Monday, February 17, 2014
I am watching this year’s winter Olympics with a distressingly deep lack of interest. In fact, I am plainly bored by the spectacle of young men and women racing down hills at breakneck speed, cavorting in the air while wearing lethally sharp blades, or snowboarding and spinning mindlessly backwards while negotiating a man-made obstacle courses. Watching, of course, is a relative term. The TV set is on, the sound is not, and colors flitter by silently. I am reading a book and occasionally glancing up to see impossibly fit young athletes with names that have too many Ks and Ys in them, display skills that have no bearing in real life.
Never mind the basic hypocrisy of this year’s games, ringed as they are by a cordon sanitaire of machine-gun-wielding security forces, and held in one of the world’s most repressive country. Never mind Vladimir Putin, and his rendition of Strawberry Hill on YouTube. Never mind the terrorist threat, the Islamic Black Widows who, we are told, have infiltrated Sochi, the crappy and dangerous snow, the puerile new contests remindful of 1990 Nintendo video games. What I really object to is the provincialism of it all, the national chauvinism that pervades the broadcasts. It seems that, if there are no Americans participating, and preferably in a position to score medals, NBC will simply pretend an event doesn’t exist. As a result, unless I’m willing to stay glued to my set all day, I’m not going to see a lot of biathlon or curling, but I will be ice-danced to death. More so now than ever, it’s all about medal counts, and that’s boring too.
I don’t understand why viewers are no longer allowed to see the judges and the scores they give during ice-skating competition. Well, let me take that back. I do understand it has something to do with the 2002 Winter Games when a French judge cheated (the shame. The shame!) But still. Opaque judging is simply silly. Figure skating and scandal are Olympic synonyms. Bring back the judge who gives a perfect score to the skater from his country who has fallen three times during his performance. I want someone to boo at from time to time.
Here’s another whiff of silliness. Does winning a contest by mere hundredths of a second really show that one athlete is significantly better than another? In four years, the time-keeping technology will be such that it will be possible to accurately clock an event to the millionth of a second, which will allow the commentators to gush, “Imagine that, Brad! Three microseconds! Isn’t that thrilling?” Nah. Not really.
And here’s the last thing. All these young virile athletes are living together largely unsupervised. I want the dirt. I want to know who’s sleeping with whom. Give me gossip, innuendos, impropriety, and shameless behavior, for god’s sake! I live in America! I want to be entertained!