Congratulations, America. You got through your first week of Olympic Games on NBC. But guess what? Phelps, you are not. You are a failure. You are in the tiny water polo penalty box, Speedo sagging. You have been sent home with the shamed badminton players.
How many times were your Games spoiled? All the times. You were a slave to social media, to breaking news, to the Gladys Kravitz in accounting.
Hours before you could watch Ryan Lochte swim, you lazily logged on to Facebook. Your gym, whose page you only "liked" to get holiday hours, had already posted an 8-by-10 glossy of Lochte chomping his awful grill on the gold medal.
You couldn't wait to get home to watch American gymnasts battle the Russians. But you forgot you signed up for those news email alerts last election cycle. Good job. It must have been exhilarating to learn about McKayla Maroney's perfect vault between spam for Canadian pharmaceuticals and a political forward from your grandpa.
Your sloppiness is understandable. London's prime time falls at the time of work most Americans are hoovering Snickers at their desks, trying anything to stay awake. That includes Googling "Ryan Gosling rescues dog," then accidentally seeing Olympic headlines.
But you forgot why you came. For the joy of storytelling. For dramatic tension that finishes with a grand flourish. For the spirit of national breath-holding.
There is hope. You can crawl out of the ninth ring of viewership semifinals. You can look at that animated gif of a cat eating corn-on-the-cob later. The task is both mental and physical. As gymnast Danell Leyva's father would scream into the celestial blue towel, trust your training.
• Log off Facebook and Twitter, even if you think your friends are cool. You are forgetting Joe Johnsonsplaggart from sixth grade. That guy stuffed fries in his milk carton. He will post beach volleyball scores at 4 p.m.
• Calm down with online news, just for a minute. Celebrate the folded thing that comes out daily, printed on sheets of paper, reporting things that happened the day before. It can even be delivered to your home! It's the best!
• Don't engage in conversation with anyone. If someone says, "Hey, did you hear about …," don't assume she will then say "my goitre surgery?" or "my daughters's latest arrest?" She will say, "the amazing synchronized springboard efforts of the Chinese?"
• Nix car radio. Top 40 jams are not worth the risk of hearing a drive-time host make a crack about his parallel bars, followed by medal results.
• Make dinner using recipes handed down for generations on index cards. Don't watch pregame coverage, because NBC may lead with medal highlights.
• Enjoy! Scream at the TV! Will Turkmenistan edge out Slovakia on men's hammer throw? You don't know, because you have a gold medal in avoidance.
• Now that your experience has ended in bliss, go on Facebook. Resume stalking Joe Johnsonsplaggart and his odd-looking baby, then tweet hilarious observations about athlete body hair. You've earned it.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8857. Follow her on Twitter (after the medals) at @stephhayes.