Add Football to Winter Olympics
There are a couple of glaring problems with the Winter Olympics, starting with the fact that no one cares. There aren't eight people in America who care about these esoteric sports. (There's an oxymoron for you.) Even when you force yourself to care, and really study what's going on, you realize that everything hinges on whether someone slips. These are slippage-based sports. What happened to Apolo Anton Ohno? He slipped. On ice. These sports are fundamentally insane. Figure skating, for example, can be impressive, but it's quite obvious to even the casual observer that it's a prescription for someone slipping and falling on his or her duff. Judges then will deduct points based on the egregiousness of the slippage. It's all rather cruel.
Another problem is the limit of human perception. There are sports, such as luge, in which it is impossible to discern any difference between the best and worst athletes. All luge runs are identical. Supposedly the lugers have to steer, but any dolt can see that they're just sliding down a chute and are not exactly in danger of taking a wrong turn into France. They're just falling with style, like Buzz Lightyear. For some reason that doesn't seem as hard as hitting a curveball.
Even the men's downhill, one of the best events, potentially thrilling, was strangely disappointing this time, because there was nothing obviously superior about the winning run. Even the skiers can't articulate why some do better than others. Sally Jenkins quotes Bode Miller: "I feel I skied the way I hoped would reflect a positive objective end result. But when there's a discrepancy there, you have a moment of confusion and disappointment. But after that, what can you do? My subjective criteria was satisfied. Subjectively is how I ski." Jenkins writes: "Maybe I'm too dense to appreciate the subtleties of Miller's subjective goals. I thought the point was to ski faster than everyone else."
The biggest star of the Olympics, Michelle Kwan, has withdrawn because of injury. Worse, they've cleaned up the judging in figure skating. That's a terrible decision. If we can't have Tonya Harding, at least we ought to have the possibility of a judging scandal.
What these winter games need is a new sport. I suggest American Football. They don't play it at the summer games, and it's practically a winter sport in the U.S. The best football games are played in the snow, or on the fabled frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. We could just send the Packers. What do you bet even the aging Brett Favre could eviscerate the defense of the Austrians? The best thing about football is that it's not slippage-based. Let's show the world how to win an Olympic gold medal the American way: By winning the battle of the trenches and establishing the ground game.
[Meanwhile, everyone should check out Dan Steinberg's funny blog from Turin, including this morning's bulletin on the New Zealand v. Sweden curling match. Also worth a read: Libby Copeland on Dick Button.]
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