The thrill of victory and the agony of curling

A brief primer to help your Olympic viewing experience


We’re in the midst of the 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia, and I get excited to watch just about every event, except maybe curling and ice dancing.Curling is one of the sports contested in the winter Olympics

Sorry, but it’s just too easy to make fun of curling. I’ve heard it said that curling is one of the more popular events. If they took a poll, they forgot to ask me. It’s similar to shuffleboard or bowling, but you don’t let go of the ball, or stone as they call it, right away. In curling, two other people follow (or actually precede) the stone down the icy alley with little broom-like thingies sweeping in front of it as it glides forward. I guess the sweeping either speeds up the stone’s progress, slows it down, changes its direction, or simply gives two more non-athletes a chance to make an appearance in the Olympics.

Apparently, the goal in curling is to get your stone closest to the button, which is the center of a big target. All this brings to mind three questions:

1) Does anyone really understand this?

2) Does anyone really care?

3) When’s the downhill skiing back on?

Taking a summer sport and putting it on ice shouldn’t make it a winter sport. What’s next, Scrabble on ice? I heard an announcer once call the participants of curling “cerebral sliders.” Another compared curlers to Tiger Woods. Maybe these curlers have mistresses (or misters) in other countries?

Curling and ice dancing aside, there are some exciting events to watch. For example, downhill skiing, ski jumping, bobsled, luge, and skeleton.

What, you may ask, is skeleton? For those who aren’t familiar with this relatively new Olympic event, it’s similar to the luge except these lugers (skeletonians?) lie on their stomachs facing down the icy course. Another difference is that in the skeleton, riders break their teeth, nose, and collarbones when crashing compared with broken toes, ankles, and legs in luge.

This event has its origins in any typical neighborhood where kids slide down icy hills on old sleds. At the bottom of the steep hills are often found a pile of bones.

Most of the skiing events are worth watching. It doesn’t get much more exciting than watching skiers fly down steep mountains at over 80 mph. Well, maybe if they let them all go down at once… “Next up, the men’s Demolition Downhill… ”

There’s no escaping the commercialization of this sport either, unfortunately. Once the skier reaches the bottom, he or she tries to take off at least one ski as fast as they can to hold it up in front of the camera so they can display the name of the ski manufacturer that provided the skis. I find it strange how they can ski down a huge mountain for two miles without crashing then fall flat on their butts trying to take off a ski.

Have you ever noticed all those ads pasted around the skating rink? Do these marketers really think we are that naive to believe that we want something because we saw an ad? I’m not sure, but I could really go for a Snickers about now.

One of the more prominent sponsors is BP. In their commercial they say, “Committed to American energy, wherever it comes from.” First of all, their advertising folks should learn some proper grammar and not end a sentence with a preposition. Secondly, that’s a pretty open commitment — “wherever the energy comes from” could mean the Gulf of Mexico, the arctic, the sands of Iran…

Perhaps their new motto during the Olympics should be — “BP, committed to providing thrills and spills, wherever they may occur.”

In my opinion, the most dreaded part of the Olympics is the Opening Ceremonies. I opted out on watching it this time around. It’s about as boring, or exciting, as a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Throughout the entire Olympics, the station constantly goes back to these ceremonies when there are interesting and exciting events taking place.

My knees and back ache just watching some of these events. Take moguls, for example. The event gives new meaning to “sewing machine knees,” a phrase well known in the mountain climbing community. I had them at times when climbing the Grand Teton in Wyoming while standing on a 3-inch ledge and looking 3,000 feet straight down. These mogulers could sew a sweater with their knees in 30 seconds.

Embarrassing moments or agonies of defeat could include taking a hard fall on a triple Lutz, or on the downhill course or ski jump, or even knocking yourself out with your knees in the moguls.

I can’t keep up with all the terminology in the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events. I guess I need a teenaged interpreter when I hear things such as a front-side grab, a mute grab, back-side 540, inverted 900, crippler-style McTwist, Cork 720, leftside switch Rodeo 720, leftside switch Rodeo 720 shredder and Truck Driver Loop.

With all this strange terminology, why can’t it be straight forward like downhill skiing for example? Here’s how the typical announcer would call it. “He’s coming to a big “curve” and he’s initiating a “turn.” Now he’s approaching a big “jump” and he’s initiating a “jump.” Now he’s crossing the “finish line.” Now that wasn’t difficult to follow, was it?

The bobsled. Now there’s another great Olympic event. Two or four athletes race 60 to 80 mph down an icy course in a blur and try not to crash. In the old days, scoring was simply based on the number of broken bones acquired per team and the number of trees they collided with when they flew off the course. Search & Rescue wouldn’t find some athletes for days.

Here are a few more things I’ve noticed while watching the Olympics.

1) One athlete had the longest jump in the ski jumping event but got 6th place. Forget style points or how you land; it should be like the long jump – the farthest jump wins, whatever part of your body hits first.

2) They should rename the triple flip in skating, unless they really pull it off.

3) Many of the Olympic athletes train in our country. What’s up with that? They train here to beat us?

4) Get rid of those silly railings in the Slopestyle events and just do the jumps.

5) There are so many events going on that we don’t need to watch some announcers or analysts sitting in chairs or on comfortable couches chatting nonsensical nothingness.

6) Athletes in the luge events wear gloves with spikes on the fingertips. Just don’t forget you have your gloves on and rub your eyes.

7) For some athletes, it’s gold or nothing. I have no respect for any athlete whining over getting a silver or bronze medal when they thought they should have received the gold. Like in football, there should be a penalty flag thrown for unsportsmanlike conduct and their medal should be taken away. Just to be in the Olympics should be accomplishment enough, let alone winning a silver or bronze. I love seeing when someone goes crazy over getting a bronze medal.

When all of the events of the Winter Olympics are over and all of the medals are doled out, it’s not exactly over. There are, of course, the Closing Ceremonies…




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