So, the Alexei Nemov who so ignited my 16-year-old heart in 1996 will not have another chance to smile stupidly or otherwise while his national anthem is played, due to the perfidy of fascist lying dogs of judges.
That being said, it was one entertaining night of gymnastics, as the crowd mounted the barricades in defense of Nemov's awe-inspiring performance on high bar. For those of you who missed it, this is a largely boring appartus upon which men swing in a bunch of circles, do some arm-twisties that look boring but are apparently hard, usually one big flippity in the air, and then dismount and hop around. But Nemov, Nemov did SIX, count 'em, SIX flippities in the air, including FOUR in a row. Gymnastics is a complex and subjective sport, stuffed full of arcana and scoring convolutions that require an advance degree to pick apart. But there's one thing even the pros agreed on: cool-looking flippities are good gymnastics. "Nobody in the world does this!" enthused our commentator.
Then of course all hell broke loose when he got a shamefully low score, and the competition was effectively shut down for ten minutes or so. Vive la resistance!
I scanned the Russian press this morning, and Nemov, class act that he is, said that the support of the people in the hall meant more to him than a medal. The headlines declare that Russians will defend the honor of Nemov. And my Russian colleague went through a ritual well-known to Russians worldwide; one that millions have surely re-enacted countless times over the past 24 hours: arms thrown in air, pronouncements that "this is huge disgrace," coupled with theories linking the scoring to the demise of Russian power after the Cold War. Trouble is, this time, I think I agree.