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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

...and the agony of defeat

I'm boycotting the Winter Olympics.

OK, maybe 'boycotting' might be too strong a word.  Let's just say I'm pretending they aren't actually going on.

It's not that I don't like watching winter sports... nothing could be further from the truth!  But with the Winter Olympics well underway I feel the need to speak up about something... if for no other reason than to suss out whether I'm the only one feeling a tad disenfranchised.

You see, I really do love the pageantry and drama that are part and parcel of the Winter Olympics.  I can watch the luge, and bobsledding forever.  I can sit through endless ski jumps and countless speed skating heats.  Regular slalom... giant slalom...  it's all good!

Just sit me in front of a TV screen with pretty much anything or anyone moving at a high rate of speed in just about any direction and I'm a happy camper.

Just please, please don't ask me to watch figure skating or ice dancing.

Unfortunately, my experience with the televised broadcasts of past Winter Olympics is that with all the fantastic events going on around the clock... about 98% of the air time is devoted to be-sequined and over-made-up human mannequins going through the same mind-numbing figure skating routines over and over and over...

My wife and daughter seem to be the target audience of the geniuses who parcel up the Olympic broadcast schedule.  They approach the winter Olympics as though all those other events (you know... the ones that I like) are like so much crumpled tissue paper in an over-wrapped gift-box.  In short, my girls seem to see everything but figure skating events as a bunch of made-up stuff thrown in to justify calling this shindig an 'Olympics' instead of simply having a quadrennial figure-skating and ice-dancing festival.

I'm sorry, I need some drama in my winter sports.  I want to see biathletes ski until their hearts practically burst from their chests and then through sheer force of will instantly slow their heartbeats to about 10bpm so they can shoot perfect bulls-eyes with their rifles.  I want to see competitors in the giant slalom cutting corners too wide and sailing off into scenic alpine oblivion. 

I'm one of those guys who grew up faithfully watching ABC's Wide World of Sports just for that intro where the announcer would say:

"Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport! The thrill of victory...and the agony of defeat! The human drama of athletic competition! This is ABC's Wide World of Sports!"

While intoning the bolded words above, they would show a fantastic clip of Slovenian ski jumper Vinko Bogataj taking one of the most memorable spills in ski jumping history.

Now that's drama, my friends!

The only drama to be found in any of these figure skating events is the hyphenated kind... the kind followed by the word 'queen'.

OK, I'll admit that figure skating started to get a tiny bit interesting back in '94 when Tonya Harding single-handedly tried to turn it into a full-contact sport.  But that bit of excitement was short-lived and figure skating quickly returned to irrelevancy (at least for me).

I'm a good husband and father.  I have never denied my wife and daughter the right to cheer on Michelle Kwan (what, is she 40 now?).  I've never kept them from watching the same bevy of dour Russian skaters who smile at the world with everything but their cold, dead eyes. 

But what about me?  When do I get to watch?

The problem, as I mentioned earlier, is that roughly 2% of the Olympic broadcasts are devoted to events that I enjoy watching.  And even during those events the networks repeatedly cut away to shots of some ice-dancing couple warming up or an 'ice expert' droning on about the challenges that were overcome in order to have the rink ready in time for figure skating events. 

Personally, the only way you could get me to sit through a figure skating event at this point would be if you dragged the skaters one by one up to the top of the big ski-jump ramp and pushed them off, shouting after them "Let's see your 'Triple Salchow' NOW!"   Then I'd watch with delight as they cartwheeled off the edge of the jump and out into space like our Slovenian friend Vinko.

Y'know... given their training, they could even be scored on how many full rotations they achieved before slamming into the rocky mountainside.  And all the while we disenfranchised guys would be quietly repeating, "The thrill of victory...and the agony of defeat!"


Posted by David Bogner on February 15, 2006 | Permalink


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Agreed, agreed, agreed. But a whole post on what WE want to see at the winter games without using the word "hockey" once?

Posted by: President, Kippot Srugot for Kadima | Feb 16, 2006 10:17:03 AM

President... Oh dear, you're so right. I neglected to mention hockey... or as I like to call it: 'winter boxing'. My mistake. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Feb 16, 2006 10:23:28 AM

I'm certainly not going to argue your right to enjoy watching whatever sports you like. Can't argue with taste.

But I do want to just point out that all that glitter and makeup is covering up the bodies of very serious athletes. Figure skaters train HARD. You can't figure skate at the Olympic level unless you are exceedingly strong, especially in the legs, and train incessently in gymnastics, ballet, weights, etc. as well as on the ice. They get seriously injured, they need physical therapy, and they train, train, train.

It's unfortunate that, because they wear so much glitter, figure skaters are not recognized for their athletic prowess.

But, at the end of the day, it takes a lot of hard work to make skating look that easy.

Posted by: Sarah | Feb 16, 2006 11:45:20 AM

Personally, the only way you could get me to sit through a figure skating event at this point would be if you dragged the skaters one by one up to the top of the big ski-jump ramp and pushed them off, shouting after them "Let's see your 'Triple Salchow' NOW!"

Classic. Neanderthal, but classic.

Posted by: Yehuda Berlinger | Feb 16, 2006 12:54:49 PM

You mean you don't stare open mouthed in awe and wonder at the athleticism, skill and perseverance shown in figure skating? You don't envy their grace and slim bodies? (while conveniently forgetting about the problems of anorexia, injury and training for hours every day) No?
Hmm, maybe it's a girl thing...

Posted by: zemirah | Feb 16, 2006 1:44:36 PM

Sarah... Nobody is denying that these skaters are superbly trained athletes (although please see my response to Zemirah). I'm just saying that there are other athletes in the winter games that deserve equal time on my TV screen.

Yehudah Berlinger... Well, I suppose if the fur fits, I should wear it proudly, right? :-)

Zemirah... Figure skating (and its summer Olympic twin, gymnastics) is chock full of problems that one needs only scratch the surface to notice. In order to compete at the international level these athletes basically sacrifice any semblance of a normal, healthy childhood. Then, as you pointed out, there are the eating issues and the obsessive exercising that reduces their body fat % to low single digits. In my humble opinion there are many more protections and safeguards given to the health of race horses than there are to the Olympic gymnasts and skaters. Anyone out there remember when US Olympic gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi allowed - even encouraged - Kerri Strug to vault with a severely injured leg? Everyone saw the move as gutsy... even heroic. A horse in that condition would have never been allowed to run the race! I'm sorry to rant on like this folks, but there's a problem when a female athlete in her mid-to-late teens hasn't begun to menstruate because of the daily punishment to which her body is subjected as a result of her training regimen! [OK, getting down off my soapbox now]

Posted by: treppenwitz | Feb 16, 2006 2:04:46 PM

Ok... be warned. Rant about to begin.
First of all, have you even read about(since you haven't obviously SEEN) any of the Olympics thus far???!
David, every night that I've been watching, has been snowboarding, skiing, hockey and more skiing. I think I've only seen about an hour of ice skating (and I admit - i love watching the ice skating - not so much the ice dancing!)
You want some 'agony of defeat'? well, mister, did you happen to see the 2 spills that happened to 2 women skiers on Monday's practice runs and one of them was an American who actually, after spending a night in the hospital, raced yesterday? I mean, it had all the elements of that defeat you're looking for: speed, sliding into fences, body parts flailing, and helipcopters airlifting out the body... it was all there and they've been reshowing it as they've been talking about it.
I guess I'm getting a tad defensive as the tv network NBC (which my company GE owns) is broadcasting the Olympics and I have to say that I think that they've been doing a great job.
My only complaint is that the Opening Ceremonies this year were THE most boring EVER and they had one of regular newscasters commenting (rather politically, versus athletically) on each country as they marched in.
SO, maybe you'd better take another look or the broadcast to Israel is having issues?!
Done ranting... thanks for the space!

Posted by: Val | Feb 16, 2006 2:46:05 PM

Val -- nice rant, BUT, that applies only to viewers in the U.S. Israel is broadcasting primarily figure skating. The reason is rather obvious too, if you think about it. Israel, having a rather temperate climate, does not boast a deep winter Olympics team (to say the least!). With all the Russian immigrants who worship iceskating, it is no surprise that the superstars of the Israeli Olympic team are.... drumroll please... SKATERS!

You forget that we can't access the same thing you can on the little black box.... :-P

Posted by: zahava | Feb 16, 2006 3:29:47 PM

Vive la difference! Whenever my father would put on wide world of sports, and that intro started, I would cover my eyes and say, "Daddy, tell me when its over, ok?"

I couldn't bear to see that skier (I am getting the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it).

I guess its a male, speed and danger hunger vs. female, let's be safe so that we can take care of the children instinct....

Posted by: westbankmama | Feb 16, 2006 3:57:59 PM

(from a lurker who regrets she only found this blog about a month ago - love it!)

Although Canadian TV shows too much ice skating, it also shows Olympic hockey and curling. Eat your hearts out. (To be fair, the national broadcaster (CBC) shows those sports all winter - but that may just be another plus.)

Also, trep (my, don't I take liberties when addressing someone for the first time), given a certain recent post about the women in your family, I would have thought teenage ice skaters menstruating would be the last thing you'd want to think about!

Posted by: Chiming in from Canada | Feb 16, 2006 4:16:23 PM

Val... I'm glad to hear that the balance of evetns there has gotten more fair. Too bad I'm not able to see NBCs stellar coverage! ;-)

Westbankmama... I don't know about that. There are plenty of female NASCAR fans, and the sole attraction there seems to be waiting for a wreck. As far as skating goes, I'm sure the costumes and music (and 'drama') don't hurt the female fan base for these events. :-)

Chiming in... Nice ta meetcha! I'm glad you decided to delurk. And feel free to call me trep... everyone seems to have taken that particular liberty. :-) Canada seems to be especially big into winter sports since it's winter up there about 10 months out of the year. I've been following one of my daily reads - a good Canadian named Marn - as she follows the curling events with a zeal bordering on a full blown crush! As to my mention of the 'M' word here... so long as we're not talking about my daughter, we're fine. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Feb 16, 2006 4:35:11 PM

I miss Howard Cosell.

Posted by: Jack | Feb 16, 2006 4:37:11 PM

Zahava / Trep -- in my comment, I did take into account that Israel may not be seeing the same stuff as we in the States are. Sorry for ya... :(
Guess you'll just have to read about the Olympics online!

Posted by: Val | Feb 16, 2006 4:40:55 PM

I always wondered what the name of that skier was... you learn something new every day... thanks, David. The only reason my husband watches ice skating is for the little skimpy costumes- men...

Posted by: Regina Clare Jane | Feb 16, 2006 5:30:53 PM

"The only drama to be found in any of these figure skating events is the hyphenated kind... the kind followed by the word 'queen'."

And just what's wrong with that, eh? :)

I have to say that the Olympics seem to matter to me less and less every time. Speed skaters in high-tech rubber suits (this being a family-friendly website, I'll refrain from mentioning some of the terminology I've used to describe them), the sheer weirdness of luge and skeleton, and people curling without the most important piece of equipment... well, count me out. And while I respect your opinion on biathalon, I have to go with Robin Williams's opinion: "What is this, a Norweigian drive-by?"

Posted by: efrex | Feb 16, 2006 6:14:52 PM

Call me what you will, but each time I see the figure skating I root for a couple of good falls.

Posted by: Jack | Feb 16, 2006 7:53:03 PM

I am female but I still thought your post was hysterical! I was also as confused as Val as to why you were complaining so much. I have hardly seen that much ice skating on NBC. But then I saw Zahava's clarification. Makes sense that they target the Russian immigrants when deciding what to air in Israel.

Posted by: Essie | Feb 16, 2006 7:59:28 PM

Too true.

My personal disgust extends much further however. At least with ice skaters you get to oggle those incredible legs. It has always inspired me ... how much smooth curvaceous muscle those girls can develop. Almost scary.

But one gets none of that with the new heroes of olympic sport .... the snowboarders. Granted it's pretty thrilling to watch them careen and flip through that halfpipe (be nice if we could actually see what moves they are making inside the bags they wear) .... just so long as you tune away before they yank off the helmet, scarves and goggles revealing too much hair and bad skin.

And heaven forbid one of them opens their mouths to speak. The drivel and monosylabic slang that gushes from the boys is repulsing enough but when the 'ladies' chime in with the same stilted-cliche-gobbed-on-cliche mumbling .... I wanna retch.

Then there's the clothes. Reminds me of the flowing robes the NBA players now sport in place of shorts. These snowbording kids all wear what appears to be loose fitting flour sacks. Maybe designed to disguise the inevitable permanent slouch they seem to all hold themselves in. Or maybe to accent it.

At least there's been one bright spot in these winter olympids. Bodie Miller got what he deserved. He's a jerk and he doesn't bother to keep training regimen and hours. He flopped. Fantastic!

Posted by: Scott | Feb 16, 2006 8:23:42 PM

"I have never denied my wife and daughter the right to cheer on Michelle Kwan (what, is she 40 now?)."

David - Michelle Kwan was born in 1980. You do the math. :)

Posted by: Jennifer | Feb 16, 2006 8:34:08 PM

The best part about the good snowboarders is that they are making some serious cash, dude.

Posted by: Jack | Feb 16, 2006 9:19:34 PM

I'm not gonna lose any sleep over the winter olympics. Unlike the first year I was married, 1988?

We lived in a 1-bedroom apartment at the time and our beds were on the other side of the wall from our neighbors TV. And every Saturday afternoon, when we went down to sleep for our Shabbos naps, the guy was BLARING the olympics from his set.

To this day, whenever I hear the word "Luge", I want to bang on a wall.

Posted by: psychotoddler | Feb 16, 2006 9:22:06 PM

Oh, you're so bloodthirsty, LOL! Now I won't be able to get that image out of my mind, even as I watch them skate! : D

Posted by: Irina | Feb 16, 2006 10:00:27 PM

I'm with Jennifer... michelle Kwan is still relatively young though she should be smacked for taking up a spot on the team when she had been injured and knew there was a chance she wouldn't be able to compete - selfish (*Y$Y*(#.

i also agree with Scott about Bodie Miller - jerk!

and some of these so-called sports - luge, skeleton, snowboarding... just boys and gals playing games, as far as i'm concerned and what kind of training is involved for lying on your back in an ice chute? (perhaps taking good drugs and pretending you don't care if you die as you lie in bed and imagine you're in an ice chute!!!)
I'd better sign off now...

Posted by: Val | Feb 16, 2006 10:37:00 PM

David - you mean you are NOT a FAN of Skating with Celebrities? Boy, I'm so disappointed! : )

Posted by: sweettooth | Feb 16, 2006 10:55:45 PM

It's all about demographics and advertising dollars. In the U.S. they've also given a lot of air time (no pun intended) to the teenybopper snowboarding competition. They are of course the most attractive demographic to advertisers.

Ice skating/dancing appeals mostly to women of all ages and they are the usually loyal, reliable spenders of the household dollars that advertisers covet. Men can only sustain that kind of loyalty for a few hours at a time (AKA Super Bowl) and therefore there is a lot more beer advertised at the Super Bowl than at the Winter Olympics.

Once again, it all boils down to economics.

Posted by: wanderer | Feb 16, 2006 11:22:18 PM

I am the biggest fan of the olympics.

But you reminded that my wife swears that she took me and my two daughters to see Stars on Ice many years ago. I can not remember it for the life of me. Don't know if it was trauma or I just fell asleep.

Posted by: Sona | Feb 17, 2006 12:54:20 AM

Um.... sports?

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Feb 17, 2006 1:43:14 AM

I have seen the footage of that ski jumper!!!!! That is some scary stuff. Incidentally, I love to watch luge & skeleton. Looks like fun to me!

Posted by: Faye | Feb 17, 2006 3:32:28 AM

How will I go to sleep without my photo Friday. ;)

Posted by: Jack | Feb 17, 2006 9:38:02 AM

Oh, that Wide World of Sports intro, I remember it well. Wasn't the music great- especially when that skier fell? DA DA DA DA...

Posted by: lori | Feb 17, 2006 10:57:06 AM

ok...who remembers franz klammer? whatta guy...

and that bobsledding team from jamaica (not jamaica, queens, mon) was way out.

Posted by: yonah | Feb 17, 2006 3:00:07 PM

I'm a big fan of the Robert Klein routine in which he imagines Vinko Bogataj getting sick of that clip being on Wide World of Sports every week and screaming at his family to "turn it off." This was long before the 1991 dinner.

Posted by: rabbi neil fleischmann | Feb 17, 2006 7:07:15 PM

Jack... Me too.

Val... True.

Regina Clare Jane... Don't thank me... I'm a giver. :-)

Efrex... Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all! :-) And thanks for that Robbin Williams line. I'd never heard that one.

Essie... Glad you enjoyed it.

Scott... I hadn't noticed the legs/curves. I am always too spooked by those dead eyes on the Russian skaters. Yikes. As for the snowboarders (dude), I also weep for the future if these are the athletes my kids will want to emulate.

Jennifer... And your point would be? :-)

Psychotoddler... At least you shared a wall with the room where they watched TV. You could have been privy to other, er, indoor sports. See there's always a silver lining. :-)

Irina... What? I don't want to see anyone get hurt. If they can fall ever two seconds onto that hard ice a little tumble down a snowy mountainside shouldn't hurt them, right?

Sweettooth... I'm not a fan of figure skating period.

Wanderer... That makes a lot of sense. Thanks.

Sona... My guess is trauma. :-)

Faye... Who doesn't like to watch someone traveling a million miles an hour on a thing the size of a skateboard... ON ICE?!

Lori... The trumpets and the tympani! Good times.

Yonah... Didn't they make a movie about that? :-)

Rabbi Neil Fleischmann... I never saw that... but it sounds like a panic. Thanks.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Feb 18, 2006 10:22:56 PM

PT - I was going to say the same thing that David said. It seems that lately our neighbors have been experiencing some "happy times" that my husband and I have been privy too.

Posted by: jaime | Feb 19, 2006 5:59:55 AM

I watch it on Eurosport (we have YES so maybe that's why we can see it?) and I love it ALL. Curling! Biathlon! Speed skating! Downhill! Love it all. I don't watch the Israeli broadcasts at all. You should consider Eurosport, they have British commentators and show a lot of sports I like (although some trash, too).

OF COURSE I watch every competition of "our" ice dancers, if only to fume with indignation about the treatment they get from the judges.

And hm, I don't think all the Russians have cold, dead eyes. Ask Zehava about Alexander Abt and Yelena Sokolova. I hope she agrees with me that their eyes look pretty alive...

Posted by: Lila | Feb 19, 2006 7:56:29 AM

Jaime... Don't you just find that kind of thing heart-warming? ;-)

Lila... Cold. Dead. Eyes. These girls have no soul. They could follow up their skating career as extras in any number of zombie movies.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Feb 19, 2006 4:00:26 PM

Only when I know that we can reciprocate.

Posted by: jaime | Feb 21, 2006 12:14:02 AM

Jaime... I'm sensing a real competitive side of you that I never noticed before. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Feb 21, 2006 10:23:43 AM

Oh, you have no idea. : )

Posted by: jaime | Feb 22, 2006 4:28:05 AM

Jaime... Um, yes I do. ;-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Feb 22, 2006 10:33:18 AM

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