I have to admit, I used to like to watch the Winter Olympics, but now I can barely glance at a television screen without wincing. Speed skating, which was being broadcast in a restaurant where I had dinner Saturday night strikes me, as I remarked to my companion, as “a lot of fun to do, but dull as hell to watch.” Even before the awful luge death, I had planned to avoid the endless coverage, all the slipping and sliding and spills, never mind those overwrought, overproduced mini-documentaries on the gold contender, “Svetlana was born with the blood … of a champion.”
I never wanted to be a figure skater. I have weak ankles and no athletic traits. Also, I hate the cold and hate getting up early, and in those mini-documentaries, stories are always told about the mother of the figure skater getting up at 3:00 to drive Brianna to the skating rink four hours away. It is always the mother of the American women skaters who do this, by the way, partly because Europe is presumably more compact (that is, the rinks are closer and perhaps accessible by train?) but also because Brianna, as an American, has an indefatigable work ethic, while Svetlana was just born that way. (Someone needs to tell the sneering partisans in the broadcast booth that it’s okay to stop hating the Russians now.)
I’m enough of a fogey to state that I liked it better when it was figure skating, before it became a skate-jumping tournament. Also, I can no longer stand to watch some poor kid sacrifice a lifetime of training to the momentary slip in a triple triple lutz thirty seconds into the program. Every time I see them fall, I change the channel.
Originally published Wednesday, February 17, 2010