Hey, dude, now these are the real Olympics

JOHN EISENBERG

February 23, 1992|By JOHN EISENBERG

ALBERTVILLE, France -- There was no "Eddie the Eagle" at these Winter Olympics, barreling down the ski jump ramp with his aquarium-thick glasses and fogged-up goggles. A pity. But, by golly, there was curling. Olympic dust-busting, baby. Go for it.

The Jamaican bobsledders were back again, mon, but they're as mainstream as the Germans and Swiss now, worried more about push times than good times. No problem, though. There was still short-track speed skating: rollerball for valley girls. The Dude Olympics.

These will go down as the Winter Games where there weren't sporting dweebs, but dweeb sports. Breaks from the relentless panning for cold gold came not from an Ed-die, but from a collection of games invented by people who apparently did not have to submit to drug testing.

Sure, there were sightings of a few low-grade dweebs along the way. The pairs skaters from North Korea who almost bagged it in the middle of their original program. The Moroccan skier who got passed on the slopes in the giant slalom. The Puerto Rican bobsledders who went down the mountain on their heads. The Russian bobsledder who jumped in backward.

The best were the French hockey players. They partied so hard after making the medal round that their coach canceled practice. Then, after the United States knocked them into the consolation round, they tied a teammate to a chair before a practice and shoved him out on the ice. Naked.

But the only people able to appreciate that were a couple of extremely startled CBS technicians setting up for a broadcast. It didn't have anything in common with the absurdity of "Eddie the Eagle" in full, brief, utterly blind flight. Trying so hard. That was the thing. He tried so hard.

So, we didn't get that here. But there still was no lack of escape from the front-page urgency of the hockey, figure skating and Alpine skiing. There were moguls, which aren't something you eat with cream cheese. There were aerials, the highest vowel-dense sport in history. There was ski ballet, in which you could go for the gold shaking your hips like Ricky Ricardo at the Club Bubaloo.

The only thing missing was the snowmobile refrigerator-pull. And ice barrel jumping for frogs.

Maybe in Lillehammer.

The most arcane event remains curling, the only Olympic sport in which players call a timeout to smoke a cigarette. The best way to do it justice is simply to quote the rule book:

"Each player delivers two stones, or rocks, down the sheet of ice, starting from the hack and directing the stone to the house 125 feet away. There are eight rocks per team, 16 per end. All players are involved in every shot, with one shooting, one holding the broom and two sweeping. The skip holds the broom as a target. The vice skip throws two rocks per end. The second and lead are primary sweepers."

It's too bad the person who wrote that is dead, because Jay Leno would hire him in a second.

The thing is, we can't joke about curling anymore because the American men won a bronze medal yesterday, and although it's still a demonstration sport and doesn't count in the medal standings, with the way American men have splatted nose-first here, the U.S. Olympic Committee might trumpet this sucker as the second coming of Jesse Owens in Berlin.

Actually, we shouldn't make fun of any of these sports, because, as they say in moguls, we're awesome. We won four medals that don't count in curling, ballet and speed skiing, and four medals that do count in moguls and short track.

That's eight, as opposed to seven in figure skating, skiing and speed skating. We're the official Olympic Trash Sport kings. We can't ski like the Swiss or skate like the Norwegians, but we can get out on the jam faster than Joanie Weston and the San Francisco Bay Area Bombers.

That's short-track speed skating talk, and, honestly, this is a fairly athletic and compelling sport. There's just this little legitimacy problem. The American women's relay team had one practice competition before the Olympics, showed up here and won a silver medal. You just get the feeling all the bugs aren't worked out.

All of which takes us back to the basic question of what sports actually belong in the Olympics. What's a sport and what isn't? There are no defining guidelines, although one line of reasoning is that it's a real sport if you need special shoes.

The line on short track is that it's the sport on which speed skaters are weaned in the Netherlands, so it's legit. That's fine, but it seems only fair that 10-and-under softball come next.

The truth, of course, is that none of these are legitimate Olympic sports, but they're here because television wants a three-weekend Olympic package and needs more programming. So we get aerials and moguls and bagels.

The thing is, since the whole process is a prayer to television and it's not like they're working with any real rules or anything, they should go ahead and really enliven these sports so we can have some serious chortling.

Mogulists should have to drive cars down that bumpy hill.

Curling should be restricted to husband-and-wife teams who argue about housecleaning.

Short-track skaters, says my friend from Philadelphia, should be forced to compete in chefs' hats.

We wouldn't miss "Eddie the Eagle" then, would we?

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.