Saturday, February 08, 2014

Does Anyone Really Care About the Winter Olympics?

We've just had the Winter Olympics of our own, what with a three-day power outage after the ice storm that hit southeastern Pennsylvania.  The frequency of falling branches made the neighborhood sound like a firing range for a time, a transformer blew, a light show ensued, and huge pockets were plunged into darkness and cold.  Neighbors were generous all around -- offering help removing downed branches, a place to stay, meals, a place to hang out and do laundry, proving once again how important community is to everyone.  It was a difficult challenge, making sure the pipes didn't freeze, the power lines were cleared and getting everyone where they needed to go to.  Thankfully, despite the bad weather and downed trees, few people got hurt.

That said, the beginning of the Olympics came and went.  They're mostly for cold-weather countries, and while Americans like to win, with the advent of cable TV, it's much easier to watch your favorite college basketball team than to watch just what was available way back when when the likes of Jim McKay and Jack Whitaker had you riveted to your seat.  Sorry, the combination of anything that Vladimir Putin and a bunch of greedy oligarchs runs and sports that you need a lot of money to compete in if you're the average person just makes the Olympics a non-starter for many.  Add in the time-zone difference and the overall Russian attitude to those not Russian and those not straight, and, well, who really cares?  We worry about conflict minerals and perhaps soon drug gang avocados, but what about "Blood" Olympics?

Oh, sure, the wars should stop to make room for the games and we all should put aside our differences in order to let the games begin, but the IOC has hardly recovered from the whorehouse image it richly enjoyed over the past decades, as if the IOC were ever populated with the high-minded (the former head decades ago, Avery Brundage, was a bigoted racist, and that's on a good day).  The whole concept is one big exercise in sausage-making, and while I like certain individuals and root for them, I sincerely doubt I'll tune into anything other than hockey or curling, because it will be cool to see the 22 year-old gym teacher from Minnesota win a medal.  And it might be fun to watch Lolo Jones try to win a medal on bobsled, but most of the participants wear helmets and body armor across the board, so you cannot see their faces.

Yes, of course there's the darling sport, figure skating, but don't get me started on the (at least petty) corruption that can exist in any "sport" that gets determined by judges.  Sure, we're past the days when the East German or other eastern bloc judges would screw participants from the west with impunity, but it's hard to discern what the judges or looking for and whether the 10th ranked skater in the world can ever erase her tenthrankedness with the judging community and nail down the gold with a superlative performance at the Olympics.  Seems to me that unless you are the mega-upandcomer, once tenth, always in the second division.  And, if that's the case, what's the point?

Okay, so I'm a little bit cranky from being a road warrior and sawing wood for three hours on Wednesday to unblock my driveway, but I'd rather watch a good college basketball match-up or even my favorite TV show.  Watching events on time delay in the age of Twitter makes little sense, as does letting Vladimir Putin run anything that transcends Russia.  If the Russian people "elect" him fine (a Russian expat in the U.S. told me that 75% of Russians are behind him because things are much better than they were in the former Soviet Union, and he offered the fact that now when a dad goes to work in the morning there's no risk that he won't return home, which was what life was like in the former Soviet Union, but that doesn't mean the IOC should.  But the IOC has buried more bodies in worse places, I'm sure.

Perhaps I wouldn't have asked the question if I didn't know the answer, but I did and I do.  The ratings will stink, the Super Bowl drew much better in the U.S., as will the World Cup.  As for the latter, it will be much more fun to watch the likes of Messi, Neymar, Hulk, Ronaldo, Rooney, van Persie and Lukaku than someone blasting down the side of a mountain lying on his back on a flat board.

The games have begun.


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