XX Giochi Olimpici Invernali di Torino 2006

TorinoSo I’ve caught a bunch of the Olympics over the last week or so, and since it’s become a decidedly passé event, if you believe the media (in)attention, I find it absolutely necessary to inform you as to why you should be watching. Despite there being many things to dislike about the Games in Torino (Turin, my ass!), there is much to enjoy about the 20th Winter Olympic Games, and I don’t just mean the “Olympic spirit.” Here are some brief thoughts and observations on each of the, ahem, sports, I’ve been watching on NBC, CBC, CNBC, MSNBC, USA, WTF, BBQ, and OMG!

  • My favorite section of the Winter Games has always been skiing, and with all due respect to the marquee Downhill event, I’ve always been fond of the slalom events. Something about ‘dem gates. But anyway, the American ski team has not fared very well in Torino, save a gold for Ted Ligety, shockingly, in the aforementioned Downhill. Bode “Look at me, I’m cool” Miller was supposed to have contended for the gold in five different events on the slopes, but has thus far been DQ’ed twice and placed sixth in the one event he did finish.

    Downhill

    So why, then, do I list all this in a blog entry about what’s good about the games? HDTV, baby! HDTV was made for events like Olympic skiing. To see the mountains outside Torino in all their majesty is just magnificent to behold (see above). It’s like a moving painting in stunning clarity. No event showcases high-definition in quite the way the ski events do.

  • Who doesn’t love curling? I couldn’t tell you the first thing about where or how the game originated, what the rules are, or what the curlers are shouting at each other (I think it’s something like “HEEEEEY!!! CURRRRRRRLING!!!”), but I can tell you that I enjoy watching it. The US actually seems to have a decent mens team this year, making it to the semifinals as I’m writing this. I think it’s the engineer in me that likes to analyze all the angles during each End and watch in satisfaction or disbelief when the curlers screw up a shot. The “rocks” they “throw” are cool, too. I don’t think they’d look out of place in someone’s garden, for some reason; throw them in with some gnomes and you’ve got yourself on the cover of “Better Homes & Gardens.”
  • From my apparently questionable recollections, I thought that the International Olympic Committee had its anti-doping laws enforced by none other than–you guessed it–the International Anti-Doping Agency. This is the agency that bans athletes from their sport for two years without requiring tangible proof of their guilt. So, how is it then that a cadre of weed-smoking hippies is allowed to participate in events at the Winter Games? One bright spot for the stoners was American Seth Wescott, who ‘boarded his way to a gold in the inaugural Men’s Snowboard Cross (like motocross, but with snowboards!) and handled himself with class and showed some genuine respect for the Olympics. But for every Wescott, there’s another ten lettuce freaks method-grabbing and styling all down the hills.

    Contrast Wescott to his American teammate Lindsey Jacobellis, who embarrassed herself, despite winning a silver medal in the Women’s Snowboard Cross. With a gigantic, 50-yard lead nearing the end of the course, Jacobellis decided to pull off a trick you’d normally see on the half-pipe (don’t get me started on that being an Olympic event…) as she came over one of the jumps on the final stretch of the course. Fittingly, she fell on her ass and the woman in 2nd place flew by her for the gold. Thanks for living up to the American stereotype, Lindsey. She had the nerve to call the move an “adjustment” to compensate for the jump, then later changed her story when she must’ve realized how ridiculous it sounded. Bah! I guess she’s more than content with the money she got for that lame Visa commercial.

    I don’t have a huge problem with snowboarders myself anymore, as they usually confine themselves to terrain parks, and no longer cut into the main hills the rest of us two-plankers frequent. But now they’re in the Olympics? What? Man, I sound bitter about this.
  • Ah, the luge. [insert joke about two-man luge that results in something related to Brokeback Mountain. Then insert “thank God there’s no such thing as 2-man skeleton.”]
  • Shamed as I am to admit I watch Dancing with the Stars, it may bring me even more pain to admit I’ve been watching ice dancing. Well, maybe not that much pain:

    Tanith Belbin

    I think that’s reason enough to watch. Plus, you can see these dancers fall while doing what should be ridiculously easy spins and footwork. Three or four pairs had crazy, spectacular falls and stumbles last night, each more painful than the last. Falling while doing a Quadruple Zimbabwe in figure skating is one thing, but to fall on your face when you’re spinning around with one skate on the ice is a joke. That’s probably why I laughed. (Yes, it gives me no shame to laugh at athletes who work their ass off for four years, only to see their hopes of being on the medals stand and listening to their national anthem amid a torrent of joy dashed by a horrific fall. Oh, the agony of defeat…

  • I thought East Germany had merged a while back with West Germany (thus forming GERMANY II: THE WRATH OF KHAN), but the East German Women’s Olympic Team appears to have made a comeback for this year’s bobsleigh and speed skating competitions. You can almost see the syringes sticking out of their legs if you look close enough. I think there’s a mustache or two to see as well.

So, I’ve had a lot to keep me busy here. Despite all the flawed athletes these games sometimes have, there are just as many–more, actually–that hold true to that Olympic ideal, that have worked and trained tirelessly for just a shot, just a chance at that fleeting glory of crossing that finish line in first and earning your way onto the podium with a gold medal around your neck and your national anthem blaring as your flag is raised. That can be a powerful image in and of itself and I’ve got a lot of admiration for the men and women who do it.

Oh wait, I forgot to talk about the laughable US Mens hockey team. I thought the Olympics were supposed to the peak of amateur athletics–amateur athletics. How they justify having NHL players (and NBA players in the Summer Games) at the Olympics is beyond me. And they can’t even win anyway! The US lost to Slovakia and tied Latvia. FREAKIN’ LATVIA! Latvia probably has a better hay-baling team than they do hockey! The lone bright spots are that Dominik Hasek got hurt (beat it, Ottawa) and Sabres netminder Ryan Miller was left off the team because idiot US Hockey GM Don Waddell is, well, an idiot. Miller can rest up and resume his proper spanking of the rest of the NHL when the league resumes play in another week.

As negative as this post has already been, I might as well pile on another rant about the prototype sweaters the US and Canadian hockey teams are wearing. They’re meant to be less restrictive, more form-fitting and could soon replace the NHL sweaters. I think they look like an old t-shirt someone got out of a hamper.

US Hockey jersey

There, that’s another post in the books, thus providing further evidence of how much I pwn Ross.

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