Let me set the scene for you: The Games of the XXI Winter Olympiad are about to end, and they were pretty good.
Let me reset the scene for you: The Games of the XXI Winter Olympiad are about to end, and they were truly transcendent. Everyone is anxiously awaiting the Closing Ceremonies, complete with the first unveiling of the Ultimate Podium and the first declaration of a real Olympic winner.
We all know that the Winter Olympics suffer from a bit of a middle-child syndrome, perpetually locked between the last Summer Olympics and the next Summer Olympics. But at their heart, the Winter Olympics should be more fascinating than their vernal kin. This is because so many of its events are so novel to us living in America. We no longer live in the peaceful America of Saturdays spent with Jim McKay and ABC’s Wide World of Sports, where we’d occasionally catch a glimpse of a skiing event in a year that wasn’t divisible by four.* With our sporting purview more limited to the mainstream now, our predominant reaction to the sports of the Winter Olympics comprises questions such as, “What’s going on here?” and “How come nobody else thinks this is that cool?” (The latter of which is adopted by my own colleague.)
*This was back when the Winter Olympics only occurred in years divisible by four. Continue reading
Before the Winter Olympics started, I considered writing a satirical post about how excited I was for curling. I didn’t consider it for long, though, because faux-excitement for the Winter Olympics and for curling in particular was sort of played out. The Winter Olympics are pretty much a joke in America; women pay attention to the figure skating, and sports journalists try to make a big deal out of skiing and speed skating (so long as they’re both headed by good-looking marketable stars). Curling was the biggest joke of all, a ludicrous extension of the term “sport” into the realm of bocce and shuffleboard played out on ice, complete with brooms.
Now that I have watched curling, I have come to a conclusion that I guess shouldn’t surprise me too much: Curling is awesome. Curling is awesome because, while not a sport, it is the closest thing the Winter Olympics has to a sport outside of hockey. This is because it is played in teams with objective scoring. There are curling matches, whereas everything else in the Winter Olympics is either judged or a race—or in some ridiculous cases, such as Moguls, a hybrid of the two. Simple comparisons to bocce or shuffleboard are misguided because they underestimate the dramatic and propulsive influence of the ice. In bocce, you’re just trying to get your ball closest to the Pauline; on both sand and grass, it’s very difficult to really deflect the opposition’s balls further from the target. In shuffleboard, you can’t put spin on the puck; everything is in straight lines. Continue reading