Monday, May 07, 2018

COLUMN: Pyeongchang


Ah yes, time once again for the thrill of victory... the agony of defeat... the world coming together in the spirit of friendly competition and athletic prowess. I can't wait to...

Wait, what? It's over? Already? But I barely had a chance to get my luge face on. Dang it.

Truth be told, this was a fairly super non-exciting Olympics, probably owing to the fact that the U.S. didn't really have an overabundance of superstars this time around. And every time we DID stand a decent chance of dominating, some smiling Scandinavian was there to rain on our parade. And even in the throes of nationalistic Olympic fervor, it's just impossible to hate the Norwegians -- they're all just too happy and good-looking to play the villains.

So, since the stupid laws of physics sadly prevents Michael Phelps from swimming in ice, it's been kind of an average Winter Olympics for Team USA. (And, yes, I realize the hypocrisy of saying this while laying on my couch eating pretzels. Even coming in 35th place in the Olympics means that you're better than the other 7,632,819,290 of us. EVERY Olympic athlete should be glorified.) And there were still loads of highlights:

• There are dozens of sports out there to compete in. There are countless ways to show the world your athleticism. So why on Earth would ANYONE choose cross-country skiing? Not only do you look completely ridiculous while doing it, but it also looks like a really, really awful way to spend an afternoon. Every single athlete in every single cross-country skiing event looks like they're in pure agony, and these are people who are made of 90% muscle. I wouldn't be able to make it a quarter of the way up one hill without needing a solid breather (and by that, I mean a steak dinner at the ski lodge.)

• Can we talk about the biathlon for a bit? Whose idea was it to combine skiing and shooting? Ah, of course. I just looked it up -- the Norwegians, of course. They used to worship the Norse god Ullr, who served as both the ski god and the hunting god. This led to the modern biathlon as a demonstration of Norwegian homeland security -- "We will shoot you, then we will ski away quickly." Someone should have told the Norwegians that all they needed to do to protect their homeland was take off their helmets and smile. I'm working on perfecting the quadathlon -- a complex event where you (1) ski directly to your hotel, (2) take a relaxing shower, (3) drink some cocoa, and (4) read a good book. The winner is the first to fall asleep.

• The only Olympic sport I ever thought I could excel at is curling, but the older I get, the wiser I get. Curling may look easy and fun and basically shuffleboard as invented by cold and drunken Scots, but there's more to it. Beyond the strategy and the finesse and the teamwork lies one important curling skill: the ability to remain upright while standing on ice. Between my broken ankle of three years ago and my bruised tailbone of 2018, I'm pretty sure we're proven I'm incapable of this. Back to the Olympic drawing board.

• Speaking of sports that shouldn't be sports, what is "skeleton," other than a nice way of saying "Competitive Alive Staying"? Finally answering the question, "What would bobsled be like without the bobsled," skeleton competitors basically jump on a piece of plywood and head down the bobsled track face-first at 80 mph. The winner is basically ANY athlete who doesn't die in the process.

• Can Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski narrate EVERYTHING please? Up to and including my breakfast every morning? I think my entire life would be better if it were viewed through a prism of good-natured cattiness. "You're right, Johnny, she SHOULD have landed that triple axel," I caught myself saying to the TV while reaching for another pretzel fully aware there are days I can barely step out of the shower without falling.

• Am I the only one who's a little scared of Lindsay Vonn? Beyond the fact that I'm pretty sure she could snap me like a twig, she seems like someone you don't want to make mad. Like, she'd come after you really really fast on skis. And even if she fell and broke her leg, she'd stop for a few seconds, heal it right up, and keep coming? As bad I felt for Vonn missing the Super G medal stand, watching Czech surprise Ester Ledecka win was pretty much the best moment of the Olympics. A snowboarder by trade, she basically entered the Super G for fun and shocked the world (and herself) when she won by one one-hundredth of a second.

If you truly want your heart to grow five sizes, search Youtube for the live commentary of Ledecka's win by Czech sportscasters. You can't understand a word of it, but it's the sound of pure joy. Nice job, Pyeongchang. You made me proud to be a Hyundai owner. See ya in 2022, Beijing. I should be in perfect quadathlon shape by then.

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