Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Olympic Background

I've been watching a lot of the Olympics, these days.

As noted, I like the Winter Olympics. And they only come once every four years, whereas most shows are on every week and Mythbusters is on pretty much all the time except 4am on Tuesdays, when I am usually asleep. I have tried to make this point to my daughters, when they insist on watching YET ANOTHER episode of iCarly or Josh and Drake, and so far they have generally humored me by letting me change the channel to one or another of the events being broadcast. They're practicing for when I get old and start asking them why they don't print newspapers anymore and by God maybe somebody ought to. They're good girls.

So it's been a week full of curling, hockey, bobsledding, and something called ski-cross, which looks like the jailbreak scene from The Golden Compass, only with fewer wolves. And it has been glorious.

I've even managed to enjoy some of the figure skating. I still think it would be better if you gave them pucks and uniforms, but even so. Not bad.

One of the things that always hits me when I watch events like this is the background stories that they do on the network broadcasts. Not the contrived bio-pics that they show in the downtimes when nobody is actively careening into something icy - those are invariably painful to watch and result only in the deadening sensation of time irretrievably lost. No, the background stories that always get me are the little things that the announcers slip in while waiting for the event to start or the scores to come up.

This one is the only athlete from her country ever to appear in the Winter Olympics, and her parents had to quit their jobs as doctors and engineers and move somewhere cold and work as janitors. Really - that happened. And there she was, skating away, nowhere near a medal, but with her parents in the audience thanks to an anonymous donor who paid their airfare.

That one retired until somebody asked him what else he was going to do with his life and he couldn't answer, so he went back.

That other one is competing for a brother, a mother, a child lost long ago.

This one is on the downside of their career, just looking for one last blaze of glory.  The one in the next lane is on the way up and facing the odd task of knocking off a mentor.

How can you not pull for people like that?

Stories make us human. And in the hastily sketched outlines of stories tossed into the quiet moments of these Olympics, you get a sense of the people behind the competitors. They can't all win, I suppose, but you can still cheer for them.

I'm going to miss these games when they go.

No comments: