I’m not generally one for Schadenfreude much anymore, but it’s hard not to take some enjoyment in watching the absurd spectacle of these Sochi games shine a light on how hopelessly corrupt the IOC is in awarding the world’s premier sporting spectacle to a country so hilariously ill-equipped to handle it despite somehow spending $50 billion to prepare for it.
Between the comically subpar living conditions, the shortage of pillows (which I didn’t realize could be a thing),the inept course design that injures the very athletes it seeks to test, the very fact this is taking place in a summer resort town where they’ve wasted insane amounts of water to make snow, the fact that you can make all the snow you want, but it won’t make a goddamn bit of difference if you can’t keep it as cold as it needs to be, poor Bob Costas’s pinkeye, the idea you can clear fog with giant fans, and shit that really ain’t their fault like NBC’s cloyingly emotional coverage.
At least Johnny Weir is having fun. And he’s definitely been my favorite commentator so far. It’s time to put Scott Hamilton out on the ice flow, in my opinion.
Johnny Weir aside, that’s an absolute Everest of shit taking up psychic space in our heads when we think about what should be a fun diversion every four years. And while it certainly erodes some of the purity of enjoyment we could have, I find myself no less enthralled with watching sports I don’t really understand any less than usual.
The Summer Olympics frequently wear me out mostly due to NBC’s incessant flag-waving coverage. Everything they show has some sort of excessive American bias, which renders their coverage littered with spoilers even when they don’t explicitly divulge the results. I know if they’re covering something, an American will do well.
And to a certain extent, I get it. I’m as proud of my country as anyone, and I tend to gravitate to things Americans do well in. Hell, if there were an international Honeymoon Bridge tournament, I’d probably watch it and chant “USA!” like the rest of the jingoistic idiots in this country. But it’s hard not get burnt out on a steady diet of American exceptionalism and nothing else. When taken in this context, I’m listing ever more toward overall entertainment value over national pride even more than I used to.
And that’s why the Winter Olympics are in many ways superior. It’s easy to enjoy the sports of the summer because we’ve seen them a lot, and it’s highly possible we’ve even participated to one extent or another. A lot of people have swam, run track, played basketball, played tennis, or even ridden a show horse.
But how many of us have luged or bobsledded in any meaningful way? Or skied as fast and crazily as these lunatic downhillers? How about skated? High level figure skating is the province of the few. A lot of my friends have tried curling, but they’re all pretty much dorks, so I take it that most normal people haven’t ever tried it. The point is, the Winter Games feel much more foreign to us because the pursuit of these talents require a level of dedication and specificity we don’t see frequently.
And getting to indulge in them every four years is incredibly fun. It’s for this reason NBC’s coverage is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you’ve got producers spoon feeding you all the pertinent narratives which is helpful because we’re not only not well-versed in the athletes, but also probably not in the particulars of the sport either. On the other, Jesus Christ, leave Bode Miller alone. We get it, NBC. He’s sad. Now fucking go cover something else.
I’m always sad when the Olympics are over. It’s not because I have any overwhelming desire to start watching any of these sports with any regularity but rather because there’s nothing else like it. Every two years, we get a cavalcade of fun, weird athletic shit to watch all at once, which never really happens otherwise.
And while the Olympics have become totally unwieldy as an institution and probably unsustainable considering they damn near bankrupt every country that hosts them (an issue I hope somehow gets resolved over time), I also hope we always have the Olympics to look forward to. Next time without the Schadenfreude.