David Smith: Olympics not much of a draw, even with an ice desk

David Smith: Olympics not much of a draw, even with an ice desk


I didn’t watch much Olympics coverage. I wished I’d seen the hockey game that the U.S. won over Russia, and was hoping they would meet again. But that didn’t happen. Russia got knocked out of the tournament fairly early — in the quarterfinals.

It’s not that I don’t like to watch sports, it just seems that there’s always something else begging for my attention. I just can’t seem to sit still for too long.

And besides, seeing that cheesy Olympics Ice Desk on the newscast each night was enough to dissuade me from tuning in. Really, an ice desk? Who was the brainiac who thought that was a good idea? I got the impression from some of the newscasters that even they thought it was silly.

Anyway, it seems that many of our athletes that were destined for gold fell a bit short. Perhaps it was the expectations and the pressure that derailed them. I feel bad for them. At the same time, I find it hard to identify with them and their single-mindedness, since I harbor no such illusions of grandeur. Take Shaun White for example. He failed to garner even a bronze medal this year. He has his own website, though, and if you take a look at it you can download his music playlist.

Like, bro, why should I care what music you listen to?

This snowboarder from California is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and it seems he had a lot more to lose if he didn’t medal — he has a brand that he needs to sell called “Shaun White.”

Perhaps my opinion of him is tainted unfairly by his cameo with Justin Timberlake in the film, “Friends With Benefits.” Maybe his acting was too good in that scene in which he yells at Timberlake.

Anyway, the ice skating is OK, but it’s difficult to see someone fall or stumble, especially when you consider how long they’ve been training for the chance to compete. I did see some flashbacks of skaters on the ice when they were barely old enough to walk.

Is it enough that they got to compete at the Olympics? I guess. I just hate to see anyone’s dream dashed when they’ve worked so hard.

Then there were the bobsledders. I can’t imagine screaming down a sheet of ice at speeds of more than 80 mph with everything just a blur.

I’m not sure how they steer those things, but the commentator said that just touching the wall on the way down is a bad thing because it slows you down. A thousandth of a second is a long time in that sport, and grazing the wall a couple of times could mean the difference between first place and eighth.

And how much time do you have to make a course correction in the sport? A lot of it has to be muscle memory and instinct. I guess that’s what separates gold medalists from silver winners.

I did feel bad for the U.S. women’s curling team. It finished in last place for a second straight Winter Olympics, this time with just one win in nine games. The U.S. men’s team didn’t fare much better. They went 2-7 and finished ninth of 10 teams.

Britain spent $8.4 million on its top curlers in the last Olympic cycle. Russia and China have similar elite teams. But the U.S. curlers have to practice around their jobs. One woman on the U.S. team was only able to practice on her lunch break. Imagine Shaun White practicing only on his lunch break. And what job would Shaun have if he weren’t a professional snowboarder?

OK, curling is not exactly the most exciting game to watch, and it doesn’t look that difficult, but evidently it takes a bit of finesse. And it takes a lot of practice to get that stone sliding to where it needs to go.

Should the U.S. start subsidizing sports like curling so that we can compete on a level playing field in the international arena? I guess, because I can’t imagine a packed arena where people would buy tickets to see curling teams compete. It’s too bad there isn’t a philanthropist somewhere who loves the sport and wants to fund it. Perhaps we should all send the curling team a dollar and fund a people’s curling team. Made in America, by Americans!

It does make a big difference when the media feature some of the athletes and you learn a bit about their backgrounds. It makes them a bit more human and approachable. It also makes you realize that there are some stories that make you want to stand up and cheer, while others give you the impression that a medal to them is just an ends to a means — cashing in on the fame.

That’s not going to change anytime soon. And neither will the emphasis on medal counts by country. I wish they would do away with the big graphics showing a running tally of which country is in the lead. I’m tired of seeing them.

That graphic should be framed and set atop the Olympic Ice Desk where it belongs.

This is the opinion of David Smith.

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