Monday, February 15, 2010

Four years and counting

As the Winter Olympics kick off, and I'm Googling the curling tv schedule, it occurred to me that I started blogging almost exactly four years ago.

Although this feels like a milestone of sorts, I'm not going to do a self-important summary of my blogging highlights (clip show!) After all, I've only posted 337 times, less than a year's work for some people, and both the frequency and quality have declined over the last year. When I started out, I felt like I had a lot to say...but I'm at the point now where every post perilously courts the danger of repetition. There's only so many times I can debate the alarmism of global warming, point out the hypocrisy of religion, or seethe with disgust at self-serving politicians. (No links - I thought about it, but that would be too much like the clip show I am avoiding.)

So instead I'll get back to the Winter Olympics, and while not technically repetitive (four years ago I mostly focused on my weird fascination with curling) - the topic is droll nevertheless.

Aside from hockey and curling, I can't stand the Winter Olympics. There's something exclusive and elitist about the whole party, but I'd be a hypocrite to say that bothered me. The two biggest problems for me are 1) I haven't done any of that shit, and 2) watching races "against the clock" are really lousy television.

We're at dinner last night in a bar/restaurant (interesting menu, decent food, but overpriced) with a TV showing the luge competition, and my son asks: Why do some guys go faster down the hill than the others? That's when I realize: I don't have a fucking clue. I reply sagely "It's all technique, son" without having any idea what I'm talking about. I've never luged, I never will luge...I don't know what the hell I'm watching for as spandex-clad dude after spandex-clad dude zip down a icy tube on their back. They're all going fast enough to die, and without the little ticking clock at the bottom of the screen I sure couldn't tell you who had the best technique or the fastest run, or why the angles of one guy's runners are better than another angle...the same goes for bobsledding, biathalon, mixed alpine races...I guess I'm grateful I live in a place where winter's not long and snowy enough to invent all this crazy shit to kill time between golf seasons.

And then there's the clock...imagine watching the 100-yard dash one person at a time. Or all that shit with Michael Phelps two summers ago if he was in a pool by himself racing against a timer. I'm not a big Summer Olympics guy either, but it's a lot more compelling to watch people race each other. Downhill skiing with 30 simultaneous participants, or 30 bobsleds tearing down a mountain at the same time...I'm sure it's not practical, but it might be worth watching.

But all of that is moot starting tomorrow, when the US curlers lose to Germany, and the US hockey team defeats Switzerland. In case you're wondering, I'm predicting a medal for neither club...the hockey team is at best fourth in the world behind Canada, Russia, and Sweden...and quite possibly worse than the Czech Republic, the Finns, and Latvia as well.


At 8:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on Sweet Tea! Everything you need to know about the luge, skeleton, bobsleds, and skiing you already learned in Kindergarten....provided (1) you went sledding at least once in Kindergarten and (2) you cut through some of the murk our physics teachers heaped on Newton's laws of motion.

To cut to the chase, all equipment and surfaces being equal, the heaviest person will always descend fastest given a straight run of any type. Accepting this truth requires us to apply a smidgen of context to moving objects: a feather and steel ball do drop at the same rate of speed, but ONLY when dropped in a vacuum.

Since events where groups of people hurtle themselves down a straight venue would not sell many tickets, event organizers add an equalizer: turns. With turns we now have a spectacle to determine who can best control their mass and resultant speed. Sadly the determinant of that "bestness" is measured by a clock. But as Cervantes purportedly wrote, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating", so a clock is really the only objective means of measuring performance over an entire distance of a run. If you really wanted to make these events interesting, we could push for judges and style points.....

You are right about the Winter Olympics having an exclusionary element to them. I think this results from the substrate of their games. Unless one lives with prolonged periods of snow and ice every year their culture will not be a snow culture. And by definition, people won't develop games utilizing ice an snow if those substances are not available in appreciable quantity. I'd guess that fact alone eliminates 60% of the world's population from interest in those events.

And gratz on 4 years of blogging! You've been doing it for 4 years, and I've been saying I'm going to start doing it for 4 years. One of these days West College will rise again, I promise.


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