Monday, February 20, 2006

The Medal Round

Michelle and I have watched almost every minute of the Olympics in prime time, and quite a bit of the rest of it on the weekends, and it's time for me to take a break. Despite non-stop coverage today, I'm going to catch a couple of basketball games at the Clark Tournament this afternoon, instead of watching the women's hockey medal games. In an effort to help me clear my head and prepare for the start of a new Olympic week, I've got to get some of this out here...

I'm having a hard time rooting for the US men's hockey team. I try, but I find myself rooting for the few Bruins in Turin instead of the Americans. Yesterday, PJ Axelsson (Sweden) found himself on a clean breakaway in a 5-on-3 shorthanded situation against the US and I was rooting for him to score. And it's not just that I root for the Bruins. I've hated Chris Chelios and many of the other US players for a long time as rivals of the Bruins and I can't bring myself to root for them now.

A part of me is glad that Lindsay Jacobellis lost the gold medal. Actually, I was happy to see it. Not that I was rooting against her--in fact I was rooting for her until the end--but I appreciate the few times when athletes who hot dog it get what they deserve. So many athletes would die to be in the position she was in. Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe had the best take that I read:
Miss Lah-de-dah comes from an entirely different world, one of individualism and solo accomplishment, as well as one that places momentary pleasure ahead of winning and losing. That doesn't make her a bad person. But her casual defense of an indefensible action inherently mocks the hard work and pride that so many other Olympians take in what they do. They would question her premise that ''It's just a race."

''I was just having fun," she said. ''I just wanted to share my enthusiasm with the crowd. I messed up, and, oh, well, it happened."

She doesn't seem to understand that perhaps it's a good idea to ''share your enthusiasm" with the crowd after you cross the finish line. Even Chad Johnson and T.O. wait until they're safely in the end zone before acting up.

Yeah, she still got her silver. But it's one thing to get a silver, a bronze, or even a 15th if you feel you performed well and did your best, and it's another to throw away a cherished gold in order to satisfy a juvenile impulse.

She may not care what anyone else thinks now, but wait until she finds out that ''Doing A Jacobellis" has already entered the sports lexicon. Let's see how she likes that.

Speaking of which, boardercross is a great sport to watch. I have little use for most of the snowboarding events, because I don't think that events that need a judge to award points is pure sport. But boardercross is a race. First one down wins. No stupid style points.

Ice Dancing, on the other hand, has got to go. I have little use for figure skating, but at least they are out there doing sit spins and triple axles and lutzes and whatever. Ice Dancers twizzle. And they wear the most absurd costumes. Most of the time, the most fun in watching figure skating is to see the skaters fall (or to watch the judges cheat), but the ice dancing moves don't even include such difficulty that accidents are an option. Worse, NBC has decided that it's going to be figure skating and ice dancing all of the time.

And if it's not ice dancing, it's Apolo Ohno. Or Bode Miller. Or Michelle Kwan. Every single night, pounded into my head minute by minute. I hate to say it, but it doesn't bother me at all if NBC's darlings lose. Maybe if they keep on losing, NBC will stop covering individuals and actually cover sports.

Jerome Bettis showed up in the studio last night, and it might have been the most absurd thing I've seen all week. He said that he always traveled with his parents and that they had all come to Turin (well, he was on NBC so he said "Torino") . And then he camera flashed to his parents just sitting there in a corner of the studio watching their son being interviewed by Bob Costas. I was hoping he'd also brought along Bubby Brister's mother. Bettis tried to compare Jacobellis flop to his fumble against the Colts in the playoffs. He then joked that he was going to run out of money if he kept traveling with his parents (advice: stop). So Costas "offered him a job" with NBC's NFL coverage this fall. Couldn't they find a bobsled run or something to fill that 10 minutes. Yuck. For what it's worth, I think Bettis will be a decent analyst.

The two old guys doing curling for NBC (Don Chevrier and Don Duguid) remind me of the great Fred Cusick and Johnny Peirson of the Bruins broacasts from the 70s and early 80s.

I also enjoy listening to Mike Emrick (hockey), Dick Button (figure skating), and Tim Ryan and Todd Brooker (alpine skiing). If I never heard Al Trautwig (cross-country), Sandra Belzic (figure skating) and John Morgan (bobsled, can't stop yelling) again, I'd be much happier.

Finally, when I get to attend a Winter Olympics someday I plan on seeing speedskating just so I can sit among the Dutch fans. I think that would be worth the price of admission, regardless of the action on the ice.
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