Nothing in the World is Getting Worse, You're Just Feeling Nostalgic for a Time That Never Existed

And other answers to unsolicited questions.

Photo: Dennis Skley

“The Olympics are coming up. What sports should I be watching?” — Sportsy Sue

I’m way more of a Winter Olympics person. There’s just something much cooler about competing when the weather is cold and there’s tons of snow on the ground that makes those sports seem even more awesome. Like take this tiny sled and go down this track at 100 mph. But the Summer Olympics can be pretty great, too, if you’re following the right sports.

The first week of the Olympics coverage on NBC is usually all swimming and gymnastics. I used to be a breaststroker in high school, was pretty good until someone playfully pushed me off a starting block and I hit my head on the bottom of the pool. Ever since then I have liked swimming less. And Olympic swimming is kind of weird. You win a medal for going one lap. You win a medal for going two laps. You win a medal for going 4 laps. You win a medal for going 8 laps, etc. So swimmers just pile up medals. I know Michael Phelps has won lots of medals, but is he a better Olympian than Jesse Owens, Usain Bolt or Caitlyn Jenner? I don’t know. Consistently being great is very impressive, especially when you put down 12,000 calories a day.

Gymnastics, like Figure Skating, I’ve always found weird. I don’t like watching young women fall off of balance beams. And I don’t like watching skaters hit the ice. The immense pressure that gymnasts and figure skaters must feel makes this not fun for me to watch. It was nice when Kerri Strug nailed that vault. But otherwise I think it’s not much fun to watch people falling. I think they are very impressive athletes, but I am excited about other sports.

Team Handball is one of the most underrated sports in the Olympics. It’s basically water polo without the water. Water polo is also pretty awesome, but most of the awesomeness is obscured by the water. But in Team Handball you get to see people flinging themselves at a soccer-like net, firing a mini-soccer ball at a helpless goalkeeper. I have no idea if the goalkeeper ever stops a shot. I think possibly they must just sometimes get lucky and stop one by accident. So lots of scoring, lots of fighting for position, and lots of splendid aerial hucking of balls at a defenseless person in goal. Will you get to see Team Handball on NBC? Probably not — the US teams did not qualify.

I’m also very excited about watching Olympic Badminton. Last time around there was a giant game-throwing scandal that really spiced-up my interest in this sport. When you throw games to avoid tougher teams in knock-out rounds, that’s my kind of sport. And is there anything cooler than the soaring path of a shuttlecock? I say no.

“The world seems to be going insane! Everything seems worse than it’s ever been! What can we do?” — Worried Walt

I think things are actually pretty OK. There is no black plague going around. We haven’t had a World War in a while. I was pretty sure we were all going to die of Thermonuclear War in the 1980s. That’s been a pleasant surprise that that hasn’t happened yet.

We are certainly more aware of the things that are not OK in the world. Thanks to 24-hour cable news and Twitter and endless political Facebook posts, we know every stupid thing that happens everywhere almost instantaneously.

And, perhaps more than ever, if you want to know how the Political Sausage is made you can watch it as it slowly oozes through the gears. There used to be a glossier package on our bad ideas. American Politics may have gotten a little more brass-knuckled, but there’s just nothing right this moment in the USA that is the worst it has ever been. Except maybe our literacy level.

Some things are downright great. They didn’t have any Games of Thrones back in the day. Harry Potter’s got a new book out. It’s a play, but it’s still Harry Potter. Have you tried Pokemon Go? That is pretty cool, as long as you don’t walk into a telephone pole.

Sure, maybe we have more mass shootings than we’ve ever had. But those are probably a fad. Like planking. Do you remember planking? No, nobody does. And nobody planks any more. We can send naked pictures to each other that disappear after a couple of seconds, put dog faces on our regular faces in photos, share things with thousands of people around the world instantly. My TV is crystal clear. We get to hear all kinds of music instantly, whenever we feel like it. I’m typing this naked on my toilet, not seated at a giant typewriter, pecking away.

So, just settle down. We haven’t been conquered by terrorists, there are no bread lines we have to stand in all day to get like two slices of bread. There’s a new Jason Bourne movie out. Things could be a lot worse. We didn’t get bird flu or ebola, there are no roving bands of radioactive monkeys (unfortunately, yet). What are you complaining about? You feel like you lack connections in the universe? You yearn for a mythical time when everything was simpler? There was no time when everything was simpler.

As you get older you get nostalgic for stupid bullshit, but that’s just because you’re getting soft. Don’t blame the world because you feel like everything is slipping away. Humans live for a while and then die, and before they die they yearn for the good-time comforts of yesteryear. Pull up a rocking chair, grandpop. And enjoy the ride as you bustle towards your own irrelevance. I will probably still be naked on the toilet when you get there.

Jim Behrle works at a bookstore and lives in Jersey City, NJ.