clock menu more-arrow no yes

Rio 2016: Leslie Jones’s Olympics play-by-play is a gift from the Greek gods

The Olympic Games are supposed to unite us. Thousands of athletes have traveled to Rio to represent their respective countries and cultures. They all have unique histories, but they’re all there side by side, competing in universal sports. There are frequent displays of human kindness and sportsmanship. There's all that sex in the Olympic Village.

And as we watch this special phenomenon from all across the world, one thing almost everyone can agree on is that most Olympics commentary — the people who give you the play-by-play of every sport — rarely adds any value. Some of it is fluff. Some is hyperbole. And a lot of it is just politely telling us what we’re seeing with our own eyes.

That’s why the latest (and unofficial) addition to the commentary landscape feels like a gift from the Greek gods themselves. This champion curses like a sailor, manipulates her words like a poet, and yells like a banshee. Her name is Leslie Jones.

You may know Jones from Saturday Night Live or the recent Ghostbusters reboot. But ever since the Summer Olympics began on August 5, she’s been making a strong case to add "Olympic commentator" to her résumé by tweeting about the games at every opportunity.

Jones hits the sweet spot between irreverence, carnal patriotism, and straight shooting. It’s play-by-play in its most honest form. It’s jarringly hilarious. And it’s also endearing.

Here is a photo of Jones, draped in American glory. The only thing that could possibly more patriotic than her would be a bald eagle carrying guns, a football, and a hamburger in its talons:

Jones has a magical way of making you appreciate the greatness of athletes that you pretty much knew were great already. For example, Kerri Walsh Jennings is going to go down as one of the greatest beach volleyball players in Olympic history. Jones reminds you of this in a way you will remember:

Jones is also empathetic. When Ryan Held won a gold medal as part of Team USA’s 4x100-meter men’s freestyle relay team and broke down during the national anthem, she made clear why it was such a cool moment and why she wants to just hold this skinny, wonderful man while he cries:

Katie Ledecky is, without a doubt, a swimming marvel who must be the result of a mad scientist splicing a mako shark with a human. Jones’s complete awe of how Ledecky obliterated the competition and the magic yellow line sums up how dominant Ledecky is:

Table tennis doesn’t get enough respect. But in Jones’s eyes, the fearsome blood sport known as ping-pong has all her admiration:

What’s great about Jones is that she often just says what we all want to say and what we wish announcers would say. Case in point: her assessment of this bike race in relatable, human terms.

Weightlifters are people too, Jones reminds us. Just try to think about crossing one, she proposes. The mental image she conjures is spectacular:

And finally, here is Jones on the inanity of the announcers she is quickly making obsolete:

Jones’s gifts for Olympics commentary has earned her an invite from NBC to come to Rio to watch some events live (and presumably comment on them while she’s at it). But the best thing about Jones is that she’s not on NBC, and thus is allowed to swear, shatter our eardrums, and go off script.


Rio Olympics 2016: What to watch for

Sign up for the newsletter The Weeds

Understand how policy impacts people. Delivered Fridays.