Not every story here at OuttaTownClowns can be Breaking News, or feature actual sources like our last few. Sometimes you just need some old-fashioned editorials with some humor mixed in. Without further ado, OTC’s first and probably only post on the Winter Olympics:
Are you like me? Have you not watched a second of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver yet? If not, do not worry, it is not your fault. See, the problem with winter is that it is cold. You are welcome for that deep insight, but I mean it with all sincerity. Think of how many summer Olympic events either would not make sense in the Winter or do not sufficiently make sense to play in winter. Track and Field? Good luck getting Usain Bolt to choose Vancouver over Jamaica. Swimming? Only the Polar Bears (the group of people, not the Coca-Cola mascots) would hop in a pool in Vancouver in February. Soccer? Gymnastics? Basketball? I guess they all could be played, but none really embrace winter. I mean good luck guessing what season it is when you are indoors (like basketball or gymnastics), or when the field is supposed to be clean (soccer). Frankly, the problem is not the Olympics, it is winter, and trust me, living in Milwaukee for the last few years has taught me a great deal about the joys and troubles of winter. I love winter, but I just cannot get excited about the winter games, so what do we do? Time for a little Olympic meddling.
Alpine Skiing, Hockey, Figure Skating, Luge/Skeleton/Bobsled, Speed Skating. These are the marquee events and for good reason. If I was to turn on the TV and any of these events was on, there is a really good chance I will stick around.
Alpine Skiing embraces the winter spirit, and what it lacks in constant excitement it makes up for in variety. Super-G, Slalom, Giant Slalom, Humongous Slalom, JJ Gargantuan’s Slalom (if you don’t have a Jimmie John’s nearby, that one went right over your head), and so much more. Consider it the Track and Field of winter. Variety, a chance for an American to win (something that is important whether you want it to be or not), cool graphics, and a fairly entertaining watch with suspense. Do not change a thing Skiing.
Hockey, do not change a thing. Probably about as perfect a winter sport as there is. Played in most of the countries competing, has memorable moments (1980 Lake Placid, need I say more?), and genuinely a good watch. I am not a huge NHL guy, but try to change the channel on a US Hockey game and I will cross check you into the boards before going Donald Brashear on you or doing you like any of the clean hits below. Hockey, don’t change a thing.
Figure Skating is basically the gymnastics of the winter because a) it looks somewhat aesthetically similar, and b) it gives men of a certain age (which is not at all a reference to the TNT show) that queasy feeling where they are not sure if they are allowed to be attracted to the women. It has history, it has the possibility of disaster at every jump, and even has, dare I say, striking grace and beauty. Its flair for the dramatic, constant inflow of fresh faces, the suspense of waiting to see if the score will hold up, and position as a centerpiece of the Winter Games make it a really good event. Skating, do not change a thing other than Johnny Weir’s outfits.
The next one is a bit touchy after the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, but Luge/Skeleton/Bobsled are probably borderline “Good” events. I enjoy them, but they do need to work on safety, especially Luge and Skeleton. Skeleton in particular. I mean if I wanted to endanger my life, going on a light sled headfirst on a course made of ice while going incredibly fast would be near the top of the list. Luge and Skeleton have been fairly safe in the past, but they are inherently dangerous sports. Not to mention they really do not look like anything else so it is a fresh look for viewers, unless the viewers are tuning into the Professional Lugers Association Cup every weekend at 2pm on the IceSpeed Channel. Ok, that doesn’t exist, but it gets the point across. It is fresh, and in a different way than the Prince of Bel-Air. The only thing Bobsled needs to keep doing that is separate from the other two is keep a Jamaican team on hand for musical numbers and entertainment. I cannot stress this enough.
Speed skating really took off with Apolo Anton Ohno on the short track, which is different from the short bus. A perfect example of how we need an American in some kind of contention to really find it interesting. Had anyone heard of short track speed skating before the man with a last name that sounds like Cubs fans around September? I don’t think so, but anyone who has seen the Olympics the last few years has. Admittedly, I find the sport fairly exciting because of its wipeout potential, and the speed and precision of the athletes. However, the fact that you can coast for most of the race and be completely in contention does take away the drama of the first few laps. On the other hand you have the original speed skating, which is not always especially exciting, but always features an American, and shows off some of the more graceful racers in any sport. Speed skating is kind of like Track and Field too for obvious reasons, except it is not as much a staple as Skiing is. Keep the good stuff rolling, Speed Skating.
With so much to critique, our sport by sport approach is going to have to change a little, but let’s list some of the less attractive sports just for fun and what should be done about them. The abundance of biathlon events, Cross-Country Skiing of which there are (especially the Team Spirit Freestyle competition of CC Skiing if only for the name), Curling, all non-racing snowboard events, and Nordic Combined. Now some of these can be pruned, but others are probably here to stay. There are way too many biathlon events, plain and simple. Just cut it down. Cross-country skiing is ok to stay, just please do not televise it. It is like televising the marathon during the summer games. The majority of us only enjoy seeing the highlights so feel free to tape it, just please do not show it. Curling, to the bewilderment of many in the US (myself included) is actually somewhat popular in Canada and abroad. So while we laugh at Ice Bocce being in the Olympics, it is probably here to stay. Non-racing snowboard events. I thought I only had to put up with the X games for a few days on ESPN, I didn’t know it was going to get forced into the Olympics. I do not care how radical or bodacious any of the jumps and tricks are, I just don’t care. I feel sort of like an old man complaining about it, but I really just do not care about the snowboard tricks. Do you know what a McTwist is? No, it isn’t a pastry from McDonalds. I think the inclusion is probably a way to keep the younger kids interested and I can appreciate the business side of the games, but count me out as far as a fan of the event. Racing on snowboards I can somewhat more support because it is at least a race. With the halfpipe and such, it just seems like the disaster-factor whereas there is actually a race being run in the Snowcross events. Nordic Combined is another problem. Maybe being from the Midwest has not helped me here, but is there any real logical connection between skiing and using a rifle? I can imagine this for hunting purposes, but is it really that common to hunt while skiing? At least use targets that look like animals or something if you are trying to incorporate hunting into the event. Also, as pointed out here by Bill Simmons, Nordic Combined sounds a little bit like an adult film. Trash it.
Honestly, the Olympics just need better sports for the games. That is a little bit like saying our economy needs newer high-technology fields in that even if it is true, it is not at all easy to just do. My suggestions would be Winterizing (not like Scotts) current summer sports. We have Futsal (indoor soccer), why not have a soccer game designed for play in the snow or ice? Probably a bad idea, but you get the picture. Do not reinvent the wheel, just put a new tire on it so it can get some grip. Other bad suggestions of mine include:Snow Triathlon, Pond Hockey, Mountaineering, Ice Fishing, a Dogsled race, Equestrian with seals rather than horses, 10K Snowshoe Race (not really on those last two). The point is the Winter Olympics need something new that isn’t just some fad, but something that it can build on and can develop tradition with. Unfortunately for Mr. Rogge, Head of the International Olympic Committee) this is much easier said than done.
However, in the mean time, feel free to enjoy the better side of the Olympic games and take in some of the better spectacles. Just hope that you do not happen to turn on the TV during the Nordic Combined or you will find you might wish you were the target.