Sports

Like many, we've been glued to the TV in the evening this week to see whats happening at the Winter Olympics. I've been in awe at the speeds and the risks that most of these athletes endure and what they're able to accomplish. The death of the Georgian luger during a practice run showed how dangerous these sports can be.

I purposely wrote "most" in the paragraph above after seeing a TV piece on what has now become my favorite Winter Olympic team sport -- curling. I'm sure everyone knows what curling is... that sport where large round players slide large round stones down a sheet of ice toward a large round target, or "button", while their team-mates, using brooms (yes, brooms!), rapidly sweep the ice ahead of the slow moving 44 pound rock in an effort to effect the just-right stopping point. It's a little like shuffleboard and has an easygoing slow pace that's similar.

The piece I saw on TV was about the men's curling team. Most athletes in Vancouver -- the skiers, boarders, skaters -- are ripped and rippled and fit and trim. Every night we see them walking around as they prepare for their next event, the muscles and body tone are obvious. When they're not speeding down a sheet of snow or ice, they're working out, pumping iron, running... in an effort to be a little stronger or more agile than their competitors. They're the top 1% of the top 1% of humankind. They are as close to human physical perfection as it's possible to be. And most of them, in addition to nearly perfect bodies, have nearly perfect teeth, faces, hair... the whole package. Where do they find these people? It can be positively depressing for normal, regular people.

But the men's curling team was different. Here was a collection of really ordinary guys... (maybe guys like me??) They weren't in the gym. No! They were sitting around playing cards as they waiting for their turn in the limelight. Some were a bit overweight. I saw a paunch here and a bit of flab there. At least one had some bad teeth. I also had the feeling that just out of camera-shot they had a few beers open but hidden behind the couch or under the table. It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility that after the camera left, a few cigars appeared as they played cards into the wee hours of the morning. These are my kind of Olympic athletes!

I liked these guys. They're doing more good than they know by keeping a spark of hope alive for regular people like the rest of us.

As long as we're on the topic of the Olympics, I think I'll voice my opinion on another topic... the "judged" events. In my mind, it's far more satisfying to have athletes competing directly against each other by means of objective measures... who's the first one down the hill... who beat all the others... who did it in the shortest time... who went the fastest. When an athlete's score depends on the "judgment" of other people, with all their biases, prejudices, and preconceived notions about the athletes and their performances, well, there's always a question in my mind about who really did the best. Figure Skating is the poster-child example of what I'm talking about. It's fun to watch, but it doesn't belong in the Olympics. And what exactly is snowboard cross?

It reminds me of something else, another opinion, about sports I recently read from someone that had a problem with hunting and fishing being called "sports". In this person's opinion, it's not a sport unless ALL of the participants are aware that they're playing. And the fish, the deer, the quail, certainly don't know what's going on until it's too late.

Thom

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