Saturday, February 22, 2014

Farewell to the Land Without Enough Snow and Ice

The 2014 Olympic Winter Games may not have done as much to advance his geopolitical agenda as Vladimir Putin hoped, but they suited my book. The Winter Games did all I ever ask of them -- they made February seem like it was going faster.

There was an added bonus this year. The Games were sort of like the weekly PGA Tour tournament broadcast, in that it allowed me to ignore the blasted landscape outside and look at pictures of a place where it was sunny and warm. I have to believe that the Games spectators at Sochi who were walking around wearing shorts reached record heights of smugness, and I don't blame them. They were witnesses to a unique moment in Russian history, the first time ever in the thousand years of existence that things got screwed up because it was too nice out. Back in Paris, underneath Napoleon's Tomb you could the ghostly wail, "Sure, to them it happens!"

Maybe that's why NBC's ratings were up this year compared to the 2010 Games in Vancouver, although come to think of it, it was nice out there, too. More likely, the horrific weather which keeps rabbit punching the eastern and midwestern U.S. forced ratings up by forcing folks indoors. There was one week, why just last week, where I spent most of my waking hours in slippers, just putting boots on when it was time to clear more snow. In between, I watched the Olympics.

The appeal of the Winter Games is far simpler to grasp than that of the Summer Games, whose two main sports, swimming and track and field, attract fewer American spectators than lacrosse at all other times. The Winter Games have the primal appeal of other's people's danger. It's Evel Knievel times one milliion. Every event, with the exceptions of the rigorous discipline of figure skating and the incomprehensible discipline of curling, involves hair-raising perils or, in the Nordic sports, more aerobic ability than God meant human beings to possess. Who can turn away from the sight of cheerful attractive young people risking life and limb in something like freestyle slopestyle, which makes the Daytona 500 look like lawn bowling in the daredevil department?

In a terrible comment on my own sports addiction, I've even developed a fondness for curling, and have hopes that by the 2026 Winter Games I'll have a hazy grasp of what's happening on that weird ice lane and bullseye,  I happily adjusted to the evening routine of watching CNBC show me the day's curling in the hour right before suppertime. If ever a sport suggested, how about a cocktail?, it's curling.

Alas, that's all gone now. Come Monday, CNBC will fill the curling hour with hyperactive guys and gals in suits shouting out conflicting but equally disastrous investment advice. And we'll be left to face March, New England's longest month by far, with only college basketball as a crutch. Oh, I still like the NCAA tournament, but February is usually my college hoop study month, and I was too busy over at the luge.

Couldn't the NHL just drop the rest of its regular season and skip right to the playoffs the week after next?


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