Friday, February 19, 2010

C'mon Baby, Put the Rock in the House

Okay, I admit it. I have always loved the Winter Olympics.

I like the Summer Olympics too, mostly for the track events, but the Winter Olympics are so much more fun. They are a collection of every oddball thing people have ever attempted in order to keep from freezing to death over the course of history, refined and turned into competitive events. And a surprising number of them you can do while consuming adult beverages, with no loss of performance. The Winter Olympics is the Island of Misfit Sports, broadcast to the world.

I mean, how can you not love the luge? Think about this - you are standing at the top of a mountain. At the bottom is warmth and safety, and the only way to get from here to there is by jumping onto a sled that gives you all of two inches of clearance from the ground and hurtling through a tube of solid ice at speeds that airplanes couldn't match until well into World War I. You can't even really see where you're going, since you're lying on your back. Who invented this? What were they trying to escape? And how many beverages had they consumed before this seemed like a good idea?

And if that isn't enough for you, there's the skeleton - which is essentially the luge, face first. There isn't enough whiskey in the barrel for a sane person to try this, and yet there it is, in the Olympics. Somebody is going to get a gold medal for this, and there isn't anything that can be done about it.

Don't even get me started on the snowboarders, who all look like they stopped in from a hard afternoon of smoking joints and watching anime in order to fly through the air like the Wicked Witch's monkeys.

I can do without the figure skating, though, since you are not allowed to check people in those events. Plus, having now seen Blades of Glory, I find it impossible to take competitive figure skating at all seriously. Give those people some beverages and a puck and let them have some fun. If you can picture any of the top ten male figure skaters in an NHL uniform without laughing until your sides hurt then there is something seriously wrong with you, but I say give them a chance anyway.

But the top of it all, the absolute pinnacle of Misfit Sports, is curling.

For those of you who have managed to miss this, it is kind of like shuffleboard on ice. Each team is given a number of "stones," which are, in fact, stones - big honking granite rocks with handles bolted on at the top. These have to be coasted down the ice to a target, and everyone gets about a hundred turns to do this. It's just hypnotic to watch. You cruise by while channel-surfing - because NBC knows better than to put this on the main channel, so it's being broadcast on one of the "sister networks" instead of something else that nobody ever watches - and you pause, and twenty minutes later you're yelling at the screen that that was the sloppiest broom work you have ever seen and how on earth do these people expect to penetrate that fortress?

Did I mention that this sport actually has people with brooms to sweep the ice in front of the rock as it slides along? You can't make this stuff up, folks.

Now, I will admit that curling requires a fair bit of skill and practice. I have actually gone curling and the results were not pretty. Those rocks weigh about 42 pounds - which is what? 8.2 hectares or something in metric - and it is very easy to get them sailing across the ice and through the wall on the other side of the building until they finally come to a stop somewhere in the parking lot. And there is a surprising amount of strategy involved in what looks like, to the untrained eye, people bouncing rocks around. But you can consume all the beverages you want, even while actually launching your rocks down the ice, and you have to love that.

But you know what's even better? Curling is the one sport in the Olympics where you can look like your average cubicle-dwelling caveman and still compete at an international level. My new favorite Olympic athlete is one of the Danish curlers, a woman who looks like she hasn't refused a donut in her whole life and who was out there kicking butt and winning at the highest level of her sport anyway. It gives me hope, it does. I could never survive a skeleton run, my speed-skating trials would result in mass carnage, and if I ever express an interest in downhill skiing I would hope that someone would adjust my medications accordingly - but this I might be able to manage, even in my current academic body, if only I practiced. 

This is my kind of sport.


Beatrice Desper said...

I LOVE figure skating. But I agree with you about the NHL uniforms. The half pipers (skateboarders) have such baggy clothing because they have to fit airbags under their clothes. What's her name the blond American skier who posed for Sports Illustrated made it onto French news. As did Tiger Wolf. Only in American would you have to apologize for adultry. Get out those Scarlett Letters. Would never happen in the land of snails and butter.

Beatrice Desper said...

Adultery. I need a spell check.

KimK said...

Title comes from a song lyric by Jonathan Coulton, written in honor of the last Winter Olympians. Check it ou! gedato