Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pissler Takes A Mulligan

In golf, when things go completely scheisse-poopie, you can take a "mulligan". In tennis, it's called "playing a let". Regardless of what it is called, it's a do-over, and Whistler is faced with one. The alpine skiers have been there a full week, and have accomplished basically nothing. Those of us who have been through trying to race at Pissler knew that there was a far better than 50-50 chance this would happen. I would have been shocked if it didn't happen. Whistler sucks.

It would be interesting to know how the racers are holding up through all this. I think they're probably having a blast. For starters, it's Sunday night and nobody has to pack. That's unusual. On the World Cup, the "speed" skiers do things in one-week blocks. They arrive Tuesday, race training runs Wed-Thurs-Fri, then race DH on Saturday, SG on Sunday, then they pack up, move, and do it all over again at the next venue. "Technical" skiers are on a different schedule. Typically they arrive Friday, race GS Saturday and SL on Sunday, then they leave and go train somewhere for a few days until they leave for the next race weekend. The technical schedule is a little more varied, since there are often mid-week races such as Zagreb, and mid-week night slaloms, like Schladming.

Right now, the racers know they're in one place for at least two weeks. They have the best training facilities in the world at their fingertips. Many have friends or family in town. Food and entertainment is free. They have credentials to get them in to watch any event they want (for those events not canceled due to weather). There are lots of young, good-looking, hard-bodied athletes from other sports around everywhere. Hell, if you'd offered even super-cynical me that deal - a week in Whistler at the Olympics with full credentials and absolutely nothing to do - I'd have taken you up on it. But I'd have packed a good raincoat and a couple of umbrellas.

I read today that the Canadian womens alpine team rode the lifts up to the very top of Whistler Peak yesterday, where there is actual snow, and went powder skiing. Good for them. It's 25 degrees colder up top than down at Creekside (where the grandstands are), so the massive amount of rain that has turned most of the downhill course into a giant Slurpee this week has fallen as snow up there. At Pissler, where there is over 5000 feet between the very bottom and the very top, the start of the downhill isn't even close to the top of the mountain. I bet the girls had a blast. I'd have loved to have gone with them. The Canadian womens team is a rowdy bunch, which I can testify to firsthand, having witnessed their "line dance" at the Lake Louise World Cup Sled Dogs banquet the last two seasons. The Canada-ettes know how to have a good time. While they were line dancing, I was stuffing my face with thick slabs of seared cow flesh presented to me at the end of a pitchfork. I am not making that up. Brauchen zee ein kleine kuhfleisch am heugable?

Against my better judgement, I attempted to watch a little bit of NBC's painfully bad Olympic coverage last night. I figured since I'm writing about The Olympics so much, I might as well try to watch a little bit of it. I quickly grew sick of commercials, and even sicker of Bob Costas and his bad hair-dye job. After about 5 minutes I flipped the channel and watched Chris Webber and Kevin McHale discussing the NBA All-Star Game practice. Sad that watching two retired NBA players talking about a meaningless practice for a meaningless game was far more palatable than NBC's Olympic coverage.

I did manage, however, to see Hannah Kearney's gold medal run in moguls. I could be mistaken, but it looked to me like Kearney forgot her ski clothes and competed in her pajamas. Her PJs were a patriotic shade of US blue with cute little stars all over them, which I thought was a nice touch. I wonder if her PJs had those little closed feety thingies so she didn't have to wear ski socks? I thought it was mighty accomodating of the normally half-witted morons at the US Ski Team to let her compete in her pajamas. This is the same US Ski Team that prohibited Daron Rahlves and Bode Miller from following the alpine World Cup tour in their rock-star motorhomes. I mean, Bode and Rahlves are merely two of maybe the 4 best US skiers ever, and only wanted to have a comfortable bed and consistent nutrition and to not have to pack and unpack two or three times a week over the course of the 4-month World Cup. Silly things for an athlete to want. When the US Team banned the vehicles, Rahves retired and Bode quit the team. Bode competed the following year as "Team America", a team he formed himself under FIS's hardship rule. And he lived in his motorhome. And he won the World Cup. Repeat.....he won. The World Cup. He won. He won the crystal globe, the most coveted prize in alpine ski racing. And he won NOT representing the US Ski Team, because they are a bunch of nimrods. From what I've seen, the US alpine team is one of the worst-managed teams on the World Cup. Ironically, the Canadian team is one of the best-managed teams.

Another thing I noticed during my brief sojourn into NBC-induced hell was that about half the spectators at the moguls venue were wearing Hefty garbage bags to keep from getting soaked through to their underwear by the constant rain. That brought back memories of the one and only time I actually tried to ski at Whistler, about 15 years ago, before I knew better. It was pissing down rain at the bottom about half the days, and the lifties were giving out.....50-gallon Hefty garbage people riding the lift up to where it was colder and snowing. Nice guys. Free Hefty bags. Good idea.

Today I tried to watch a little of the biathlon, but I couldn't take it due to the presence of a commentator named Al Trautwig. Trautwig is one of the least talented "hosts" in the business. Ironic for a guy holding a job known within the industry as "talent". He's so annoying, so smug, and so banal that his presence on VERSUS during the Tour de France caused me to skip almost the entire race for a couple of years. Fortunately, he's been fired from the Tour de France and has been kicked downstairs to biathlon, which is a sport in which I have little interest. I watched with the sound off for a few minutes, and those poor biathlon guys were having one helluva time. It was absolutely pissing down a kind of Whistler-specific rainy slush, pissing down so hard they could barely see the target. I've never attempted to fire a rifle with my heart rate at 175, but I imagine trying to hold the rifle steady while somebody is spraying you with a fire hose spewing 33-degree (1C) water doesn't make it any easier. Especially if you're wearing a water-permeable lycra suit.

My colleague and friend The Big Guy, a network engineer who is hip-deep in NBC production onsite at the Olympics and is documenting his experiences on quite an amusing blog of his own, turned me on to an interesting blog written by a person or persons calling themselves The Gormogons. The gist of the Gormogon blog entry I found so interesting was their opinion that many Olympic sports, both winter and summer, are just plain dumb due to the fact that they aren't athletic contests, they are opinion-gathering focus groups. "Judged" sports like synchronized swimming, diving, snowboard halfpipe, figure skating, and ski acrobatics simply do not belong in The Olympics. I thought my colleague and friend JimmyBobBillyRay put it well when he opined "Real Sports are Timed, Not Judged". But The Gormogons put it even more elegantly:

I’m an Olympic junkie but I don’t watch certain events because I personally don’t consider them sports. For me an Olympic sport must meet three simple rules:

1. If you have to wear a costume and makeup it’s a performing art, not a sport.

2. You must race a clock, score points against an opponent or physically do more than your competition.

3. At some point during your competition your heart rate must break your aerobic threshold.

I realize figure skaters are great athletes but so are ballet dancers. Sorry folks, figure skating is a performing art. Curling is a game, not a sport. Needless to say I don’t watch a lot of prime time Olympic coverage.

I'm certainly a member of that club.

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