I didn’t expect to say this, but I miss the Olympics.

Over the last few years, I’ve made a point to watch less television.

Of course, I still watch all my favorite sports teams and I never miss an episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” but other than that, I don’t keep up with any new shows.

That all changed the last two weeks. Any spare moment I had, my TV was tuned into NBC or one of its affiliate channels, watching whatever the hell was on. Whether it was the standard track and field, gymnastics, swimming, soccer or volleyball, or the more obscure ping-pong, handball, water polo, shot put or fencing — it didn’t matter.

I loved watching the competition. I loved watching the athletes give it all they had for pride and love of their country.

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I appreciated that every single one of these athletes had worked relentlessly for decades and dedicated their lives to get to where they are. I felt their jubilation when they won, and I shared their heartbreak when they fell short of their ultimate goal.

Another thrill for me was to read the stories behind the athletes. Of the refugee, Yusra Mardini, who risked her life fleeing Syria and was now competing at the highest level under a flag with no country on it. Or when Michael Phelps, after his second DWI two years ago, texted his agent that he didn’t “want to be alive anymore.” And how Simone Biles was adopted by her grandparents in Belize after her own parents could no longer take care of her and her siblings.

It taught me that greatness certainly doesn’t come easy.

We also witnessed the end of two of the most prolific Olympic careers in history. No longer will Phelps and Usain Bolt of Jamaica represent their respective countries in the greatest level of international competition.Usain Bolt.jpg

In a two week span, we got to see the best swimmer of all time and the best runner of all time.

But alongside that came new stars. Biles and swimmer Katie Ledecky, both 19, have 11 medals between them — 10 gold.

We saw an American swimmer make a statement about staying clean when Lily King of the U.S.  defeated Russian swimmer and convicted doper Yulia Efimova. We saw how longstanding regional conflict can bleed into international competition when an Egyptian refused to shake an Israeli’s hand.

But that blemish was overshadowed by a single act of sportsmanship that exemplified the best parts of humanity, when an American and New Zealander encouraged each other to finish a race after falling.

And of course, we were privileged to witness Ryan Lochte’s buffoonery —  once an innocent source of entertainment — get him into actual trouble.

Brazil, too, overcame most people’s meager expectations by stepping up to the challenge and putting on a successful show. The country still has its problems, no doubt, but these Games can at least give the nation and its people something to build on.

So consider this my thank you. To Rio, to the athletes, and to the world of international competition.

I will never win a gold medal.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t be excited when others do.

All hail Michael Phelps, our greatest athlete (also: Fiji)

Michael Phelps competed in his first Olympic Games in 2000 in Australia at the age of 15, but left without a medal.

When I was 15, I think the only swimming stroke I knew how to perform was the doggy paddle.

Four Olympic Games later, Phelps is now the owner of 21 gold medals — and counting. On Thursday night, he is the favorite to win the 200-meter individual medley, his main competition being his countryman, Ryan Lochte.

A career that spans five Olympics is just remarkable, I don’t care what sport is. It could be a ping pong player and I’d still be amazed.

But to do it in swimming, a sport that requires the utmost maintenance of one’s personal physique, is just that much more impressive. Watching the swimmers line up shirtless prior to a meet is probably one of the more deflating moments for the average American male. In those moments, I am suddenly very hyper-aware of my protruding beer belly.

And then I crack open another beer.

Michael Phelps

I also will never forget Michael Phelps’s incredible 7-7 run at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. It was right before I began my senior year of college, and I distinctly remember that following Halloween, when it was a popular costume for dudes to wear swimming trunks and wear seven pretend gold medals.

I’m pretty sure I dressed up that Halloween as Frodo from Lord of the Rings. Not kidding.

We glorify and even deify Michael Phelps during the two-week stretch of the Olympics, but we need to appreciate him more. Not only has he represented our country with honor and success, but he’s become one of the most decorated athletes in Olympic history for any country, and he’s also dominated a sport arguably as well as anybody ever has.

He’s also nearly singlehandedly launched swimming into an Olympic primetime event.

This is almost certainly his last Olympic Games. He has three races left. Enjoy them while you can.

All that being said, it’s almost natural for Americans to take our Olympic success for granted. We already assume we’re the best. And we prove it by winning the most medals.

But we forget that for some countries, winning a medal doesn’t come so easy.

Fiji Rugby

Fiji, a small island nation in the south Pacific of less than one million people, has never won a medal in its 60 years of participating in the Olympics. But they were filled with hope that their fortunes might change in 2016, thanks in large part to the introduction of rugby as an Olympic sport. It just so happens to be the county’s national sport.

Lo and behold, Fiji won its first medal on Thursday in rugby. A gold one.

I watched a clip of the Fijian athletes standing atop the dais, with the national anthem blaring, and couldn’t help but feel the intense pride and nationalism that was radiating from their faces as they sang along.

Winning for your country. Even if it took six decades to accomplish.

That, my friends, is what the Olympics is all about.