Olympic Sochi-ology: Ten Observations of a Casual Fan

Luge_sled There's nothing quite like the sound of savagely beaten kettledrums followed by trumpet fanfare to get one's competitive juices flowing, especially in anticipation of a curling match between two nations that experience less than 180 days of sunlight each year. The Olympics cause us, like no other event, to get excited about things that we normally wouldn't care about or even discuss. That being the case here are ten random observations from the Winter Games.

Speed skaters don't wear anything underneath those suits. This hardly seems newsworthy given those suits appear so constricting it's a wonder one can manage to squeeze a birthday suit inside one in the first place. But Olga Graf put to rest any doubt, catching a YouTube virus in the process. Following her win in the 3,000 meters elated Olga, a simple gal from Omsk, absentmindedly unzipped her suit a bit further than is normally considered acceptable by former Soviet bloc standards. Fortunately she regained her senses just as the Academy was about to give her a "PG-13" rating, far from Janet Jackson territory.

Pinkeye is no joke. Many summers ago I went to bed early one Saturday night in anticipation of taking a bunch of middle school students to camp the next day. When I woke up Sunday morning my eyelids were child-proofed. Several hours after prying them open, borrowing some old prescription drops from my wife (disclaimer: don't ever do that), and resigning myself to the idea of wearing glasses in a whitewater raft (disclaimer: don't ever do that either), I was driving a van down the Pennsylvania Turnpike (disclaimer: avoid the PA Turnpike at all costs) in painfully bright sunlight with disinfectant wipes always at the ready. That was a long and miserable week, but I wasn't in Russia and I wasn't in front of millions of viewers. Bob Costas is the man.

The West is so much more tolerant than Mother Russia. Clearly. Thus Canadian athlete Brittany Schussler, seizing the opportunity to take a photograph with Vladimir Putin, would have nothing to worry about. She "tweeted" that pic for all tolerant Westerners to see what a cool story she'd have to tell her grandkids one day. A silly photograph wouldn't lead anyone to conclude that she agrees with Putin's stance on any particular subj--wait, actually... I'm sorry. Brittany just became Canada's own poster child for homophobic bigotry. She had to take that picture down. It's a good thing too. I was about to send my own nasty-gram since clearly the photo proves that she agrees with Putin's decree that prohibits Americans from adopting children from Russian orphanages. How could she?

Technology knows no bounds. Ski jumping ramps are refrigerated. That's neat. A lot of engineering went into ensuring that people could strap 2x4s to their feet, "safely" slide down a big ramp, and attempt to shoot themselves into orbit.

Technology has its limits. Mountains are not refrigerated. Athletes and commentators whine about warm weather in Sochi as if it were a disappointing purchase from Amazon. "The hotels aren't finished...and the weather sucks!" One of those two things is clearly beyond the scope of the local planning commission. But given the ski jumping ramps, is it? No one thought to infuse the mountains with Freon. Koreans take note.

First impressions are often misleading. There are some sports you watch for the mishaps. Men's figure skating fits that category and American Jeremy Abbott had a major one, bouncing off the ice so hard it must have temporarily rearranged his internal organs. Nonetheless he finished his routine and as he left the ice uttered, "Wow...that really hurt!" I thought he showed tremendous restraint. Nice kid, that Jeremy Abbott. But then naysayers pointed out, "Hey, that dude has fallen like twice in the Olympics." Abbott responded to his critics in the press, expressing his desire to give them an unflattering single finger salute followed by the accompanying phrase. Yes, nice kid that Jeremy.

How 'bout that American skier Andrew Weibrecht...wasn't he great? Weibrecht remains largely anonymous after winning the silver medal in the Super G. Let's pretend for a moment that you are unimaginably oblivious and did not know that winning a silver medal is better than winning a bronze medal, or that winning a bronze medal outright is better than ending in a tie. Without the benefit of such prior knowledge aliens from other planets forced to view NBC's coverage of Bode Miller would undoubtedly think that tying for third place is the ultimate achievement of Super G competition. Then they would wonder why earthlings seem so intent on driving their champions to tears.

For the record, I could go a long time without hearing anything more about Lolo Jones too. I'm sure she works very hard, has a nice personality, and really wants to do well...but so do lots of people.

Inspiration comes in many forms. American parents spend the equivalent of a third world economy each year to involve their children in travel, club, and even high school sports. Many harbor faint hopes that the expense will pay off later, but the fabled athletic scholarship proves elusive. Not to be outdone I went out last week in advance of Virginia's largest snowfall of the season and invested in my kids' futures. I picked up a plastic sled for $12.99 at the local Food Lion. As the snow fell luge and later skeleton training began on the backyard fast track. Their split times showed promise. If I can just get the kids the proper exposure I think they may have a shot in 2022.

Hot. Cool. Yours. I have no idea what this means.