Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The 2014 Sochi Games

Update #1 (of at least one)

US snowboarder Danny Someone
showing off his point-scoring Stylus.
I’d love to be in Sochi right now, gadflying about, taking in this suicidal skiing event here and that narcissistic judge-based ‘Look at me fly around on my snowboard’ event there. I’d kill to get paid to post articles that regurgitate the same ‘stunning, heart-pounding’ results everyone else is spewing up while trading my per diem for Sochi cuisine and a non-alcoholic beer (judging from this video, which is about as dry as they make Sochi out to be). I'd even abandon my semi-warm New York home for a room in Sochi, in the athlete village that seems designed to double as a tribute to the failings of communism.

But the reality is I am at home – where I don’t even have a TV. (Technically I do have a TV, a nice flat screen someone down the street put out for the garbage man last month, but I have not subscribed to the dogma of the cable gods so it's only good for my sons' DVDs.) I did recently scored free wi-fi from my neighbor so my son and I could enjoy the Super Bowl on my laptop (giving me my first reason since the inception of The Simpsons to like FOX). However the powers-that-harumph at NBC have a different definition of modern corporate goodwill, magnanimously allowing my fellow Americans and I to view the Games online – exclusively through our cable provider.

So I find myself relegated to this whimsical Internet connection and staccato clips of a (maybe) blond Julie Donaldson still capitalizing on her 2000 Miss Florida USA title as she gets to read about the highlight videos from a teleprompter. Alternatively, I can read thousands of update articles that express no humor or irony in how these Games are playing out.

This is where I feel I must jump in.

You train all your life to make the Olympic team...
and then you get to wear this.
First off, I thought Ralph Lauren had pushed the fashion envelope too far with the Team USA sweaters he designed. Really? This was the winning design for our athletes? The whole deal smacks of Halliburton no-bid contracting.

But then I saw this photo of two US lugers, including bronze medal winner Erin Hamlin. Zeus almighty, these guys look like performers at the Cole County Independence Day Fair about to throw themselves at the Velcro wall.

But give credit to our sleigh riders along with Alpine skier Julia Mancuso who captured a bronze in the women’s super-combined, for being the only Americans so far to medal in an event that has anything to do with the Olympic motto ‘Citius, Altus, Fortius.’ Aside from the luge and the super-combined (the IOC’s super-creative way to boost the number of winter events) we have scored two golds in snowboard tricks and two silver in ski tricks. In the coming weeks look for a proposal (read: arrogant demand) from the USOC if not Capitol Hill to have the word Stylus included as the fourth great pillar of the Games.

While over at the half-pipe our self-revered snowboarders are quietly pushing for a fifth: Narcissus.

In a sport where the US has traditionally dominated (in a tradition going back all of 12 years) our boys in baggy pants failed to grab a single medal (a factoid that will be repeated ad nauseum by the pseudo-journalistic hoi polloi on google+). In a subsequent interview Danny Davis, one of our rad trio, summed up the team’s performance like this: ‘We let America down. Sorry, America.’

Psst…Danny…

We don’t really give a shit.

On smoother ground, US cross-country skier Sophie Caldwell finished last in the finals of her sprint event. The spin on this is that this is the highest Olympic finish ever from an American female cross-country skier. And to that I say…Congratulations. Absolutely and sincerely. The only cross-country skiing I’ve ever done was in Killington, Vermont when I got lost on the forested mountainside and had to cut through the woods to find a ski lift. From this one experience I will testify that cross-country skiing has to be the most grueling athletic undertaking in the Olympics. The Scandinavians have an historical advantage here because while we Americans are busy cancelling school and getting into 50-car pile-ups when it snows those Nordic types are out taking care of business on their own two skis.

Coincidentally, Caldwell is from Vermont – which means, I am sure, she spent a good portion of her childhood cutting through the woods on her skis, searching for a ski lift.

Another high-point of these Games has been the inaugural women’s ski jumping event. Recent world champion Sarah Hendrickson, either by chance or by strong-arm USOC tactics, was the first jumper to go, giving her a special place in history – followed by a 21st-place showing in the actual event.

She has yet to offer America a formal apology.

Nevertheless we can expect the US medal count to climb. With women’s snowboarding and free-style skiing and more ice-dancing contests to come, there are plenty of Stylus medals yet to grab.