able to get into any of the athletic events, either. But just being in this country is so amazing. So much history. So much tradition. A nation bursting at the seams with pride, finally ready to
share itself with the world.

Or so I’m told. Honestly, I haven’t gone much farther than the store across the street from my hotel, and even that was pretty dicey. Nobody told me that all the signs were in Chinese here. I thought this was supposed to be a major city! And they don’t just drive bicycles on these roads anymore.

And just to show you I’ve learned my lesson, I won’t tell any Asian driver jokes here, even though I have literally dozens to choose from. But if any of you readers out there want to get on my email list, I can send them to you, along with some real howlers about lawyers.

I’m willing to give the host nation its due, but there’s no doubt who I’m rooting for here. That’s right, the good ol’ USA. Just like you, I’m excited to see Michael Phelps go for eight golds. I can’t wait to watch LeBron James and the US basketball team show the rest of the world how it’s done. I’ve also heard that there’s some runners who’re supposed to
be pretty good.

Also, isn’t there some event where they run and shoot rifles at the same time? Because that sounds pretty interesting.

Speaking of which, if you know the results of any of those matches, shoot me an email. I can’t figure out what events are on what channel over here, and pretty much every single English-language web site is blocked by government firewalls. I would ask the receptionist downstairs, but he won’t stop laughing every time he sees me. I’m guessing it started when
I asked him where I could get some General Tso’s chicken.

But no matter who you root for, the Olympics are about peace. The kid of peace that only sports can bring to us all. I mean, right now I’m in a country where I can’t speak the language. I don’t know anything about local customs. I don’t know anyone within 3000 miles of here. All the food makes me feel vaguely sick. I’m absolutely terrified to leave my

Just think if all of us were terrified to leave our rooms. We’d be too scared to blow each other up. What a world that would be!