A Preview of the 2010
By Erik Schulwolf '10, Senior Writer
As America settles down from the New Orleans Saints’ triumph in Super Bowl XLIV — a triumph, it is worth noting, that this columnist predicted at the midseason mark — sports fans only have to look ahead one week for the next great athletic spectacle to come our way. I am speaking, of course, about the Games of the 21st Winter Olympiad. In addition to the happy reality that the Winter Olympics is now no longer obligated to use a fake ID when attempting to buy alcohol, this edition of the Games is also notable for the fact that it is located in Canada. This means that for the first time since 1994, when the Games were held in Lillehammer, Norway, the major events are an easy commute from the North Pole. Santa Claus lobbied the International Olympic Committee hard for this location, and I’m happy for him that he got it. Also, you know, congratulations to the Canadians for winning the rights to stage the Games in Vancouver. I’m sure they will be very hospitable and will put on an efficient but nondescript show.

There are five important things that the discerning Olympic viewer will be following with bated breath over the upcoming two-odd weeks. In discussing them, I will be employing a mixture of facts, half-truths and bald-faced lies. I would tell you which is which, but where would be the fun in that?

1) Bob Costas: How does he do it? How does this man, now 57 years of age, retain his boyish good looks and — most importantly — his lush mane of dark brown hair? Okay, I know how, but that makes it no less impressive. His daily summations of the day’s sporting events (and athletic competitions) exemplify the class and grace with which sportscasters should carry out their hallowed duty. One oft-underestimated but nonetheless crucial technological challenge of the coming century is to build a robot that replicates Bob Costas’ face and mannerisms perfectly, so that television coverage of the Olympics can go on after the great man has gone to his reward.

2) The overhyped American athlete in some downhill racing event: Every time the Winter Games roll around, American corporations seize upon some American downhill racer as the focus for their advertising efforts. By law, this athlete is then required to underachieve spectacularly in his or her competitions. In 2006 in Torino, these two athletes were Bode Miller (downhill skiing) and Lindsey Jacobellis (snowboard cross). Miller, after starring in tedious Nike ads that asked viewers if they were “Bodeists,” proceeded to demonstrate to the world what Bodeism actually was: winning zero medals, getting disqualified from races and spending the Olympics getting the chance “to party and socialize at an Olympic level.” Jacobellis was seemingly in every Olympic ad that did not feature Bode. Up big in the snowboard cross final, she attempted a completely unnecessary show-off move, and, in one of the purest displays of karma in sports history, fell on her posterior and won an embarrassing silver. We’ll see whether Under Armour poster girl and downhill skier Lindsey Vonn provides similar fodder for schadenfreude this year.

3) Curling: Curling is known commonly as “the shuffleboard of Canada.” It involves (I swear to you that I am telling the truth) sliding a large rock down a sheet of ice towards a target. To direct the large rock, two people slide next to it and sweep the ice with brooms. After 10 rounds of play, the losing team is traditionally fed to a polar bear. Curling initially entered the Olympics as a money saving device — curling matches were to be played at the intermission of hockey games to avoid having to pay for a Zamboni to sweep the ice. Even though the IOC is no longer a bunch of cheapskates, curling has been kept out of sheer indifference. Alcohol testing is mandatory for all participants in Olympic curling events; a Blood Alcohol Content of less than .10 results in immediate disqualification.

4) Short track speed skating: Speed skating is exactly what is sounds like: Dudes, or chicks, have a skating race. There are two types of speed skating. In long track speed skating, two skaters skate around a huge track over and over and over and over and over until you fall asleep and wake up four hours later and oh my God they’re still at it! Trust me — don’t put yourself through it. In short track speed skating, four to six skaters careen at high speeds around a track of approximately the same dimensions as the average kitchen table. People cut each other off, fall down and engage in all manner of entertainingly underhanded tricks to win. The speed skater to watch for the United States is Apollo Anton Ohno, who has won five Olympic medals while having consistently excellent facial hair. It is also important to note that the American speed skating team has received the official endorsement of Stephen Colbert, meaning that full support of the team is a patriotic duty second only to not starting your taxes until April 14.

5) Hockey, eh: The hockey competition is always the highlight of the games. Unlike in international soccer, where the Olympics is a mere shadow of the World Cup and the regional competitions in terms of importance, the best hockey players in the world give everything for their country during the Games’ tournament. This year, hosts Canada are solid favorites to win the gold medal with a star-studded lineup highlighted by Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Possible spoilers include Russia, with their dynamic duo of Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) and Evgeny Malkin (Penguins). Two Scandinavian powerhouses — Sweden and Finland — could also make a run. As for the United States, winning gold wouldn’t exactly be 1980 all over again, but it’s mighty unlikely. Ultimately, I think Canada may feel the pressure at home, allowing the Russians to break their 18-year gold drought. Canada takes silver, Sweden gets bronze. In women’s hockey, Canada and the United States should be the primary players as usual.

Issue 14, Submitted 2010-02-10 03:23:19