So the Olympic fortnight comes to a close. Did you ever notice how only around the Olympics do you ever hear an American use the word fortnight? Ironically, the Olympics does not even last a fortnight, which is fourteen days. It is a sixteen day affair. Yet, Bob Costas can’t utter the word enough on any given night’s broadcast.
Speaking of the Olympics, is it me or does it just seem like people don’t care about them anymore? I read the ratings are down and I know that the Winter Olympics are never as popular as those held in the summer, but I still love them overall. Perhaps I am just nostalgic, but I find the some of the events fascinating. I mean really a number of these sports take some major brass ones, skeleton racing and ski jumping are the ones that come most clearly to mind and they’re not even the ones that have been tainted by the X-Games. Also, where else can you find yourself fascinated by cross-country skiers toting guns? Watching them this last fortnight (had to work that in here somewhere) has definitely made me ruminate on them.
As I flipped the channels of my cable-less television during an opening weekend afternoon, I was stunned to find that nary an Olympic event was on the free dial. There were about three college basketball games and a golf tournament, but no skaters, skiers, or snowboarders to be found. It made me reminisce about the Lake Placid event of 1980. Back then there were five stations and it seemed like everyone was transfixed anytime the Olympics were to be televised. Part of what I remember as a kid watching the Miracle on Ice was it seemed like everyone else was glued to the tube too. Of course there wasn’t anything else to watch back then, perhaps with the exception of CHiPs at night but my guess is that the alpine events beat Ponch reruns every time. Somewhere along the line the Olympics found a way to lose its appeal amidst the increasingly competitive mediascape. Of course deciding professionals were alright to compete probably didn’t help, especially in the Winter Games, where most of the sports traditionally have been tougher “professions.” Still, watching these snow and ice bound events have provided a lot of comedy and tragedy.
Is there a dumber sounding name for a sport than snowboard cross? Moreover, it is a shame that ABC doesn’t run the Wide World of Sports anymore, because they have a new moment for “…the agony of defeat.” It would have to be the tragicomic moment of Lindsey Jacobellis’ ill-fated “backside method grab” (loosely translated to flashy showboating) after launching off the last jump from the finish line and ending up flatly on her back as she watched her nearest competitor glide past her to the top of the podium would have to be the new clip. I have to admit I was glad to finally see an arrogant and pampered athlete finally get there comeuppance. Of course there seemed to be just deserts aplenty for the arrogant American athlete at this year’s games. Can you say Bode Miller? Even though they each got a gold medal, the pouty two American speed skaters, Davis and Hedrick, were both whipped by homeland hero Enrico Fabris in the highly touted 1500 m face off. Davis certainly seemed more worthy of praise, but I am not sure that I have ever seen a surlier winner and Hedrick just never seemed to come off as anything but a poor sport. While I am not in the habit of cheering against Americans, I do get a guilty pleasure when any of the cockiest competitors fall, regardless of country.
Although I must confess one serious disappointment, figure skating. I am not sure, but the new scoring system may have destroyed the sport, at least in the near term. It seemed that not that long ago falling during either of your routines was a breathtaking disaster. Now it is almost amazing if any of the skaters don’t find themselves flopping all over the ice during at least one of their programs. Yet, with the new video on demand scoring computers, if they were able to get their skate down before sprawling, they have the opportunity to get more points somehow. Does anyone really think that makes sense? I am all for encouraging the taking of risks and all, but when people are paying in excess of $300 a seat to watch any of these given skating events, I am guessing they aren’t there to see a practice skate. Methinks the skating world better give this issue some serious consideration or they will quickly lose their marquee status during the Winter Games, if they haven’t already. I still watched much of it, but it was not nearly as entertaining as I had hoped.
Nevertheless, here’s to all those surprise Italian winners, the likes of Apollo Anton Ohno, Cindy Klassen, the extraordinarily generous Joey Cheeks, the Austrian alpine squad, and an impressive list of Germans who seemed to be in the thick of nearly every traditional event. In spite of any issues, the Olympics always leaves me with a wonderful sense of wonder, amazement, and restored appreciation of sport.