Monday, March 19News That Matters

Winter Olympics Last Look

Winter Olympics Last Look

Best Wakeup

My own, for a midnight bathroom visit, which finished with a thought:
Could they still be playing? And a turned-on TV three or four seconds
before the U.S. women’s hockey team scored the tying goal against Canada
with six and a half minutes to go in the final period. Fully awake now,
your ancient correspondent hung on till the end of regulation, with the
score stuck at 2–2, and then through a scoreless twenty minutes of
overtime, and a five-woman shoot-out, in which the U.S. led, tied, fell
behind, and re-tied. Now came the sudden-death second shoot-out, when we
(yes: we) scored on a magical feint by Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and
our goalie, Maddie Rooney, foiled the retaliatory attempt by the last
Canadian skater.

The flooding joy that filled my room and the hugging and weeping U.S.
skaters seemed fully deserved, a gift to us all one week after the
school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The U.S. women had last won in 1998, and had finished second to Canada
in three out of four subsequent Olympics—a lovely pattern, for me, if it
brings us another moment like this in 2038.

Senior Award for Tact

Me, for not awakening my wife with this news.

Best Performance

The French pair Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who won a
silver in ice dancing: a silver in spite of a sustained long-performance
turn that was simultaneously restrained and athletic, sensual and
balletic, open and deeply private, and most moving of all, it seemed, to
the two dancers themselves. Papadakis has a sad and striking face, with
a rugged nose and a long, beautifully proportioned body incapable of
anything hurried or out of touch with her partner or the music. This
writer was a regular attendee at City Ballet over a couple of decades,
and this dance interlude felt as moving and memorable as any
Balanchine-produced moments seen in that long, sweet time.

As we know, the French pair were making up for a loss of points suffered
during some momentary awkwardness in the short program, when Papadakis
tore a strap on her costume; the pair could not quite catch up in the
finale. The Canadian twosome who won the gold were brilliant and
flawless, but not on the same continent with these French artists.

Worst Performance

Mike Pence, during the opening ceremonies.

Seated one row in front of North Korea’s Kim Yo Jong (the sister of Kim
Jong Un), he remained solemnly seated while athletes from ninety-two
different countries joyfully paraded past, to accompanying waves of
applause and cheers from the stands, and came to his feet only when the
U.S. team went by. Whatever his message, it turned him into a provincial
sorehead nursing some private grievance.

Best Announcers

Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, NBC’s figure-skating
pair, and Bode Miller, at the Alpine skiing.

Bode Miller? Yes, Bode Miller, of all people, who won six medals for
the U.S. over five Olympics, while establishing a reputation as a barely
controlled loner wild man on the slopes.

Worst Announcers

All, or almost all, the NBC announcers who were required to get a
sensible or surprising reply out of the latest winners in various
disciplines but didn’t. Most of these athletes had just pulled off a
deeply desired but barely expected win, after countless months and years
of training, and their first thought, of course, was, Holy shit, I did
it. Actually, one young snowboarder (Red Gerard) did say those words.
Your reporter has some experience in this line, having interviewed
winning baseball players over several decades. The best reply is still
from the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson, after striking out seventeen Detroit
Tigers batters while winning the opening game of the 1968 World Series.
Asked if he was surprised by this feat, he said, “Nothing I ever do
surprises me.”

Suggested Major Improvement to a Discipline

After the one-man sled events, the ice tunnel becomes less fearful to an
onlooker, while the fractions of seconds that divide the rumbling
bobsledding teams are invisible to us, despite the announcers’
screamings. Under my plan, the plunging ice tunnel need only be placed
on higher ground, closely adjacent to the snowboarders’ half-pipe, where
the bobsledders would finish their runs suddenly in the sunshine and
extremely airborne. If biathlon skiers can tote rifles, it’s no big deal
for these burly bobsledders to wear parachutes, which they would now
deploy on bailing out of their enormous vehicle at the apex of their
run, with style points being awarded for simultaneity and grouped

Suggested Rescheduling

Devoting four years of intense practice every day to a sport that
requires a minute or two to perform and determines winners and losers by
barely measurable differences on the clock may not be the best way for
hundreds or thousands of young athletes to pass their lives. If we
reconvene the glorious Winter Olympics every two years, instead of every
four, it could lighten the burden. The participants would age less
rapidly, and along the way some of them might perhaps think better of
the whole thing.

Rescheduling No. 2

Curling will be presented every eight years.

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