The world's journalists are finding inspiration in
classical Greek drama and myth. After all, Nike is not just a
running shoe in these parts.
It is not every day that you can have the sword of Damocles
hovering, athletes suffering from Achilles heels and teams
enduring Pyrrhic victories.
Herculean efforts abound in the land of Marathon races.
Homer, the poet and not the Simpson family patriarch, hovers
over every baseball game.
With all this rich symbolism available, it is not hard for
a journalist to enjoy a Eureka moment and declare that Greek
sailors are on a Poseidon adventure in the sailing regatta.
NBC sports commentator Bob Costas won hoots back home when
during opening night ceremonies he told co-host Katie Couric,
"Oedipus, as you know, Katie, was the tragic king who killed
his father and married his mother -- a sequence of events that
rarely turns out well."
He topped that line moments later when he noted that
Alexander the Great had competed indifferently in the Olympics.
"As an athlete, he might have been Alexander the so-so."
Thanks to a doping scandal involving two Greek sprinters,
one of the most overused phrases of the Games for the last 48
hours has been "Greek tragedy."
As the Ottawa Citizen noted: "On the night that Greece
dared to dance with the gods of Olympia, a sentimental journey
to antiquity was jolted by a modern reality.
"Doping. A scandal involving two Greek athletic stars has
stunned and shamed the host nation ... A fairy tale becomes a
Greek tragedy, or is it a farce? It's hard to tell."
The Citizen was not alone as he began his Olympic Odyssey.
Legions of reporters (present company included), waxed lyrical
about the dangers of Hubris.
Drawing on the references of ancient Greece is to be
expected, says language expert Paul JJ Payack.
Payack, the president of the Global Language Monitor
(http://www.languagemonitor.com), said: "There were more than
3,000 references to Classic Greek history and mythology in the
media and on the Internet this morning versus virtually none
only 30 days ago.
"There is an almost desperate attempt in the worldwide
media frenzy to link any news story to the Athens Olympics and
classical Greek history, with the overuse of such terms as
sword of Damocles, Trojan horse and Achilles heel.
"The media is going to any lengths to get in as many
classical references into a single story as possible."
His favorite came from a New York Times story on the Athens
Games: "This was a chance for the Greeks to let go of Oedipus,
to suspend their inner Sophocles, to embrace a little tragedy
(sic) relief before plunging head first into their appointed
As Homer Simpson might say: "Doh."