The Winter Olympics started on Thursday, though the Opening Ceremonies are tonight, Friday. Most people I know tend to love the Summer Olympics, but tolerate the Winter Games at best. Me, I love both, but for very different reasons.
I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post the last time around when they were in Vancouver in 2010, explaining why I really do love the Winter Olympics. The reasons still hold.
Why I Love the Winter Olympics
For the next two weeks, my friends won't see much of me. That isn't necessarily a threat to everyone, I know, but I love the Olympics. With broadcasts on the NBC "family of networks," late-night programming, the heaven-sent invention of the DVR and take-out food, I will be hibernating in front of my television during the Vancouver Games.
My discovery of the Universal Sports network even allowed me do pre-Olympics prep. I now know, for instance, that the Norwegian Petter Northug is going to be darn tough in Nordic cross-country skiing, Holland's Sven Kramer is the man to beat in speedskating, and Maria Reisch from Germany is not only the main ski competitor of American Lindsey Vonn, whose warm personality is almost as big as her great talent, but they are best friends. (Better still, I also learned that some have dubbed these the "Vonn-couver Olympics." Usually such quips are far too pretentious. This just fits. It's hard to argue with a perfect phrase.)
I just love the Olympics. Every morning during the Games, I play a music file of the Olympic fanfare to start the day off right. But though most people tend to prefer the Summer Games, I have a soft spot in my heart for those in the Winter. For one particular reason.
Mind you, I've never been much of a Winter Sports Guy. I come from Illinois, where it certainly got cold enough, but the topography is equivalent to your kitchen table. (The highest point in the state is 616 feet.) So skiing was never a major option. I did play hockey ever-so-briefly, except that my career had limitations given that I never mastered the concept of how to stop. (As a result, I often had to play goalie. Which I usually did on my knees.)
Yet still, I especially love the Winter Olympics. For that one reason.
Because of the Winter Games, my dream of being in the Olympics remains alive. Because of the Winter Games, I know that one day I might actually be able to march into an Olympic stadium during the Opening Ceremonies.
Mind you, I'm serious. I don't mean as a token participant. Not someone who won a promotional contest to be on the ice with the Team America hockey team for 15 seconds. Not a downhill skier out of sympathy. No, I mean a real, honest, legitimate Olympian.
I'm certainly never going to make the Olympics legitimately in the Summer Games. I won't be a pole vaulter, gymnast, shot putter or...well, anything. I know my limitations. As long as the high jump bar starts at over a few feet, I won't even get a chance to try out.
But the Winter Olympics...I actually have a chance. In two sports.
In fact, I'll go so far to say that if the phone rang today, and it was from the U.S. Olympic Committee asking me to rush up to Vancouver right away, I was needed, I could compete in both of the sports right now. Today.
The first is four-man bobsledding. (Needless-to-say, how can I not love a sport that's named "Bob"?!!) I couldn't be a sled's pilot or break man, that's out of my league. But there are two additional positions: pushers. That's all they do -- push. And it's not like they push for the whole race; they just push for about 10 feet and then jump into the bobsled and sit for the rest of the race. I can easily handle the sitting part. No problem. As for the pushing, obviously I'd be a hindrance to the team. But nonetheless, I can push for 10 feet. And, no, I wouldn't leap into the bobsled as fast as skilled athletes, so that would slow us down, too -- but as long as my teammates don't mind losing several seconds (in a sport decided by hundredths of a second) -- I can jump into a bobsled.
I'm not saying we'd win a medal. Or be good. We'd be terrible. But we'd definitely be able to compete. And we'd have a lot of heart. So, four-man bobsledding is an Olympic sport for me.
The other sport?
I actually have watched curling since I was a little kid. I haven't watched it much, of course - I'm not that lunatic. But for reasons I can't explain, curling has long been a sport played in the Chicago area. And for reasons even more inexplicable, it was broadcast on Chicago TV years ago. (My father has always said there is only one reason curling clubs exist. It's so guys can have a legitimate excuse to drink beer.)
Honestly, I don't have a clue what the rules of curling are. It seems to be something like a combination of shuffleboard and marbles. But not knowing the rules wouldn't be a hindrance to my becoming an Olympic curler.
I wouldn't be the guy who throws the stone, because that requires knowing what to do. I also wouldn't be the skip, who screams directions to teammates. I wouldn't have a clue what to yell, other than, "We're out of beer!!!!!" But what the other two curlers do is -- sweep. They hold a broom, jog in front of the sliding stone, listen to what the skip is telling them to do, and sweep. I can sweep. Again, I wouldn't be good at it. Again, we'd lose. But I can sweep. If I got the call, I could absolutely be there on the ice as soon as possible, representing my country, and compete. Just like we Olympians do.
Citius, Altius, Fortius. That's our motto. If I'm less swift than the others, if I'm slower and not as strong -- hey, after the gold medal winner, all of us athletes are less-swift, slower and not as strong. Trying our best. All for the honor of competing in the Olympics.
I love the Olympics. But especially those in the Winter. Because I know that when the next Games arrive, I actually could be there.
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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