I’ve tried. I really have.
No, that’s a lie. I haven’t. Hadn’t really given it a second thought until today.
I want to care about the Winter Olympics, I really do. Sort of. A little bit, anyway.
There’s that part of me as a sports writer and a fan that thinks: I should be paying attention. Everyone is watching. This means something.
And then there’s the sane part of me that thinks: This blows. What’s on Comedy Central?
I estimate that before tonight I’d watched roughly four minutes of coverage from Sochi, not nearly enough time to get a feel for the vibe of these Games or to gain an appreciation of any of the athletes or their inspirational stories, or to be sucked in by the pomp and pageantry of the most important global sporting event in existence (non-World Cup category).
Aw, screw it.
This morning I woke to a sink full of dirty plates and silverware. They weren’t going to move themselves to the dishwasher.
Afterward, I stumbled across some clean clothes that hadn’t found their way into the dresser yet.
Then I answered some emails, tidied up the living room and suddenly realized how tired I was. So I took a nap.
Later, I picked up my daughter from school — the bus had broken down — had dinner with the family and coached my boys’ basketball team. Good practice.
At no time during any of this did I once consider what might be happening, or had happened, in the women’s hockey game between the U.S. and Canada. Wasn’t even aware it was going on. Why should I care about, let alone watch, a game featuring players whom I don’t know on teams that I’ve never followed playing a sport that doesn’t interest me?
And just to clarify, I don’t have some weird beef with the Olympics. I enjoy the Summer Games. I’m familiar with many of those competitions and a good number of the athletes. I relate.
I can appreciate the accomplishment of running really, really fast. Usain Bolt in the 100 meters? Lemme at that.
Or how about, say, Team USA taking on the Spanish national basketball team? Holy crap, I’m in. I know those cats. Follow them from wire to wire during the NBA season. And perhaps most importantly, I understand the degree of difficulty involved in what they do.
There are the crunchy layers of subtext, too: professional teammates facing each other as opponents in international play, countrymen who grew up playing together reuniting to tap old connections, the allure of a possible Nikoloz Tskitishvili sighting. (Note: Georgia, please make this happen in 2016.)
I know the rebuttal I’ll hear, and I get it: It’s no different for the NHL players in the Winter Games. You’re right — assuming I’m a pucks fan. But I’m not. So … where’s the hook?
At least we can all agree that hockey is a legitimate athletic contest. There’s a net, a puck, a clock and a bunch of hosers ready to knock heads and hurtle down the ice to a definitive end. What I can’t abide are the spectacles masquerading as sport, the beauty contests dressed up as talent competitions.
Yeah, I’m looking at you, figure skating.
I know it’s a cliche. I realize that it’s been written about 4,815 times in the past two weeks. You know what? It’s still true: Any activity — no matter how intriguing, athletically demanding or heartstring-pulling — that is more enamored by the uniform, body language and facial expression of the participant than it is interested in explaining (and justifying) its scoring system is … not … a … sport.
Tonight, when I walked into the living room and copped a squat while the wife was watching 15-year-old American Polina Edmunds do her thing in the free skate competition, I knew I’d made a mistake. Edmunds, who had apparently “shocked the world” in her short program on Wednesday — yes, I had to look up the details — belonged in a snow globe. She glittered and beamed the way these competitors are supposed to, and she strode and spun gracefully and purposefully around the ice. And even when she crashed to her bum at one point during her routine, it did nothing to diminish my esteem for her skill.
But I didn’t care.
I’m not saying I wanted the poor girl to fail. (What am I, a monster?) Still, it didn’t matter to me whether she nailed it, either. I had no skin in the game. With no interest in or ties to figure skating, no previous knowledge of Edmunds, no trust in figure skating’s notoriously corrupt judging establishment and no regard for an event whose results appear to be based entirely on subjective observation, I was just a fly on the wall — an annoyed, disgusted and embarrassed-for-everyone-involved fly on the wall.
When one of the analysts breathlessly fawned over Edmunds’ “sensitivity to the music” set to her routine — this after another commentator avowed that a previous skater simply “wasn’t the same person” she had been in a recent competition — I held my tongue, but outwardly cringed.
The wife noticed.
She’d just been looking for some mindless entertainment at the end of a long day. This was the perfect medicine: a few minutes of Olys cotton candy, then off to bed. But she saw my reaction and, knowing my stance on this ridiculousness, snickered and — in a classic blunder — egged me on.
And that was that. Twelve seconds later, I was banished from the room.
Turns out I was OK with that. I had plenty to say on the subject — none of it she hadn’t heard before, but none of it she felt like listening to again. Still, to each their own. Live and let live. Whatever floats your boat. You like figure skating? Cool. I don’t need to feel it to respect that impulse.
But here’s the thing: Don’t try to sell me on the idea that it’s a sport. It insults my intelligence, the same way that a gymnastics floor routine or (to a lesser extent) a diving competition tells me I’m supposed to accept out of hand the whims and fancies of a subjective judge. I’d kill to see the Triple Lindy performed on an international stage — wouldn’t even have to be pulled off by a Melon — but its value couldn’t be ruled on by an observer nearly as unequivocally as a ball thunking through a hoop or a puck pulling taut the back of a net.
I’m convinced that the skeleton, whatever the hell it is, would be dominated by a new world-record holder within a month and a half if you slapped some lycra and a helmet on LeBron James and turned him loose on the track. Winter Olympics events tend to be insular, if not exclusionary, worlds unto themselves. (Just watch me jam the top back onto that can of worms for now.) But even if I’m wrong — and I might be — at least a start, a finish and a stopwatch could give us a definitive answer.
And that’s more than I can say for ice dancing.
It’ll be a long wait until Monday and the next episode of “@midnight.”
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