Winter Olympics giving more `mature' viewers cold shoulder

Winter Olympics Salt Lake City 2002

February 12, 2002|By Kevin Cowherd

AFTER FOUR days of watching the Winter Olympics, I think I speak for everyone of a certain age when I say: Man, am I feeling old.

Look, if you've ever been even remotely interested in your cholesterol reading, if you've ever used the word "roughage" in a sentence, it must be clear by now that these Games are not exactly geared for you.

Why don't they just call it the Gen-X Winter Olympics and be done with it?

Ditch those NBC fogies Bob Costas and Katie Couric, and bring in Carson Daly and Ananda Lewis from MTV to be hosts of this baby.

Crank up the hip-hop, open the body-piercing booths, and then we, um, mature viewers can slink away and see if there's bowling or macrame on the other channels.

Anyway, if you wanted to feel positively ancient watching the Games yesterday, all you had to do was tune in to the snowboarding, specifically something called the men's half-pipe.

Basically, this was a lot of guys flying through the air who looked like they were here on a hall pass from Dulaney High.

A day earlier, when 18-year-old Kelly Clark of the United States won the women's half-pipe, it was reported, in all seriousness, that she listened to Blink 182's "This is Growing Up" to psyche herself before the competition.

Ohhhh-kay. And as she competed, the announcers kept talking about her "big spins" and "frontline grabs" and "amplitude," which apparently had something to do with her speed and height on the board.

"That sound you heard," I said to my wife, "was Dick Button turning over in his grave."

"Dick Button the announcer? He isn't dead," she said. "He was in the opening ceremonies with Dorothy Hamill."

"Believe me, he'll keel over if he ever sees this," I said.

Hey, NBC, would it kill you to show some events that viewers over 35 might enjoy?

Couldn't you get one of the women figure skaters to whack another one in the knee with a crowbar again?

Now that was a legendary Olympic moment we can relate to.

OK, with that little rant out of the way, my favorite event so far is the downhill skiing, which takes place on the terrifying course known as Grizzly.

Is this about the most insane ski slope you've ever seen?

The course has a 2,897-foot vertical drop and mounds that send skiers flying in the direction of the woods and boulders if their form isn't perfect.

What's the matter, wasn't Everest available?

As I watched the men's downhill and saw skier after skier hurtle down that mountain, I kept expecting one of them to run off the course at 75 mph and crash through a Douglas fir, leaving a gaping silhouette like Wile E. Coyote in a Road Runner cartoon.

(As I type this, I'm listening to coverage of the biathlon on MSNBC, where - honest to God - an announcer has just gushed: "Here's one of our favorites, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway!"

(Mr. Announcer, with all due respect, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen is not exactly a household name in this country. Therefore, he cannot be one of our favorites. Michael Jordan is one of our favorites. Julia Roberts is one of our favorites. But - perhaps owing to the dearth of biathlon coverage in our sports pages on a day-to-day basis - Ole Einar Bjoerndalen is not a big favorite here.)

I watched a little of the luge the other night, which strikes me as the Winter Olympics version of the Indianapolis 500.

In other words, it's basically a boring sport where you're waiting for a crash to liven things up.

Sure, the competitors are hurtling down an icy course at 85 mph on their backs on what is essentially a high-tech garbage can lid.

But once you've seen one luger hurtle down the track, you've pretty much seen them all.

Here's the Italian luger. Here's the German luger. Here's the Austrian luger. They all look the same. They all have the shimmering, aerodynamically-designed suit, the crash helmet, the Darth Vader face mask, the big feet coming straight at the camera.

At some point, however, Winter Olympics officials must have gotten together and said: "Hey, how can we come up with an event even more dangerous than the luge, something where the risk of brain damage is way higher? I know! What if we sent them down an icy course on a high-tech garbage can lid headfirst?!"

And thus "skeleton," missing from the Games since 1948, will return next week for the pleasure of the viewing audience.

The ambulances are standing by already.

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