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The armchair Olympian

“I used to be a sprinter,” my husband said recently while lying prone on our couch, watching the Olympics with a bag of tortilla chips placed conveniently on his middle-aged gut as if it was some kind of living chip-dip platter.

Is he being serious? I thought to myself incredulously. “Are you being serious?” my daughter asked from her seat on the floor. “Oh, sure. Back in ’88 when I was in Officer Candidate School down in Pensacola, they recruited me to be a sprinter for Field Day.”

I somehow kept my Diet Coke from shooting out of my nose, and gave my skeptical daughter a knowing wink.

Ever since the 2012 London Summer Olympics began three weeks ago, parents everywhere have been waiting for the opportunity to reveal their inner athlete. Despite our relatively sedentary middle-aged lifestyles, we all yearn to relive our youth, our athleticism, our virility, and our former waistlines. We want to tap into the time when we drove a used Chevette, didn’t pay taxes, ate cold pizza for breakfast on a regular basis, found no use for fiber supplements, and said things like, “Decent.” Ah, those were the Good Old Days.

Thank God, our children didn’t know us back then — they make the perfect audience for our little trip down memory lane . . . or fantasyland, as it were.

“Now, you see,” my husband bellowed from his Barcalounger in our TV room during the Men’s Quadruple Sculls final, “in my crew days back at GW, we had to be in tip top condition to be able to withstand the rigors of the sport.” The kids looked on doubtfully.

I knew the truth, but I didn’t want to burst my husband’s bubble. I knew that crew was something he did in college to enhance his image as the wrinkled-khaki-button-down-oxford-penny-loafer-preppy-frat-boy, in hopes that it might score him a few decent chicks. He milked that gig until graduation, and then never set foot in a crew shell again.

But as he analyzes the sport from his armchair today, you’d think he’d been an Olympic contender. “You see, that one there is the ‘coxswain’ who needs to be small and light — I was far too muscular for that position,” he said between sips of beer.

I must admit, I too, have claimed former athletic prowess while watching this Olympics from the comfort of my well-worn spot on the couch. “You see kids, what you don’t know about your mother is that I swam in college. Yup. We were Mid-American Conference Champions, so it was a pretty big deal.”

I conveniently left out the fact that I was one of only two walk-ons to try out for my college swim team. There were only two open spots, so the coach had to take us both. The other girl was way better than me, but she quit after two weeks. That effectively made me the only walk-on, and the worst swimmer on the team by a mile. My teammates never really knew my name, and the coach forgot to order me a pair of team sweats. Yea. It was great.

The kids didn’t need to know that part.

With the 2012 London Summer Olympics coming to an end, we parents will have to get up from our lounge furniture and face the reality of our middle-aged lives. That is, until the 2014 Russia Winter Olympics.

My husband will most likely relive the winter he mastered the rope tow on the bunny slope during ski lessons in Maryland. And I will revive the burgeoning talent I exhibited at the Mack Park ice skating rink during those snowy Pennsylvania winters so long ago.

We won’t mention that my husband hated ski lessons, and only agreed to go because his mother promised to buy him hot cocoa. And we will keep it our little secret that I never made a complete rotation around the skating rink without falling.

Why spoil a good story for the kids, right?

— Lisa Smith Molinari

Lisa Smith Molinari won second place (under 100,000 monthly visitors) in the online/multimedia category of the 2013 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ competition. Her blog, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life,” is an expanded version of a weekly newspaper column that runs in military and civilian newspapers.

Reflections of Erma