Torino Winter Olympics: Like Your Drunken Uncle?

“Ah, the Olympics, my favorite time of the every-four-years.” While I stole this line from Stephen Colbert, February’s Winter Olympics in Torino will do what the Olympics always do, which is allow us to feel a striking attachment to sports and figures that we otherwise wouldn’t give two flying Polamalu’s about. In the case of the winter Olympics, skeleton, curling, and bobsled bestow two weeks of passion and glory that inspire such fine films as Cool Runnings and disappear into some kind of black hole for the next 206 weeks. What makes the Olympics so enjoyable for ADD viewers such as myself is that its sports are either so dangerous or just plain silly that the novelty grabs our attention for a few days, until we realize that these sports are actually very boring. The Olympic Games are you’re drunken uncle: amusing when you see him on Thanksgiving, but you definitely don’t miss him during the rest of the year. Take luge, for example. Why, every four years, do people bother to watch men in grotesque spandex go sledding down a big hill? The reason is simple: luge is akin to camping in the arctic naked; it’s just stupid. Watching a luge competitor careen off of his sled at 100 miles an hour and hit his face on a tree on T.V. gives the audience a chance to collectively sigh and say, “Well, I may have become an accountant, but at least I’m not that guy.” After a while, however, the uniqueness rubs off, and the viewer finds himself saying, “I’d rather watch something safer, like football.” If luge is ludicrous, then biathlon is, um, just plain crazy. Biathletes, with a very long, odd gun on their backs and skis on their feet, must be able to compete in grueling cross-country races as well as riflery competitions. This combination of sport and ability to kill things has been unmatched by any other competition since cavemen would hunt boars and use their heads for soccer balls. How do people decide that they want to be biathletes? Do you just wake up one day and say, “well, normal cross country skiing is fun, but I think I’d rather do it with a gun on my back?” The more pressing question at hand, is why will people watch the biathlon when the Olympics come to Torino in a month? Possibly because it creates the same kind of reaction that cross-breeding a horse with a kangaroo would. It’s so odd that you can’t take your eyes off of it for a while; you just want to poke it to see if it’s a real thing. Sure, some sports seem to be quite similar to each other, but nowhere else are two sports done at the same time. Imagine Warren Sapp running cross-country races in between quarters. Or perhaps a 100-pound Kenyan runner playing a game of pool at each checkpoint. It just doesn’t really make any sense. Archery-Skiing aside, this February should provide ample means for recovery from the riveting NFL playoffs. For a fortnight, we can forget about T.O. and Marcus Vick and hear heartwarming stories about wonderful athletes, forced by their parents to devote their entire lives to figure skating. What do they get? 15 minutes of fame and a small, round piece of metal. Regular, earnest people without the fame of mainstream sports become our heroes, at least until we learn of their steroid addictions. Finally, we get to learn more about a world in which people can ski and shoot guns for a living, athletes can switch nationalities at will, and Jamaicans can form a bobsled team. So buckle up and get ready to devote your life for a few days to the juggernaut that is U.S. women’s curling, and then let it slip off into obscurity while you get on with your life.