A Little More than a Fortnight Comes to a Close

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.

Food Fests: Fabulous and Farce

Not that long ago, I headed into Boston’s Government Center, for one of the annual events to which I had been looking forward ever since I moved here. The Scooper Bowl is a benefit for the Jimmy Fund, but more than that it is a festival of ice cream. Now anyone that knows me well knows that ice cream is far and away my favorite food. So from the moment Ali had mentioned this phenomenon, I have been waiting anxiously to attend.

Here are some pictures of one of the finest event I have attended since living in the Boston area. Featured prominently is the gate to get in and enjoy the dairy deliciousness and a shot from the belly of the beast.

Photo: Ice Cream Cone Gateway to Scooper Bowl Photo: Inside the Row of Ice Cream Tents

With well over a dozen vendors, all handing out heaping cups of savory ice cream flavors in a myriad of fabulous flavors, as well as standby chocolate and vanilla, this was a magnificent occasion. Better still it lasts nearly a week. For a mere $7, you are let inside the gate and it is all you can eat. For me heading to the Scooper Bowl was a sprint, from the moment I raced from the high school onto the train, to entering the gate and commencing with the consumption. For those concerned among you, I knocked down eleven scoops inside a half hour, before deciding that it would not be wise to continue. Unfortunately I was solo for this because of the timing. Since I was still in school and had to wait until the later afternoon and Ali made it a work outing with her staff earlier in the day, we missed one another by a couple of hours. Next year we’ll have to coincide. Plus I will be experienced and better able to pace myself.

Photo: Ben and Jerry’s Tent

I wanted to rave about the Scooper bowl for a couple of reasons. One because it was one of the best fests of its kind I have attended here or anywhere; but two, because it serves as such a shocking contrast to the other equally awaited food event, Boston’s annual Chowderfest. Again, even before I lived here I had heard tale of the Chowderfest and how magnificent it was supposed to be. Travel television shows had regaled it as one of Boston’s best, saluting hall of fame winners of this distinctly New England fare. As soon as I found out that it was going to be Fourth of July weekend, the third, it was penciled in for a must attend. Neither Ali nor Keri had ever been there, so the three of us piled on the train and headed to Government Center.

Photo: The Line to Get into Chowderfest

Simply put, the Chowderfest was the worst travesty ever perpetrated on an unknowing public in search of either festival or food. The three of us arrived to join thousands of others, all of us gift wrapped in cellophane, suckers waiting to be bilked. After waiting in line for well over forty-five minutes, just to get into the farce-fest we walked through the gates to find yet even more lines for the equivalent of six tablespoons of less than stellah chowdah. A mere three, that’s right three, chowder vendors, two of which were not even from Boston, were there ladling out miniscule sample cups of their ware. Better still while we there the lone Boston contingent and past winner, Ned Devine’s, even pulled up stakes and knocked down their booth, apparently having been drained. Mind you this was at 2:30 PM and the event was supposed to go ‘til 6:00 PM. It was a complete joke. Even better was the local news, later that evening, celebrating the event with very tight shots of the event so you couldn’t really see the complete paucity of chowder. It was made even more complete with a Mayor Menino sound bite, “It was great. We had some of Boston’s best restaurants…” Are you kidding me?! I still don’t have enough literary control to exercise all the venom I still harbor for this outrageous Harborfest experience.

In spite of the soup sham, I still always manage to find a way to enjoy myself downtown. It was packed from Faneuil Hall al the way down Washington street and all along the Freedom Trail. Plus it is not everyday that you see Red Coats in the street marching.

Here’s hoping everyone had an Independence Day that exceeded our chowder experience. In spite of the horror show we still managed to have a quality weekend. More on that, perhaps, later.