Monday, February 20, 2006

The Games Of The XXth Winter Olympiad

The world is in the midst of yet another winter games, whether Americans decide to acknowledge it or not. Although I spent the first week or so treating the games with a fair amount of contempt, I've found myself becoming more interested in certain events as they progress.

You can officially lump me into the group of people who are genuinely interested in curling for the next week and a half. MSNBC has been showing many matches in their entirety, and with the bits and pieces of rules and terminology I've picked up, I think I actually understand the basic ules of the game. There's a sort of relaxing trance that I get into when watching the sport... er, event. My interest is strange to me, becuase I wouldn't consider watching old people play shuffleboard, which is essentially the same thing. Perhaps curling is such a bizarre and almost laughable game that it seems to have gotten its hooks into me.

I am getting a lot of satisfaction watching Bode Miller continually fail. I get the feeling that a lot of athletes that are representing our country are the type of people that the rest of the world hates. Miller seems to be the poster-boy for the "I-Don't-Give-A-Fuck" attitude. That works great when you can back it up with results, but as far as I know the guy doesn't have a medal yet. He ran his mouth an awful lot leading up to Torino, and hey, something worked because his Nike commercials are airing non-stop on NBC. He is proving himself to be a major flop, and has been mediocre in every event thus far, but all he can talk about is how the media puts unrealistic expectations on athletes and how the Olympics don't really mean that much. Good point, Bode. Personally, I'd much rather have an X-Games trophy autographed by Suzy Kolber and Chris Fowler than a gold medal signifying that I was the best skier in the world.

Bryant Gumbel is a fool. For those of you who didn't catch it, he made some strange comments about the games on his "Real Sports" show on HBO. Here it is:

Finally, tonight, the Winter Games. Count me among those who don’t care about them and won’t watch them. In fact, I figure that when Thomas Paine said that “these are the times that try men’s souls,” he must’ve been talking about the start of another Winter Olympics. Because they’re so trying, maybe over the next three weeks we should all try too. Like, try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the winter games look like a GOP convention. Try not to point out that something’s not really a sport if a pseudo-athlete waits in what’s called a kiss-and-cry area, while some panel of subjective judges decides who won. And try to blot out all logic when announcers and sportswriters pretend to care about the luge, the skeleton, the biathlon and all those other events they don’t understand and totally ignore for all but three weeks every four years. Face it — these Olympics are little more than a marketing plan to fill space and sell time during the dreary days of February. So if only to hasten the arrival of the day they’re done, when we can move on to March Madness — for God’s sake, let the games begin."

The problem with how often I write in this thing is that by the time I touch on something, everyone else has already beat it to death. However, Bryant Gumbel has to be one of the whitest black guys in the public eye, who works in a profession dominated by whites. For him to suggest that the games would be better off if there were more black athletes may be correct, but it's an irresponsible claim to make. I'm sure if the U.S. Olympic team knew that there were better curlers somewhere in the county who just happen to be black, they would love to get them on the team. The reality is that there aren't a whole lot of black athletes on the bobsled course, ski jump, or figure skating rink. There are still only a few in the NHL which is a fairly mainstream league around the world. Several radio show hosts around the country have said that if a white host were to say that they don't watch the NBA because there is a "paucity" of white athletes, they would be hung out to dry and fired. This sitation sort of underlines the strange racial tensions that exist in this country. Somehow it's become okay to criticize the white athlete for being white, but not the black athlete for anything that comes close to race. The great thing, if you're a host of some sort, is that when you bring up racial issues you will almost always get national publicity. However, I think a lot of journalists are off base when they bring up discussions about race in sports. Still, Gumbel is wise in his hypocrisy. He called the Olympics "...little more than a marketing plan to fill space and sell time during the dreary days of February..." and I wonder how many people will tune him in once word of his controversy spreads...

I couldn't care less about what Gumbel said really, I'm just excited to see the U.S. Men's Curling squad in the medal round.

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