Winter Olympic Thoughts (Part 2)
It seems like there’s no good place to be watching the Olympics, at least for us Americans. NBC is getting hosed for its tape-delayed coverage, as well as for the usual stuff. I haven’t been outraged by the delay because ever since the Jay-Conan thing blew up, I’ve just operated on the assumption that the decisions at NBC are being made by a bunch of stoned chimps. Maybe I’m wrong, though. This counterintuitive piece argues that the network is simply packaging the events out of necessity because large numbers of TV viewers won’t watch biathlon and curling live. It’s an interesting idea. Still, it sucks finding out about Lindsey Vonn’s gold medal win hours before the footage airs. And would it really have killed NBC to interview Australian snowboarding gold medalist Torah Bright?
For all of TV’s shortcomings, the crowds at the actual venues may be having a worse time. The organizational foul-ups are piling up and the jingoistic Own the Podium campaign has resulted in some early negative press from abroad, like this piece from CNN and this one from a British paper. This in turn inspired some “I’m rubber, you’re glue” return fire from the Canadian press. Of course, the Brits are hosting the 2012 Summer Games. We haven’t heard the last of this.
We might want to keep an eye on national attitudes after the men’s hockey final. If Canada wins gold in that sport, our neighbors up north might well become impossible to live with, and if Sidney Crosby and company fall short, the chest-beating and gnashing of teeth might be almost as bad. Team Canada already had a close call, needing a shootout to defeat the Swiss. That’s the same Swiss team that beat them in the group stages in 2006. What’s their secret? Also, why do we need shootouts in the group stage? Why not do what the major soccer tournaments do and let ties count in the standings?
What were Jerry Jones and Tony Dungy doing watching men’s figure skating in Vancouver? That was odd. I’ll tell you what I was doing watching men’s figure skating: I wanted to see if Johnny Weir could be so gay that he looped around to straight. (He didn’t. Not that you asked, but my list of straight male celebrities who threaten to loop around to gay includes Hugh Hefner, Joe Namath, Colin Farrell, and Quentin Tarantino. There are probably others I’m not thinking of.) I thought Weir got underscored, but I enjoyed him as the Adam Lambert of these Olympics. Then again, Weir competed in 2006, so maybe Adam Lambert was the Johnny Weir of American Idol.
What about that bizarre piece that NBC ran on Monday about Yevgeny Plushenko? They were trying to make him look like the second coming of Darth Vader, and the Russian skater seemed game to play along, but really he comes off like a dude soaking up the attention and loving his sports car.
This feature examines why Olympic figure skating judges are now cloaked in anonymity. The logic here is that there’s no point in bribing a judge if there’s no way to tell whether the judge is actually voting the way the briber wants. I see the logic, but after the debacle at the 2002 Games, it would seem that more transparency would be in order rather than less.
The U.S. snowboarders are wearing Gore-Tex pants made to look like baggy old jeans. That’s not even the weirdest uniform quirk I’ve seen. There’s the Norwegian curling team. Japanese snowboarder Ryo Aono had a floral print on his jacket. What’s going on with the U.S. ski uniforms? The stars on one side and the stripes on the other — it just doesn’t look good. The U.S. lugers have really gaudy uniforms — check out the fake flames. The Canadian lugers aren’t far behind, either. Over in Japan, snowboarder Kazuhiro Kokubo caused a stir with his attire. That’s the first Japanese guy with dreadlocks that I’ve seen outside of a movie. One other uniform note: The first Iranian woman to compete in the Winter Games doesn’t have to worry about Islamic dress because the regulation ski outfit covers all the parts of her body that are supposed to be covered. I’m not even discussing the figure skating outfits. That’s a whole other conversation that I’m going to stay out of.
By far the best interview was when Bob Costas spoke to U.S. speed skating benefactor Stephen Colbert. “The players relate to me because I give them cash,” said the host of The Colbert Report. “That’s a bond that you just can’t get merely by being competent.” That was his best line, but nothing he did in that interview was as funny as when Colbert crawled into the fake fireplace that’s supposedly burning on the NBC set.
My favorite name so far in these Olympics is American snowboarder Louie Vito. That sounds like the name of a gangster in a 1930s movie.
Did Tony Hawk actually say “tapping into the eye of the tiger” during the snowboard competition? That sounds messy, not to mention dangerous.