We watch the Olympics all day so's you don't have to.
Well, we're coming close to the end. I try not to look too far ahead and see that big empty void which I'll have to fill with actually doing something, but that's the way of the world which only gives a goal for two years from now and the Summer Olympics.
And it's only fitting that we begin here with the beloved Four-man Bobsled -- one of my very favorite events, and one of the two which are why I love the Winter Games so much, because the both give me a hope that one day I can still be an Olympian. In the Four-man Bobsled, the job of three of the team members is to push the sled for about 15 feet, jump in the sled and then sit. And I can do all that, and would be especially good at sitting. Sure the team wouldn't do well with me there, but my participation wouldn't affect the results as much as on the Two-man team.
By the way, having said all this, I'm not quite sure why there are two separate events for Two-man Bobsled and Four. I'm sure the experts can explain the difference, but it just seems like taking the same trip but bringing along a little more luggage. For that matter, if the have bobsledding in the Winter Olympics, I don't know why they don't have auto racing in the Summer. I'm not arguing for that, mind you, just that they seem awfully similar with the main difference being that one is on ice and the other on asphalt.
For that matter, even NBC sort of suggested this, by having NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. do a fun piece with the U.S. bobsled team, that among other things discussed the similarity between two sports.
(Side note: I worked with his legendary father on the movie BASEketball. Dale Earnhardt had one night's filming for a funny cameo as a cab driver who's asked if he can get to the characters' destination faster because they were in a hurry. I didn't have much dealings with him, but I do recall ask about him having just won the classic Daytona 500 -- one of the sport's crown jewel races -- only days before. It was a risky question since he had the reputation of being very crusty -- his nickname was "The Terminator" -- but instead of biting my head off, a big warm smile cross his face. "How do you think it feels, accomplishing something you've spent your whole life trying to do?" It was all the more poignant since he sadly died in a crash not long after.)
Speaking of bobsledding, a female OAR bobsledder failed a drug test, the second athlete to do so these Games. Two thoughts immediately came to mind. The first was -- Bobsledding? You took drugs for bobsledding? For 99.2% of the race you're literally sitting. At most, you're like driving a car. Only for that remaining .8% are you pushing the sled, but even that is in concert with someone else. And you took drugs? And the other failure was for curling! Bobsledding and curling are the two sports for which athletes failed drug tests? What level of insanity does that fall on??! And my second thought was that both failures were by athletes competing under the banner of Olympic Athletes of Russia -- and the very reason they're doing that is because Russia as a nation was banned from the Games for a massive doping scandal. Gee, go figure.
By the way, the Russian bobsled federation president, Alexander Zubkov, said that the federation would be preparing a defense for the bobsledding, saying, "She confirms she took no such medication, and the team confirms she was not issued any medication." Very noble. One pesky detail -- Zubkov himself had two gold medals stripped from him in the 2014 Olympics for...wait for it -- doping! And was banned by the IOC from future Olympics.
I actually watched almost all of the Men's Curling Finals -- and it was surprisingly worthwhile. The U.S. team won the Gold Medal, made remarkable because they had begun the Olympics by losing four of their first six matches and also because last Olympics they finished second from last. But there were two other occurrences that made the event noteworthy. The first was how the victory came about. Usually, there are no points scored in a "round" (or whatever they call it...), and if points are scored, it's mostly one, or two. This match was tied 5-5 going into the end of the 8th round. That's the when U.S. skip made a shot and the team scored five full points, and put the game out of reach. If you do watch any replay of it, that's the point to do so. The other noteworthy moment was during the awards ceremony -- that's when the team was presented with the wrong medals! Four of the five team members discovered they'd been given the Gold Medals for women's curling. It was corrected.
While NBC had a very nice feature as mentioned with Dale Earnhardt Jr. (who also did some nice, brief commentary on the Mass Start skating, answering questions comparing it to auto racing), they had a huge miss in a feature with Gadi Schwartz and Rutledge Wood. It was an Idiotic feature on they're made-up game they called Hallway Curling, utterly infantile. Even if they had done some silly like creating a curling game one could play in the hallway, that might have been cute. But this was just goofing around, basically rolling down a hall in a chair on rollers. I recall these two doing some moderately fun pieces in past Olympics, but this was a total waste of concept and air time. And all I could think was -- and NBC didn't use Mary Carrillo at all and just one piece with Jimmy Roberts.
Three new events premiered at this Olympics, and I liked them all, for similar reasons. They came in sports which usually award medals according only to time, with athletes competing singly against the clock, and these added in-person competition.
One was the Team Alpine skiing competition, with teams made up of two men and two women, and each individual races against their counterpart on another team, rather than just going down the hill alone. Even better was the Snowboarding Parallel Giant Slalom -- an odd name, but perhaps the first "Freestyle" even that I quite like, without tricks and flips thrown it. It was a group races, basically like a ski slalom but done on a snowboard. Very good, very competitive and fun. And notable, too, since Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic because the first Winter Olympian to win a Gold Medal in two different sports, the other being her surprise win in the skiing slalom. And the third event was the speed skating Mass Start. Once again, rather than two competitors racing against the clock for time, this had around 15 skaters on the ice at the same time, skating against one another. It's a bit odd, with people going pretty slow early on, but it picks up the pace and then they eventually fly around the rink the last couple of laps.
One more night of competition.
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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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