We really need the Winter Olympics right now. Actually, it seems like we need the Olympics every time they come around. The world is like that more and more. We need some peace, and every two years the Games — Winter or Summer — come along to give it to us.
And the great thing about the Winter Olympics in particular is just how much silliness there is to them. There are just so many winter sports where the casual observer is left to wonder, “Who was the person who decided this would be a good idea?”
Bobsled was a crazy enough notion back in the 1920s and ’30s, let alone the 85 mph speeds there have been at Pyeongchang this week. But as we’ve gone along, we’ve gotten even crazier.
People started luging. They became lugers. No matter how you write things about what people do with the luge, it makes them look like deviants: “We caught these people luging, your honor.” “Bailiff, lock them up immediately.”
Somehow, someone first decided it would be a great idea to take a tiny little sled, lie down on it and go down a curvy piece of ice feet first. Frankly, it appears the strongest muscle on these athletes is the neck muscle that they use to prop their head up to see where in the world they’re going. Or to see that path of white light right before they enter the Great Hereafter.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough, they decided to go down an even smaller sled even faster. And oh, yeah, headfirst. It’s called skeleton because that’s all that’s left of you when you finish.
Snowboarders have become a big part of the Winter Olympics. Everything they do puts them just an inch away from breaking their neck. The halfpipe is extraordinary to watch, but it’s also incredibly scary. Still, I suppose it could be worse. It could be the fullpipe.
Remember when ski jumping seemed like the very craziest thing you could so on skis? Well, right on the heels of snowboarding is freestyle skiing. Essentially it takes all the thrills and chills (literally; it’s really chilly out there) of snowboarding and makes it even more insane. Seriously, whoever thought skiing sideways down the handrail of a staircase should be made to ride nothing but elevators for the rest of his life.
All this makes ice hockey seem like ballet.
Figure skating, speaking of ballet, looks so graceful, but it’s also dangerous. It’s all fun and games until a flying sequin puts somebody’s eye out. Figure skating is very deceptive. It’s so elegant, but also has a move known as the death spiral.
Don’t be misled. These spinning skaters could throw up at any time.
Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu won the men’s singles figure skating competition and each time he skated, hundreds of Winnie the Pooh dolls were thrown on the ice afterward. Fortunately, there were no Pooh Bear concussion catastrophes and, as you can see here, Hanyu handles the gifts very well.
Speedskating is an exciting sport, especially when you get a bunch of guys on the short track for the 1,500 meters. It’s kind of like dirt-track auto racing, except there are a lot more crashes. In fact, a lot of people watch speedskating just to see them crash.
I want to be clear. There are more sedate sports at the Winter Games, such as curling.
At first you may think this involves cosmetology, but put your curling irons away. At the Olympics, curling involves stones, houses, skips, brooms and hacks. The skip sends the stone down the ice and then the sweepers use their brooms to guide it. There’s a lot of yelling by the skip to keep the sweepers — and the spectators — from falling asleep.
This sport isn’t called Chess on Ice for nothing.
It’s actually a lot more like shuffleboard on ice — similar to what they were playing on the Titanic after it hit the iceberg.
Cross-country skiing would generally not appear to be very exciting either. It’s like regular skiing, just without the hill. Well, to be honest, there are hills; it’s just that some of them go up.
Cross-country skiing has been used as transportation as far back as the 13th century. As a sport, think of cross-country skiing as Nordic rush hour.
Now for those of you who can’t view the Olympics as a success unless the United States is wiping out all other nations and leads the medal count, these Games may not be for you. Through Sunday, the U.S. was tied for sixth in the medals race with 10: five gold, three silver and two bronze. There were also a couple of gold-wrapped chocolate medals found in someone’s backpack. Norway leads with 28 medals overall, followed by Germany with 20, Canada with 17 and the Netherlands with 13.
That’s the way it should be. Those guys have a lot more ice than we do anyway. And besides, if you’re all wrapped up in who’s winning medals, you really aren’t watching the Olympics the right way.
Embrace the silliness.