Are the Winter Olympics relevant in 2010? Perhaps we should rephrase the question. Are the Winter Olympics relevant to America in 2010?
Hate to fence ride but the correct answer is: It depends. Honestly, it depends on what you are looking for.
As children growing up, our parents introduced patriotism via sports and the Olympics. It was our first experience with chanting "USA! USA! USA!"
Today, many have learned about patriotism because of events like Sept. 11.
The Olympics tug different heart strings. We want the good guys to win but if they lose, it's no big deal. We still maintain an air of superiority over the country that just defeated us.
Past Olympic images mean more to us than current ones: Mary Lou Retton's perfect 10; Roy Jones Jr. losing the most controversial boxing decision (and that is saying a lot) to a South Korean in Seoul; "Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!"; Bart Conner making men's gymnastics cool for five minutes; The Dream Team; Mary Decker versus Zola Budd; Nancy Kerrigan's knee and subsequent "why, why" pout; Cool Runnings (OK, not the actual movie, but the event from which the movie was derived).
The current Olympics are devoid of such story lines. Why? Because we are force-fed topics before the games unfold. NBC explained who the stars are prior to the competition.
There is a reason Michael Phelps earned headlines, while an equally dominating performance from Usain Bolt went largely ignored two years ago.
Stars are no longer born, they are created. This is because network executives think we are too dumb to figure things out.
The summer Olympics aired tape-delayed events on NBC two years ago. What was their sport of choice? Women's beach volleyball.
Geez, wonder what audience they were pandering to with that decision?
Another concern with the Olympics in 2010 is timing. Due to conflicting time zones around the world, America catches much of the action on tape delay. This does not work well in the Twitter, Facebook, blogosphere and Internet age of immediacy.
It's not all bad. We'll watch some or all depending on the mood.
Here are several aspects to look forward to.
Love me some "Bugler's Dream" by Leo Arnaud. Not sure what song this is? Trust me, you do.
The Winter Olympics take place in Vancouver this year. This marks the second time in eight years I can tell people I skied on the same slope as an Olympic athlete.
Aside from watching trucks haul snow up mountains in Vancouver, the other interesting development this year is timing. We should be able to catch most of the action live on the half dozen NBC networks. Of course, you must have cable or satellite TV working for you.
The opening ceremony kicks off the games on Feb. 12. Will the spectacle live up to the heights reached by China in the summer of 2008? No, but I'm guessing adult diapers will not be in use by Canucks either.
Three events to watch
Curling. I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but this "sport" draws me in every single time. The premise is outrageous. The competitors have the athletic ability of a frozen jock strap, yet it almost always delivers.
Maybe it is the fact that you could imagine a group of drunken buddies "curling" in the backyard after a case of beer. In fact, I'm guessing that is how this "sport" came to pass.
Figure Skating. Women's, of course (no offense Johnny Weir). It is the odd sport that renders itself watchable every four years. Your "man card" cannot be revoked for dissecting another Michelle Kwan silver medal.
Plus, there is something visceral about watching a girl crash and knowing four years worth of hopes and dreams crumbled in front of millions. More importantly, she has to skate around with a fake smile and watery eyes for two additional minutes. Does this make me a bad person?
Two-man Luge. Whoops, that is supposed to be filed under the "Things to avoid during the Olympics" category. Moving on.
Alpine Skiing. Not sure about everyone else, but it seems difficult to differentiate between the Alpine skiing events. Seriously, the Olympics are half over before I remember the Super-G, downhill and Giant Slalom.
When an American captures the gold in these events, it seems like a bigger deal.
Three events to avoid
Snow Boarding. Sorry kiddos. The only thing more annoying than snowboarders on a mountain when you are trying to ski is watching snow boarders take up valuable space in the Olympics.
Good try ESPN. Way to introduce the Winter X Games and force the "extreme" sport into the Olympics. There is little value in these events.
Two-man Luge. What purpose does it serve? Whose idea was it to place a second man on the Luge? Isn't one luger enough?
Biathlon. Even the parents of participants in this sport think it's a joke. To recap the event: Cross-country skiing while shooting a gun at a target. Imagine the Summer Olympics arming marathon runners with .44 magnums. "Go fire a few rounds and knock some cans over before crossing the finish line."
Here is an idea to improve the biathlon. Shoot attacking animals. I know PETA would frown but imagine the level of excitement when the competitor now has a charging bear in his face.
No Winter Olympic athletes hail from Tulsa. However, women's hockey stalwart Angela Ruggiero laced up her skates alongside her brother Bill for the Tulsa Oilers. So we have that going for us.
USA! USA! USA!
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