After the flood the descendants of Noah did travel west across the Tigris to the plain of Shinar, where they conspired to build a tower to Heaven. And its name was called Babel, because there the Lord was angered and did confound all the tongues of the Earth and made each man a stranger unto his brother and assigned unto each a different language, and a different nationality, and a consumptive cough, and a temperamental laptop, and an Olympic press pass and a golf shirt of many colors. And it was gravy-stained.
And the descendants of these men and women did reconvene last week in modern Babel, whose name is the International Press Center in Sydney, where 3,900 sportswriters from some 170 nations do hang about all day in smoke-filled wooden cubicles, like cured hams, and watch the Games on TV. And they swear in Bulgarian.
And these wooden press cubicles, which do resemble the shower stalls in M*A*S*H, were erected in a Sydney livestock pavilion, which makes sense because the great woolly beasts of sportswriting also travel in herds, produce dangerous levels of methane and can sleep standing up. All while waiting for a bus. And those Olympic bus drivers did receive an extra four dollars an hour in pay when their routes required them to stop at the Press Center, for the scribes are a profane lot, coarse in manner. And woe unto ye who ask them to pay for anything.
And the scribes returned at night to their rooms in the Media Village, which was previously a lunatic asylum. And they dined, in their cells, on emu jerky, available for sale in the Press Center commissary. And the Lord is not making this up.
And these sportswriters were sent to Sydney from the world's great publications—from Aftenposten and Asahi Shimbun, from Blick and from Bild—to gather the wisdom of the Earth's Olympians, so that citizens of sundry nations might better understand one another, as when a writer from a land beyond the seas said during a Dream Team basketball press conference in 1996, "Question for Meester Malone—why is basket worth two points instead of one?"
And the Mailman said unto the scribe, "That's just the way we do it here, my man." And thus did two nations bridge a chasm.
And yet these scribes from scattered lands would not worship the false god of objectivity last week, but would sing and shake their fists and dance a wedding chicken dance whenever their nation's athletes pleased them and spit ancient curses when they did not. Or perhaps they were just ordering takeout. It was difficult to tell, as everything—even lullabies—sound angry in Turkish.
And the scribes all smoked discount cigarettes and presumed to be experts on Rhythmic Gymnastics, when just a week earlier each of them was second-guessing a coach in Green Bay or a cricketer in Bombay or a jockey in Taipei.
And so the Seven television network in Australia summoned an oracle to its studio and asked him how these motley journalists might portray Sydney to their scores of millions of readers scattered to the four winds. And the wise man did not hesitate. "They have a tendency of hopping on little negative things," warned Greg Norman, "instead of talking about how great things really are." And the man called the Shark knew scribes. And still he was wrong.
Because last Thursday night, we scribes—for the author of this epistle is himself a descendant of Babel—stopped torching our cigarettes, our subjects and our colleagues long enough to watch what half the Earth's citizens would also see on TV: an Aboriginal woman named Freeman ascend a stadium staircase and light the Olympic torch.