Monday, February 22, 2010

My Day of Olympic Glory

Sunday marked the peak of my Winter Olympic viewership and interest, a mix of the entertaining, the exciting, and the purely baffling. We were already feeling like world class athletes in our own right. Earlier in the day, the lady and I started our tennis careers a day after getting some sweet new rackets. We've since decided that we were in fact born to be child tennis prodigies and have been working under that presumption. This mainly involves shouting "PHENOM!" every time we hit the ball well (about 5% of the time, overall) and pouting extensively.

Catching the action on a mix of live and delayed-feed, we started out watching some early skiing with Bode Miller and a guy named Axsel. While I thought the "s" in Axsel was pretty unnecessary, he seemed to have a good story about coming back from a face-crushing injury. That being said, I can't tell the difference well at all on most of the skiing and really only get interested when they shout about someone winning or crashing. It's kind of like watching NASCAR, although I don't immediately dislike all of the skiers.

After that we went to the biathlon, which is fast climbing as one of my favorite Olympic sports. Not only do the skiiers have to ski around for awhile and shoot like a squadron of spandexed commandos, they have to do a lap in the loser loop for every miss (note: I don't care what the official name for the penalty area is. I want it to be called the "loser loop" or "chump dump." Those are the only options.). Finally one emerged as the winner, but I couldn't help but wonder if some rogue competitor ever shot a rival on the course either to win or just to screw somebody else. This must have happened at least once, right? Again, this goes back to the skiing issue where I kind of wanted someone to be gunned down at the finish line, WWF style.

We eventually reached the big USA-Canada hockey game, oddly shown on MSNBC. For one thing, if it's on MSNBC they should have had Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow doing the play by play, leading to smarmy comments like "I haven't seen anyone miss on a shot that badly since Dick Cheney!" and "The way they're going, the Canadian defensemen are going to need some enhanced interrogation to figure out those American power plays!"

I realized about halfway through the game that this was the first hockey game I'd watched in about 8 years, and actually contemplated catching more of the games in the tournament. The problem with this game was the extent to which it really highlighted what's gone wrong with the NHL over the last 15 years--a lethal mix of placing teams into puzzling markets like Tampa Bay, Phoenix, and Atlanta, as well as failing to modify rules to allow for the open style of hockey we see in the Olympics. As for the game, it was exciting as all hell and there were enough 1980 team references that we were compelled to shout "Miracle!!" every time they scored. Great game overall, and undoubtedly the highlight of the day. Miracle 5, Canadians 3.

After a brief return to more of the skiing that I really didn't follow very closely (Bode Miller won over some other people who, based on what the announcers said, didn't ski very well), the night took a MAJOR turn towards the bizarre. That of course means only one thing: ice dancing. The instructions for the night appeared to be some theme along the lines of "Dress up like some sort of insanely over the top version of what you think another country might be like, and then skate around in a way that makes no sense except for being potentially offensive." And boy did they ever follow orders. Probably the most common approach was to dress up like gay cowboys and strippers (reflecting America and Canada, obviously) and to skate in circles to Johnny Cash. I'm sure Mr. Cash would be proud. I can't even explain how troubling I found the brother-sister combos that had to grab each other pretty intimately and pretend to be lovers in a deranged Western flick. Maybe I'm a square, but I can't picture myself with a potential sister like this. In case you were wondering, he's driving her as a truck. I think. I hope.

No doubt the most controversial element was the Russian team who opted to represent the Aboriginal tribes of Australia by wearing full-body blackface suits and putting fake leaves on their skates. Also, apparently the Aborigines also have employed the same hair stylist as Pebbles Flintstone. They had modified the suits somewhat to make them allegedly less offensive, although I think it's probably a good rule of thumb for skating or really, life in general, you should probably rethink what you're doing if it results in this or this. Just a good little rule of thumb, you know? Actually, I thought they looked more like a pair from the Jersey Shore crew, like Pauly D and Snookie with more foliage on them. Better get some Ron-Ron Juice, team!

All in all, a pretty solid day for the Olympics. Exciting at points, completely odd at others, and generally interesting for the majority of the day. I suppose that's way it is for most people, and at once both the strength and weakness of the games. They're familiar enough you can follow what's happening, yet uncommon enough that there's a novel feel to everything. That's what makes it work, and why we can get so engrossed every 4 years without really knowing much about what's happening. I say for 2014, count me in.

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