Winter Olympics 2018

olympicsI love the Winter Olympics!  When you have a ton of young people flying through the air and chasing each other on glare ice — what’s not to like?  Plus you get hockey!  Unfortunately, even though all winter sports are based on the single, simple premise that ice and snow are slippery (Think about that for a moment!) the Winter Games are starting to get cluttered up with too many variations on that theme.  For example, you have two kinds of ski jump, several kinds of skiing and God only knows how many kinds of figure skating.  Folks, there are only so many things you can do with frozen water before it just gets silly!

Let’s take a look:

Curling — The Scots invented golf, the hammer throw and the caber toss. Curling is just the last in a long line of sports that allows you time to have a beer and a cigarette while you’re waiting for your turn to play.

Speed skating — This sport makes sense to me.  I think it evolved when a bunch of Europeans were skating around, puttin’ on the brag.  “Hey, Heinrich! You are like the skilpaddeMin bestemor can skate faster than you.”  Heinrich got pissed at Olaf for dissing his gromutter, and the race was on.  This worked well for a number of years — until the Dutch decided to play.  Ever since then, it’s been “I don’t know what you bet, but if you’re not wearing orange, you’re not going to win.”  Of course, the most exciting event is the relay — which is basically Roller Derby with knives on your feet.

Biathlon — This one is just weird!  Ski as fast as you can with a high- powered rifle on your back until you come to a target; stop, whip out your weapon and shoot.  Then, pack up, ski off to the next target, and do it again.  This happens several times.  Who the hell thought up this sport —  Nordic assassins?

Skeleton and Luge — I think these two are basically the same sport!  In both events, the participants jump on a sled the size of an iPhone  and fling themselves down a mountain at 80 miles an hour (130 km/h.)  Sounds like fun, huh?  The only difference I can see is Skeleton people go headfirst because they want to look death in the face; whereas the people who favour Luge, lie on their backs because they want it to come as a complete surprise.  However, I do believe the Luge folks should get extra points.  Take a look: those kids are steering that sled with their bum!

Half Pipe — The name says it all.  I’m pretty sure most snowboard events were invented by stoned Lifties on their day off, because no sane, sober person would ever attempt any of that stuff.  Fun Fact: Snowboarders were originally called snurfers and “real” skiers made fun of them.  These days, snowboarding is a multi-million dollar industry.  Who’s laughin’ now, Jean-Claude?

And finally:

Ice Dance — Libido on ice.  I’m certain the real reason Puritans outlawed premarital sex was because they were afraid it would lead teenagers to Ice Dance.

The Olympics Are Too Damn Difficult

I promised myself I wouldn’t write about the Olympics.  I’ve already done it — many times.  I’ve been cruel and I’ve been kind, and once I was even hipster indifferent.  You see, for a guy who actually remembers Cassius Clay kicking the crap out of Zbigniew Pietrzykowski (yeah, I did have to look up his name) in Rome, there’ve been a lot of Gold Medals under the bridge, and enthusiasm is not an infinite commodity.


The problem is the Olympics have become complicated.


Back in the day, every four years a bunch of kids would get together to play games.  Eventually, one of them would run, jump, throw, skip, swim, sail, hop, bounce or roll further or faster than everybody else, and they’d get a medal.  The band played the national anthem, everybody smiled, gave each other a “good sport” pat on the ass and went home.  The Americans always won, the Soviets and the East Germans always cheated, countries like France and Japan always hung in there for Bronze, and everybody else had a helluva good time.  It was simple, straightforward and you didn’t need an IBM supercomputer to figure out when your particular guy or girl was going for gold.

Fast forward:

It’s Rio 2016 — and I have no idea what’s happening.  I’ve been watching now and again, and nobody seems to be winning anything.  They always have to do it again tomorrow or Wednesday or next week.  Plus, every time I turn the TV on, Michael Phelps and his fat little kid show up.  That guy is the Kim Kardashian of chlorinated water sports, and, BTW, I’m no expert, but I don’t think water actually comes in that colour.  Meanwhile, in another part of la floresta, they’re playing golf.  Golf?  What does “Faster, Higher, Stronger” have to do with golf?  Why not make chess an Olympic event and get it over with?

There are 39 different sports in Rio, and each one of them has several events, and each one of those has qualifying heats, quarter-finals, semi-finals, round robins, square sparrows — God Almighty!  This is insanity!  Table Tennis, little old rainy-day table tennis has 4 events?  Badminton has five?  Fencing has ten?  Diving has eight?  Eight?  How many different ways can you jump in the water?  But for sheer WTF madness. there’s Shooting.  You remember shooting: point the gun at the target and pull the trigger.  Believe it or not, Shooting has 15 events.  Fifteen?  I have no clue what these people are shooting at, but they’re doing it 15 different ways.  Annie Oakley wasn’t that good.

At first glance, Rio 2016 has it all: beautiful young people, tons of money, incredible drugs — all set on the glorious beaches of South America.  It’s a telenovela waiting to happen, but there are too many characters — too many storylines — too many side stories that don’t mean anything and just too damn much stuff to keep track of.

So go in peace, Rio Olympics. I’ll get the medal count when you’re over.

Olympics: The Spirit of Competition

Oddly enough, after two weeks the 2012 Summer Olympics are not getting stale at our house.  There seems to be a never-ending series of Olympic Moments that stalls the reality train for yet another event that somehow turns into a television afternoon.  And these aren’t just those Chariots of Fire flashes of exalted victory and weeping defeat that the media loves so much.  They’re revelations of what young people are capable of.  What constitutes dedication and excellence?  What brings these human qualities together in the same place at the same time and drives athletic performance forward?  It’s easy to dismiss the Olympics as the gargantuan circus it has become — and I’ve done it a number of times — but that’s just the glitzy bag they’re dressed in.  There’s more to them than that.

The Olympic mottoCitius, Altius, Fortius” (Faster, Higher, Stronger) is actually a secret code that unlocks a hidden room in our human DNA — a tidy little place where the competitive genes are stored.  Yes, that’s right: as much as contemporary North Americans wish to deny it, we are genetically programmed to be competitive.

Human beings are social animals, not unlike a troop of chimpanzees or a herd of elephants.  We travel in packs and, therefore, have a burning need to know just exactly where we fit into the hierarchy of the group.  It’s Mother Nature’s way of making certain our species survives, by insuring that the strongest genes get passed along.  Once we establish that primeval, it’s not such a big step to London 2012.  Those young people running, jumping and lifting are doing what comes naturally.  Crudely put, they are just answering a call of nature.

Here in the 21st century, there is a strange idea that we should limit a child’s exposure to competition as if it were radon (Remember that stuff?)  In fact, the “everybody gets a rainbow” philosophy has pretty much taken over in North America.  This is just bad.  It’s like punishing owls for sleeping all day.  Take a look at any schoolyard.  Those little kids figure out who the Alpha dog is pretty quickly — even though they’ve been told repeatedly they’re not supposed to do that.  They know who runs the fastest, who has the coolest backpack or who knows all the words to “Call Me Maybe.”  They don’t have to keep score.  It all comes perfectly naturally to them.  This is because, from the day we’re born until the gophers start delivering our mail, we are constantly going head to head with something.  If you don’t believe me, ask any parent about the incredible duel they had with their two-year-old.  That kid is measuring his abilities, honing his skills, detecting and tailoring his talent — so he can deal with an unforgiving world someday.  In essence, he’s competing with the world that mom and dad have created to keep him safe!  They don’t call it “The Terrible Twos” for nothing.

Instead of trying to sacrifice 5,000 generations of the human condition on the altar of some Flavour-Of-The-Week self-esteem Dr. Phil nonsense, we should be encouraging competition.  Striving for excellence is not wrong, even if you get left behind.  The Olympics clearly shows that.  Forget about the glare of the klieg lights and the stabbing “how do you feel?” microphones, and take a look at that poor bugger who’s bringing up the rear.  They never stop.  They finish — even when they know they haven’t got a hope of ever touching an Olympic medal.  And when it’s all over and they go home, they aren’t “devastated” human beings, questioning their self-worth.  They’re standing tall, three axe handles across the shoulders, proud of their accomplishment because they hung in there with the best.  Not only that, but they’ll probably start training all over again, just for another chance to try.

The Olympics might be a five ring circus.  So be it.  However, we need to bring some of that spirit of healthy competition home to our children — because, these days, when every kid gets a gold medal, everybody (including the kids) knows damn well it doesn’t mean anything.