This winter marks one of those great spectacles of the sporting world that is known only as the Olympics. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? It’s funny, but nobody really seems to care. That is most likely because the corporate dollar just doesn’t back the winter Olympics like it backs the summer games. It is easy to see why, as there aren’t as many recognizable American faces competing for a medal in every event.
I mean, where are the McDonald’s commercials featuring the Olympic torch and toothless hockey players eating Big Macs? However, I did see one cell phone commercial with a catchy jingle involving a participant in the skeleton. No Michael Jordan to do the selling — just a commercial featuring an obscure athlete from an obscure sport that has never even been on national TV.
That’s why it’s great — no one knows who these people are. Regardless, there are some pretty cool events. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not about to abandon all sense of normalcy (I sound presidential using that word). I will always stand by my main stays like football, basketball and soccer, but if you only watch this stuff once every four years it can be a nice change of pace for your sporting palate, kind of like oysters.
Admittedly, there are some really bad things masquerading as events here, but I’ll try to sort the good from the bad.
If you appreciate people having enough courage to put there lives on the line in order to win a medal, then this one is worth watching. Skiers put their bodies on the line when reaching speeds of over 60 mph — lots of people are scared of driving that fast and there are no airbags or seatbelts in the downhill. People have died in this event, which puts it on a whole new level of serious competition. The Austrians are favored to take all three of the men’s medals even though Hermann Maier, the world’s best, is injured and cannot compete.
Bad: Figure Skating
When you’re sitting on your couch enjoying a nice cross-country skiing event which will get five minutes of air time during the games and NBC breaks into that coverage to bring you another countless hour of figure skating, turn off your TV. This useless event will allow you the opportunity to catch up on that history reading you’ve been putting off. For several reasons, figure skating isn’t worth watching. Think about Scott Hamilton. He is the Jon Tesch of the winter Olympics, and while I think gymnastics is a good thing in small doses, figure skating is a good thing under no circumstances. It is one of the few truly commercialized events in the winter games, and worse than that it reminds me of one of those little girl beauty pageants where they cake on too much makeup. However, some good news is on the horizon. Former IOC vice president Dick Pound has suggested that figure skating’s counterpart, ice dancing, may be eliminated from Olympic competition after a long history of judging scandals and controversies. Is there any way we can speed this process up?
This is an interesting sport that involves the ability to ski tremendous distances across rough terrain and fire a rifle which you must carry on your back. While this sport isn’t exactly as exciting as March Madness, it gets an Olympic nod because of the sheer level of difficulty. I am amazed that any athlete can possibly hold up a heavy rifle and control his breathing enough to hit a tiny target just seconds after skiing several kilometers. Guns and skiing: that’s just cool.
Here’s a no brainer. When are they going to allow shuffleboard into the summer Olympics? I don’t understand how this one makes it to the Games. It looks like something that should be played at an old folks’ home in the winter months. It’s great that everyone can find a game that they enjoy playing, but Olympic participants should have real athletic ability or be crazy (see below).
I don’t know if this sport really requires great athletic ability, but it requires a whole lot of courage. Skeleton returns this year after a 54-year absence from the games. One thing will be sure — after 54 years away the event has only gotten faster. Racers head face first down tracks at speeds that can approach 80 mph with their heads only inches from the ice. America has several medal hopes in this perilous event, including the 1999 world champion and third-generation Olympian in Jim Shea. Despite the Skeleton’s Olympic absence, it was the world’s first sledding sport, dating back to the late 1800s. It’s fast and crazy — what’s not to like?