Saturday, February 15, 2014

Olympic Death March

I wanted to get wrapped up in the Olympics from Sochi. Why not? This winter has been a never-ending nightmare of cold and weather. TV is terrible and basketball is a snooze fest without Kobe. So I tried, by God, I tried, but I’m struggling to find a grab, a hook, an angle.

Here’s how I see it on Day 8. The biggest Olympic stories have been the Russians’ Steel Circle of Security rounding up stray dogs and shooting them dead. Then a Russian who was in charge of a faulty lighting display at the Opening Ceremonies “tragically” died a few days after said miscue by “accidentally” falling on a bunch of knives. And the first night of NBC coverage showed America a one-eyed Bob Costas bringing us events that had actually happened about ten hours earlier. The table was set for some super-memorable games.

Let’s get into the athletes and the actual competitions. OK, um, yeah . . . I got nothing. Do you know--I mean really know--a single athlete from the American squad? I don’t. There’s that male figure skater with the pony tail who cries a lot. There’s a few hot snowboarding women, but snowboarding is a little too X-Games for me, and I don’t know anything about the women, except they’re all pretty hot. I guess you could argue Shaun White’s a celebrity but didn’t he get finished by injury on the first day? Hockey and pairs skating is always fun, but I have to admit the time lag is taking some of the shine off it.

Where’s a Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan controversy? I’d even take some winterized version of Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin. Remember Dan vs. Dave from the 1990s? The Olympics PR committee has always been astute at creating something fun out of guys who luge and curl for medals. There’s just nothing in Sochi to get excited about on a sensationalized level. And every time I turn on the coverage, it’s some kind of new-age ski jump game that just goes on and on and on.

I’m not asking for The Miracle on Ice from this third-world Siberia, although the US Hockey team looks good this year, but I need something headline worthy. At a time when NOTHING is happing in the domestic sports world, meaning the Sochi Games have zero in-market competition, I can’t strike a dynamic chord of conversation on it with ANYBODY.

"Hey, Brian, what about Bode Miller?" Oh, boy.

The only story that moved the needle for me was the brilliant work of Russian figure skater, Evgeni Plushenko, who was nothing short of a rock star on ice. He’d overcome injury and age to compete through his fourth games. His routines were epic, and awesome, and flawless. For me, he was can’t miss TV. He actually put a face to this barren waste land where people live in huts roofed with animal skin. Probably, right? It was a great story and a great talent. En route to certain gold he blew out his surgically-repaired back and abruptly exited the tourney and retired from skating. His sad end was, of course, met with death threats and raining boos from his home crowd. And that about sums up the Sochi ’14 Games. I don’t even think a two-eyed Bob Costas can save us.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch the Men's Skeleton.

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Brian Huba

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