Joe DeLessio: Hello, sir! So before we begin the argument portion of this debate, it's probably worth recognizing something I believe we agree on: that the Olympics are, by and large, sports for people who like reality TV. Part of the fun of being an obsessive sports fan is rooting for the team, and part of the fun of rooting for a team is that you can follow it, day in and day out, for years and years. As you've written before, sports fans like context and history. In the Olympics, you often find yourself cheering for someone you'd never heard of a week ago and may not think about again for four more years, if ever. Which is fine! But also different.
Which brings me to a pet peeve about the Summer Olympics, as a sports fan. The idea of the Olympics, if you strip out the corruption and the scandals and the worldwide corporate partners, is a fine one -- to see which athlete or which country is the best in the world at something. Maybe I've been brainwashed by too many years of Bob Costas, but the Olympics DO have a certain cachet. The thing is, among many of the sports I already have some interest in, the tournaments don't always feel like a Big Deal.
American basketball players don't always treat the Olympics like a priority (and even if they do, America is still far and away the best team). The boxing event is still mostly for amateur fighters. The men's soccer event doesn't even pretend to compete with the World Cup -- or the continental championships, for that matter -- and it has roster rules in place to force countries to play mostly young players. I'll take the tennis Grand Slams over the Olympics, too, and though I don't follow golf very much, I get the sense there's a similar dynamic going on there now that it's an Olympic sport.
I'm cherry-picking a bit, but that's a lot of high-profile sports -- as in, ones where you may actually follow the athletes more than once every four years -- where the Olympics are far from the pinnacle of competition. (The saving grace might be the women's soccer tournament, which is legitimately a big deal, but even that has the World Cup to compete with.)
Looking through the list of Winter Olympics sports, I'm not sure that's an issue anywhere. I'll get to men's hockey in more detail later, but even though there are high-profile club leagues all over the world, hockey fans generally get really into the Olympics. And unless I'm underestimating the importance of the X Games, an Olympic gold is the biggest prize in every other sport. Those across-the-board stakes are attractive to me.