Sunday, February 19, 2006

Olympic Action. It's...ZZZZZ...

Isn't it dramatic? Not the thrill of athletic competition, but the frenzied manner in which the sensationalists at NBC exhaust every resource to find some human interest angle that can be contorted in such a way as to tug at our heart strings. Imagine the joy NBC's producers must have felt when they discovered one skier's mom had suffered a severe injury when she lost control while skiing. Making the story even more compelling was the fact that the skier's father was the one who found her in the trees and employed heroic measures to revive her. If that isn't enough the woman in question is a cancer patient who has lost all of her hair. GOLD! Dingdingding...we have a winner. NBC needs to have a special medal ceremony just to honor the reporters who dig up the best sob story.

In every event some athlete is playing with pain and we need to know about it. This skater has a bruised foot, this ski jumper pulled a muscle in his back, that curler is constipated. God forbid an athlete should be in perfect mental and physical health during these events. Why is it nobody seems willing to mention the fact that every athlete plays with pain. There's always a strain, a sprain or a pulled something or other and for that matter if you dig deep enough you can find some distant relative who is ailing. Big deal.

That's why I'm sick of hearing about Lindsey Kildow. It's great that she was able to suck it up and ski after suffering a tough fall, but she wasn't injured. She was banged up. I don't want to take anything away from her. I am not doubting that she was in pain, but when she watches the coverage she'll be embarrassed at how NBC made her ailments out to be so severe. You'd think that she almost died. Lindsey Kildow didn't do anything impressive and she would be the first to tell you that. She did what any self-respecting athlete would do. She got back up and played the game. Lindsey's not exceptional by athletic standards, Michelle Kwan is the exception because she opted to bow out instead of playing through a little pain. Athletes are supposed to be tough. You'd think sportscasters would know this by now.

The we have the youngsters. If I had a dime for every time one of the announcers mentioned the inexperience of a particular athlete I might be able to pay to have them shot. After all, Sicily isn't that far away and I don't think biathletes would require much inducement to open fire on the media. This is the Olympics people, I don't want to hear about how good these clowns will be in three years. You're supposed to be at the top of your game right now. News flash! Nobody cares about the World Championships next year. Deliver big on the Olympic stage or it doesn't matter. Save the rookie crap for the odd years.

Obviously the enduring story from these games will be the mental mistake perpetrated by Lindsey Jacobellis. The US snowboarder is considered to be the best racer in the world and was favored to win the gold in the Snowboardcross. After poor showings in the preliminary races, Jacobellis muscled her way to an early lead and increased her margin after the other racers got tied up in her wake. After checking to verify that her closest competitor was out of contention, Lindsey took a moment on the last big jump the course offered to hit a little style trick. Stunning considering that she tried out for the halfpipe team and failed to qualify, but the method air she went for wasn't exactly a hardcore trick. Unfortunately she held the grab too long, landed badly and gave up her lead. She was lucky that only one of the other racers was on her feet or the silver medal she settled for would have gone to somebody else.

I can't be too hard on the girl since she has to live with her stupidity. It's not as though she was a part of a team that was depending on her to come through. Some might claim she was representing the USA but that's a load of garbage. She was representing herself first and she suffered the consequences of her actions. She'll continue to suffer them. This was the first time Boardercross was a medal event in the games and it will eventually be the main event in the Olympics because it provides the excitement that the other events sorely lack. Every time a skier or snowboarder makes a mistake that costs them a race it will be called a Jacobellis. In fact, it's possible that every failed trick in snowboarding will soon be called a Lindsey. That's a harsh punishment.

Bode Miller hasn't won anything yet. His best event has traditionally been the Super G and he failed to finish his run in these games. Insiders say that his slalom performances have been weak lately, so Bode might go oh-fer. Detractors will chalk that up to Bode being a jerk, but the reason Bode is so popular is that he pushes himself to the brink of disaster on every run. Sometimes that results in big wins, sometimes it results in big mistakes. That's the way he rolls. The reality is that if it weren't for potential crashes we wouldn't watch skiing at all. Agony of Defeat, baby. That's why we love Bode.

There are some idiots out there like PTI's Michael Wilbon who think Bode Miller is some sort of self-promoter who has insulated himself with excuses for failing before that failure actually manifests. This is not true. Wilbon should know better than to pass judgment on the Olympic hype. Miller has always been a bit of a flake who marches to the beat of a different drummer. Most skiers are a little odd. You have to be too ride down icy mountain slopes at speeds of 70 miles per hour. He goes his own way and doesn't make a big deal out of winning. He likes to compete, but he does it on his terms.

They hype around Miller is courtesy of NBC and various Olympic sponsors who see Bode as a marketable commodity. Miller is happy to take their money, but he hasn't changed. Another reality in regard to Bode Miller is the fact that he was never the favorite to win gold in any of the events in these games. He was only the best American skier in Turin. That's not saying much. Even so, the guy presses hard on every run knowing all too well that the next time he crashes he could shatter his pelvis or break a femur. If you can't respect that you might be an idiot.

Bryant Gumbel
went out of his way to take shots at these games calling them over-hyped and he lamented the paucity of black athletes participating in Turin. Mr. Gumbel would do well to remember that these are the WINTER Olympics and as such feature sports that do not appeal to many black athletes. It's a cultural issue. The fact is most black athletes don't see the events in these games as socially acceptable. Shani Davis alluded to that when he was interviewed about his childhood. To borrow a bad cliche, some of my best friends are black... and none of them would be caught dead on a set of skis.

Why are we wasting time with Ice Dancing? This is like the minor league version of figure skating. How can I possibly be impressed with anything the Ice Dancers are doing when I know that there are better skaters out there who can actually do tricks that impress me? This is why black people don't like the Winter Games... we queer them up with white-oriented crap like Ice Dancing. Where's the soul? How about a little flavor?

Since artistic impression and choreography are such important elements in real Figure Skating, it makes no sense to have this ball room dancing on ice garbage. Are these the skaters who ride the short bus to the games? Do the real skaters pick on the ice dancers? And why don't the figure skaters who get too old to compete in figure skating just step down and Ice Dance? It's like the skating world's version of shuffle board. Lame. Scott Hamilton and Katarina Witt should hook up and show these Ice Dancers how it's done.

If you want to talk about athletes insulating themselves with excuses you should look no further than Apolo Anton Ohno. His big concern going into the short track 1000 meter final was team skating on the part of the Koreans. I watched the race and what I saw was a slow American skater get schooled by two much faster Koreans. No team work there, just an old fashioned butt-kicking. Ohno didn't accuse them of cheating but he went out of his way to make it sound like he lost because he outsmarted himself. That's not the case. The only excuse I'm buying is that the soul patch created some wind resistance. Shave that tuft of red scrub off your lip, Apolo. And next time pack your other "L".

How many different Ski Jumping events are there? Why don't we cut it down the big hill and leave it at that? Why do they have Luge and Skeleton? It seems that Skeleton is faster and more dangerous so drop luge and until they have coed naked double luge I really don't want to watch the Brokeback Mountain version of sledding that the double luge appears to be. Nasty.

Bobsledding would be more intriguing if they took a page from Boardercross and dispatched four sleds at the same time. That would really be like NASCAR on ice except the participants might be real athletes and there'd be a lot less inbreeding involved in rearing a driver. Guess what people do when they flunk out of truck driving school? They drive NASCAR. Yee-haw!

Biathalon would be very interesting if the contestants were allowed to shoot each other. I know that using real bullets would be wrong, but you could equip the racers with paintball guns and rewrite the rules to account for a combat oriented event. If they can have Fencing in the Summer Games, why not have a blood sport in the winter?

Why anybody would be interested in cross country skiing sans guns is beyond me, but they could make it like real cross country skiing and sneak some steep drops in on these guys. Maybe run some deer through the course to break the tracks up a bit and increase the degree of difficulty. If you really want to make it authentic you could hide barbed wire fences just below the powder and watch how the experienced Nordic skiers respond to those everyday obstacles your weekend warrior endures. Hey, you could even send some idiot hiker with unleashed dogs down the trail to mix things up.

I want to slam curling. I really, really do but the darn sport is somewhat interesting. It is a bit long. I don't think you need 10 ends. Four would be more than enough and speeding things up would really help. They already have a clock counting down an the time but wouldn't it be more exciting if they employed a timing format similar to speed chess? Sure it would.

Hat's off to the US Womens Curling team for finding a cute set of sisters (actual siblings, not Destiny's Child) to spice things up. Got to love the Johnson girls, eh? And don't tell me that Team USA didn't think the sex appeal aspect through. The US women are the only curling team wearing form fitting uniforms. Somehow I don't think wind resistance is an issue in curling, but I'm not complaining. Next year, however, wear fewer layers. It's a real shame for that cold air to go to waste, if you know what I mean.

We've reached that midway point of these games with women's figure skating remaining as the headliner. Hockey is supposed to be exciting, but for some reason NBC doesn't seem to think it's worthy of prime time coverage. Perhaps the medal matches will garner some evening love, but the secondary placement of Lord Stanley's favorite game should concern the NHL. I smell another professional sports league closing up shop and this time it's not another pro-football spin off. Too bad Lebron James didn't play hockey, eh? Five years ago we thought the NBA was heading for the showers. Now it looks like the NHL is on death's door. I'd shed a tear if I actually cared. Hey guys, when you have to find real jobs you might do better if you cut the mullet. Just a thought.

So, how many times will we hear Michelle Kwan's name mentioned in the coming week? 20 is the number. Over or under?

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