More Olympics notes from sitting in a chair. We watch the odd sports during all-day coverage so that you can have a life.
Doubles luge may be one of the strangest-looking sports at the Olympics, with two guys lying on top of one another. ("May be" is the polite term. It's all the stranger-looking, in a joking way, given the political context of Russian laws against gays. By the way, there are only men's doubles. This is very poor planning, as I suspect that if there was women's doubles, lying on top one another, it would get a far bigger male viewership.) But strange though the sport is, doubles luge at least brought about a great quote. Christian Niccum of the U.S. (a light-hearted athlete) said, "The good thing about doubles is whenever you don't have a good run, it's the other guy's fault."
I don't have any comments about the men's figure skating because...well, I didn't watch. I don't hate it, most especially like I do ice dancing, I'm just not overly interested in it. I figure I can put up with the primetime announcers for a short while, since I'll tune in tonight for a few of the skaters, though not all of them.
Okay, I do have one figure skating comment. It's not precisely a result, so there's no need to avoid reading, but rather news, and you'll likely be told it the first thing when tuning in the coverage tonight -- Russian champion Yvgeni Plushenko sustained a back injury in warm-ups, and withdrew. In fact, he also announced his retirement. He was Russia's only male figure skater competing, so that means they'll have no one eligible. There had been a question a few days ago about whether he should withdraw from the more demanding event because of his age and history of injuries. He skated great in the Team Competition, and chose to stay. If he had dropped out, then Russia would be having a competitor going tonight. (I greatly admire his talent, and I understand his ego. Many great figure skaters have egos. But he was so insulting after finishing second four years ago to American Evan Lysacek that he's rubbed me the wrong way since.)
I actually got out of the home for lunch with a friend. It's why God created the DVR.
The U.S. men's hockey team did little in the first and last period. But in between, they scored seven goals in the second period, and beat Slovenia 7-1. Even if you don't much watch ice hockey, try to check it out for a few minutes whenever the men or women's team play. Doc Emrick does the play-by-play for both, and he's so SO listenable and SO personable and hugely talented, that even if you don't know much about the sport he's a joy to listen to. That he's able to toss off with ease the tongue-twisting European names of these men and women's players in such a fast sport -- all in the midst of him broadcasting the NHL season on NBC -- is deeply impressive. By the way, if you don't pay any to hockey or didn't see what I wrote about him many months back, his nickname "Doc" is not a nickname at all -- he actually has a PhD in broadcast communication history. So, he really is Doc Emrick!
If you think luge is a bizarrely crazy sport -- blasting down the course at 85 MP lying flat on your back, your body open and unprotected to the world -- I think that might be nothing compared to skeleton. It's the same thing, but on your stomach. Why is that nuttier? Because you're going 85-90 MPH...head first!! NBC Sports Network had U.S. skeleton racer Katie Uhlaender explain the sport, which she did with great enthusiasm, especially about the high speeds, ending with, "And it's SO much fun!" Swell, except that immediately after, the color analyst said -- with no intent of humor, but just being informative -- "Half the time I've known her, she's been on crutches." I almost burst out laughing. But it gets worse, because the analyst then detailed the injuries Uhlaender has had, one by one, and added, "This year, unfortunately it's been her head. And that's really hard to come back from." Gee, ya think?
By the way, to baseball fans, Katie Uhleander's name might be familiar to you. Her late father Ted was a major league outfielder for the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. Katie wears his National League championship ring on a chain around her neck.
(Also worth noting: you remember my favorite Olympics commercials that posted here? One of them was with Noelle Pinkus-Pace. She competed this morning in women's skeleton. The competition goes over two days, so there is no result yet.)
And if you thought sliding sports were already strange, today marked the first ever Team Relay in luge. Each country has a women's luger, men's luger and men's double. And the slider has to slap at a pad at the end, while going at about 60 MPH, to allow their teammate to start.
Finally, today was the biathlon. What can I say, I like it. There's something primeval about having to shoot a rifle and ski cross country that I find fascinating. What I find more fascinating is how big the crowds are that show up and watch this.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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