10 Thoughts from Sochi: Week 1

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I had a sour taste in my mouth in the weeks leading up to the Winter Olympics. I was bothered that all of my shows were taking long break– minus a certain reality show that comes on ABC on Mondays. I was annoyed by the cross-country skiing commercials. Who cares which kind of Greek yogurt these athletes eat?

Fast forward to the opening ceremony, and now I find myself wanting more detail about how many Greek yogurts the athletes are consuming and what time of day is best for it. Something happens internally when you see our group of Americans waving our flag in Russia while dressed in the tacky Christmas sweaters that Polo dressed them in. I suddenly become so fired up for the events that I complain that they only last a little over two weeks.

Today we are now officially a week into the games. Here are 10 thoughts from a casual fan who grew up in a state where “winter” happens for about a week total, but not in seven consecutive days.

1)   Bob Costas should be quarantined, plain and simple. He started the Olympic games last week with an infection in his left eye, but then his right eye felt left out, so the infection has found a home in both eyes. During Monday night’s telecast, the illness appeared to affect his voice, rendering him utterly pathetic. Poor Bob. Now Mr. Costas will sit out tonight’s primetime Olympic coverage for the second consecutive night. These two absences are the first time that he has missed the Olympic primetime coverage since 1998. Matt Lauer is scheduled to step in tonight again, but I don’t think he can handle his vodka quite like our guy BC. Get well soon, Bob.

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2)   15 year old Russian figure skater Julia Lipnitskaia should make all of us feel a little terrible about ourselves. She’s going out on figure skating’s biggest stage and dominating the world’s best skaters. I can’t help but think of what I was doing when I was 15. My “Olympic Sports” were Algebra I, parallel parking between cones in Driver’s Ed, winning dodge ball in youth group, making eye contact with the pretty girls in class then quickly looking back at the board, properly accessorizing for athletic events, pretending like I understood every joke in 40 Year Old Virgin and Wedding Crashers, and trying to make intelligent comments about movies like Capote, Batman Begins, and Thank You For Smoking. I think the only medal I would receive for those fake sports would be accessorizing for athletic events. I am a firm believer in the look-good-play-good theology.

However, Julia Lipnitskaia does not appear to be concerned with any of the above. While I’m sure her routines are whatever “textbook” would mean in figure skating, her spins are mesmerizing. I’m always afraid that she’s going to bore a hole into the ice.

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3)  We all become experts after watching more than 5 minutes of an event. We take a 4-year break from watching a majority of these events, but we jump right into the judge’s chair after just turning it on. For instance, the other night I caught myself saying, “Oh, her chest was too high on the landing,” after American Gracie Gold performed a triple lutz. I say that as if I learned that from the 20 times that I have ice-skated with my family at Ober Gatlinburg. It’s ludicrous to pretend to know the rules and qualifications for these sports that we hardly ever watch, BUT I DON’T PLAN ON STOPPING. It’s fun sitting on the couch, judging every move an alpine skier makes while I consume a gluten free beer and a bag of Cape Cod salt and vinegar chips.

4)   Tape-delayed Olympics are the pits. The most competitive Olympic event is attempting to make it to the primetime coverage without hearing the results beforehand. The quaint town of Sochi is 9 hours ahead of us. So the hours between waking up and when the primetime coverage comes on are an absolute minefield! Twitter is a war zone. Sportscenter tweets the results as they happen live, and then they pretend that they are happening for the first time all over again during the primetime coverage. The safest play is to stay away from Twitter, but then how will we know what our favorite celebrity had for lunch?! Put this at the top of the First World Problems list.

5)   The downhill skiers reach speeds up to 85mph. Did you hear that? 85 miles per hour!! I don’t feel safe doing that in a car loaded with wheels and side door airbags. The other night when Bode Miller was complaining about the clouds and stuff, my dad put their speed in perspective. His point, in short, was to imagine driving through Perry, GA on I-75, or through Crossville, TN on I-40, cruising at a standard 80mph, then looking out the passenger window and seeing a man on skis pass you. Goofy analogy, but it works. How these guys avoid plummeting to their death is truly remarkable. I think this competition should be graded like math homework in college—did they finish the assignment and appear to give some effort? Reaching the bottom alive is good enough for me.

6)   How does one get into speed skating? I watched the Dutch last night finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, and I couldn’t help but wonder how rare that sport must be. I personally don’t know of anyone who has attempted this sport, or of anywhere where this sport is even remotely popular in the US. I can’t picture a minivan full of kids drinking Capri Suns and eating orange slices while someone’s mom drives them to their speed skating match. Maybe that’s because I grew up in a land where we can’t even naturally generate ice. Actually, that’s probably it.

7)   The Olympics are not a great postcard for Sochi. Not yet have I thought, “I’d love to visit.” The hotel conditions have been well documented by the traveling media members, so I won’t even touch on that. The Trans-Siberian Railway is the only appealing thing that would make me want to go to Russia even just a little, but it doesn’t go near Sochi. Usually the Olympic games paint a nice picture of a city or country, but that’s not the case in Sochi. Watching the events each night makes me want to visit Sochi as bad as watching Fargo makes me want to visit North Dakota.

8)   Shaun White failed to medal at the event that he practically invented. That’s pathetic. That may sound harsh, but it’s completely true. When you watch Shaun White, whether you’re a snowboarding enthusiast or not, you can tell he’s way better than the other guys. He looks faster, his jumps are higher, and his tricks jump off the screen, containing the wow-factor that we have all come to love. Perhaps all of us, including the judges, have become numb to his greatness and ability. The half pipe event is only a part of the games because of the U.S., and we couldn’t even get a guy on the podium. I hope this theme doesn’t continue throughout the rest of the games. Another disappointing aspect of Shaun’s performance is that he pulled out of the slope style in order to solely focus on the half pipe. In hindsight, maybe he put too much pressure on himself. To his credit, he was incredibly gracious to his fellow competitors and to the media just moments after experiencing crushing disappointment.

9)   U.S. luger Katie Hansen’s pre-race routine is gold medal worthy. If this only led her to the podium, then maybe we could do away with layup lines in basketball altogether! Check it out:

10)    National pride is king. I wouldn’t watch 30 seconds of the luge if the athletes were wearing generic jerseys. But, slap an American flag on the side of the sled and I’ll scream at my television until NBC throws us back to our local station. National pride will make you do crazy things. For instance, last night during the luge, I paused my TV in order to read a text message and to ensure that I didn’t miss a second of the race. I would watch sheep grazing if they had USA shaved into their side, and I’d probably critique the way that the Russian sheep are eating the grass.

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Posted on by Jeremy Wilson in Featured, Other Sports, Sports

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