By Robert Bicknell

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February 19, 2006

Olympics and TV

Heard the one about US Vice President Dick Cheney coming into the clubhouse after a round of golf and a friend asks, "What did you shoot today?" Cheney replies "my caddie". Bada boom.

Like a lot of you, I’ve been watching the Turin Olympics on TV and enjoyed some excellent performances, as well as some spectacular crashes. Lets be honest here for a moment, most people watch NASCAR racing for the same reason as they watch downhill skiing…where else can you experience a spectacular crash and not be involved in the damn thing?

I used to play a lot of ice hockey when growing up and had a great slap shot, which is probably why I drive the golf ball like I do, but skiing was never one of my better sports. Sure, I loved going downhill at mach five, but there are a lot of trees in Vermont with my face imprinted on them. I measured the success of my ski trips by how much bark doctors had to pluck from my face afterwards.

So far, I’ve witnessed some Olympic moments where the athletes displayed amazing grit. For example, Chinese figure skater Dan Zhang showed great fortitude after recovering from a really nasty fall during the Pairs Figure Skating competition. It looked like her partner put way too much "oomph" into the throw and she came down like a rag doll with arms and legs splayed in all the directions on the compass. Man, that gotta hurt.

Yet, after a brief respite to pull herself together, they finished the routine and amazingly enough, took the Silver medal. That’s a gutsy little girl.

I also got a quick laugh when The Jamaican Bobsled Team, who first showed up in the 1988 Calgary Olympics, popped up in a very funny commercial for Fiat automobiles.

Having lived overseas for the better part of 26 years, I’ve learned to just enjoy competition regardless of who wins or not. I’ve never felt that national medal count should be a matter of earth-shattering consequences. If the athletes gave it their all then there is no shame in coming in second. Rejoice in the fact that you’ve witnessed some great performances and acknowledge that the better athlete won.

Sadly, it usually isn’t like that..

I have nostalgic memories of the old East German judges who were usually nasty, unsmiling, fat old ladies and always gave the lowest marks imaginable to Western athletes, but would give perfect marks to Soviet-bloc athletes even if they showed up drunk and crashed into walls a few times. You’d see scores posted like :

9.5 - 9.4 - 9.6 – 2.1 - 9.7 – 10 – 9.4

Those old ladies certainly made the games more interesting as did the above mentioned Jamaican Bobsled Team and who can forget ski-jumper Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards? He represented Great Britain in the 1988 Calgary Olympics and finished 55th out of 56 competitors and that was only because the 56th was disqualified.

Eddie had coke-bottle glasses and everything wobbled in "flight", which actually resembled a controlled crash more than anything else. It’s been said that his birthday is still a public holiday for Casualty Departments worldwide. He wasn’t the greatest jumper, but he certainly had Wile E. Coyote determination and made the Games more interesting.

This year, I found a sport which is more boring to watch than either baseball or golf…Curling.

If you ask me (which you haven’t, but that never stopped me from putting in my two cents in the past, nor will it now), I’d tell you that Curling is probably more boring than watching two flies on the windowsill engage in acts of reproduction, in fact the only sport more boring to watch than Curling is darts. Hey, I gotta draw the line somewhere.

I watched the New Zealand – Sweden match in its entirety, mostly due to morbid fascination with how commentators can practically give themselves a heart attack while gushing about people sweeping ice.

I’m still pondering how one would even train for such an event, but that will have to wait as the next match comes on in an hour and Mrs. Bicknell wants me to sweep the leaves off the front porch.


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