Thursday, February 23, 2006

Are the Olympics over yet?

Wayne Gretzky says it's his fault that Team Canada blew its shot at an Olympic hockey medal. Now that that's over, can we move on to something less ear-bleedingly boring than the Winter Olympics?

Most of the Winter Olympic events that even qualify as legitimate sports aren't all that much fun to watch, and there are far more hours devoted to the ones that don't qualify, anyway.

Figure skating, for example, is not a sport. No one actually cares about figure skating during the four intevening years between Winter Games, but a lot of pretending goes on when they actually roll around. Here's the rule -- any performance in which a score is determined by a panel of subjective judges is not a sport. It may be athletic, but it's not a sport. Figure skating is an athletic performance, and the fact that participants wear sequins and makeup is proof positive of this.

In the summer, the same goes for gymnastics. Nobody gives them a single thought for four yearas, but for some reason, whichever androgynous teenager the United States sends to the games becomes an instant "America's Sweetheart." Whatever.

Some of the events don't even make any sense. I was on CQ duty a couple weekends ago, and around 7 a.m. Saturday I watched about an hour's worth of Olympic biathlon. Okay, marathons are about running. Triathlons are running, bicycling, and swimming. Biathlon? It's cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship. Something clearly went wrong.

Okay, sure, it's probably rooted in some ancient Nordic military training. That doesn't mean it's something I care to watch. But to listen to the guys giving color commentary, you'd think Stephen Hawking had just caught the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl. Someone came in tenth and these dudes were screaming.

I love watching freestyle snowboarding, but I think it's better in the Winter X-Games.

South Korea held the 1988 Olympic Summer Games. I was stationed there 15 years later in the northern city of Uijeongbu, and right outside the back gate of Camp Red Cloud are two arenas constructed for the games -- a huge sports arena and a velodrome (for bicycling). We used to run loops around them in the mornings, but not once did I ever see them being used.

So I don't watch the Olympics. The individual events are boring, and, being me, I'm not much into "pageantry." If that was what I was after, I'd just be re-reading Dr. Seuss books, anyway.