By: Eric Thomas
I promised I wouldn’t watch the Olympics. I always complain that the games are a boring waste of perfectly good TV time, aired during the time I could be watching some nervous politician covered in flop sweat awkwardly attempting to explain away the blurred out but still compromising picture of what appears to be him and a lemur that wound up accidentally posted to his Twitter account with the caption “Lemur Lovin’!” or SportsCenter for the 75th time. This year was no different. I said many times that I would avoid the Olympiad. Then the opening ceremony had a lot of really cool and shiny stuff, highlighting 1000 years of Russian history—a subject that fascinates me—and I was hooked.
Now I spend my days on the couch, elbow deep in a Doritos bag, because nacho cheese is comforting and it’s freezing outside, watching people skiing in near 60 degree weather. I don’t understand why it’s so hypnotic. Maybe it’s because NBC shuffles through the events at a steady speed. You’re watching ski jumping one minute, ice dancing the next. It’s like channel surfing only you never have to brush the Cheetos dust off your rapidly yellowing undershirt.
I’ve been motionless since Friday, staring at the TV through narrow eyes, drifting in and out as the images float past me. Here are some sports I’ve grown to like while watching:
Speed Skating — I wonder if I could do this. It doesn’t seem like they’re putting in a lot of effort. They’re just waving their arms back and forth, going in a circle. If there were ever an event that I could do, it seems like this one. I suppose that TV doesn’t do a good job portraying what these athletes are doing, and they’re probably going about 102 mph, but it looks really freaking easy. I understand this is ridiculous, and I’d be killed within seconds of stepping on the track, while the crowd erupts in ironic and riotous laughter at the chunky man in spandex slowly bleeding out on the ice, but when I sit on my couch and watch this, I think I could do it.
Curling — Every guy brings up curling, because really attractive women compete in it. No offense, but someone should show you the internet. In 2014, watching attractive women dressed head to toe in winter gear just doesn’t do it for most people any more. You’re just watching a boring game that you could easily play while drunk. There’s something hilarious about it, so I get that part. You can spend much of the time wondering how anyone convinced the Olympic committee to include curling. That and I wonder if there’s any advantage to stretching out so low on the ice if you’re the one throwing the stone. Also, is there any skill to the broom people? Are they just sweeping or is there something else happening that I don’t understand.
Figure Skating — I’m really digging it this year. Please head down to the comments section so you can make jokes, but I don’t care. The best thing about figure skating—or ice dancing, I can’t really tell the difference—is the announcers. I’m used to watching football or baseball, where the “color” guy is always an ex-player, and usually give the athletes yards of deference. I’m thinking of Dan Dierdorf, who often says things like, “Well, we’ve all been there. I understand how Paris Lenon could miss that tackle, even though Matt Forte ran directly into his arms.” Not in figure skating. The ex-skaters sound shockingly direct at times, “Well, he blew that one,” or “Wow, that’s a disappointment. That’s not what she wanted to do at all,” or “He’s not a really strong skater, that’s always been his problem.” Holy crap, really? No wonder there’s such pipe-related violence in the sport.
Downhill Skiing — I know I’m supposed to like this, because it’s at ridiculous speed, but again, maybe TV just doesn’t do it justice. What’s worse is that it sounds like nails racing down a chalkboard. I’m not sure if it’s just the Sochi slopes, or my rapidly advancing age, but the sound of the skis against the powder send shivers up my spine. Has it always been like that? Downhill skiing is raved about by everyone who’s ever attended a Winter Games, but I never have so the experience is lost on me. Also, and I’m not proud of this, I’m thinking of Sonny Bono the ENTIRE TIME.
Two Man Luge — I’m always distracted, and all my thoughts are immature. Not just in the “closeness between two people” way, but also the suits. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the sport exists, considering the first Olympiad included pankration. I also can’t tune away. I wonder what their conversations are like before and after the competition. “Are you going to eat that? Seriously? Well, for one it might make you bloated for the run tomorrow. And the other…do I really have to say this out loud?”