I spent the entire weekend watching the Olympics. I've got that kind of shell-shocked, glazed-eyed, outside-the-body feeling you get when you watch way too much TV—a feeling like you've just slept for 20 hours straight and simultaneously ate too much junk food.
I even watched the closing ceremonies. Had to, because I'm a Neil Young fan.
I try my best to go along and get along with all the rest of the humans, but I'm just not the guy for closing ceremonies. It's like being trapped in a Busby Berkeley hell. Big, glamorous gala spectacles always make me antsy for the exits even though I'm not actually there.
I know some people love that stuff...right? They do, don't they? We're not all just putting up with it, wishing we were someplace else, are we? Reassure me.
They did finally get down to the old folkie singing "Candle in the Wind"—er, sorry, "Long May You Run" (which was actually written as a paean to a car, but whatever), and then they extinguished the Olympic flames...and it's over, right? Done? No. Then they have to kill three more hours with "prominent" Canadians doing schtick about what it means to be Canadian.
Is Former Captain Kirk really one of the Most Famous Canadians? Really? They couldn't get Jane Siberry? Or Fawnia Mondey? Where the heck was Paul Schaeffer? He's from Thunder Bay.
It wasn't actually three more hours. Just felt like it.
I really like Canadians, though. Something about the north—people in Wisconsin are really nice, and people in Minnesota are really nice, but Canadians are the same way. In fact, maybe they're even nicer: did you catch Tom Brokaw's feature about the people of Gander taking care of the "plane people" after 9/11? That's Canada for you, right there.
That an an all-time Winter Olympics record 14 gold medals.
Tinker, tinker in my mind
I always have a lot of questions. Do you always have to root for your own country? I rooted for the Kostelics because of our friend Vlatko. I admit I was kind of rooting for the Canadian Hockey team, too. It's their sport, you know? It seemed fitting they should win. (I did feel guilty for rooting for them after seeing how crushed the American team was by losing, at least.) Great game, too—second best in Olympic history, maybe even. I love it when people say things like that. Like I would have any idea. I don't even watch hockey.
I have some problems watching sports, actually. For one thing, I have this tendency to start imagining how the sports could be improved. For instance, to depart from the Winter Olympics for a sec, I'm completely convinced that basketball should be played in 15 minute periods, with each game being best three out of five periods. Think about it—all the action and suspense in close basketball games is at the end. So, make more "ends." Blowouts could end early, after only 45 minutes, and in the case of closely matched teams, fans would get an extra 15 minutes for their money. Big improvement.
At least basketball has a decent amount of scoring, though. That's a problem for hockey. Where hockey is concerned, I think I have a fix: I think they should enlarge the goal just a little. Six inches, maybe. It's just too hard to score, so you have these amazing, physical, swirling, constant-action games...with all the scoring intensity of a 6-6 tie in a football game. It's just too hard to make a goal, too arbitrary, too low-scoring. (How can you even tell when a hockey game is low-scoring? When it's tied at zero? The scoring in curling is more scintillating.) I'm not saying make the goal into a soccer goal; I'm just saying make it a little harder to tend the goal, and a little easier to score. It would greatly improve the game.
Of course, you can't actually change sports, even if it would improve them, because then it renders all the past statistics inconsistent with current statistics, and people who love statistics would lose their will to live.
You could do it in the Olympics, though. Maybe I'll start a movement toward "Olympic rules" in hockey—one tournament every four years with a six-inches-larger goal.
I'll give that one a '10'
The other problem I have with the winter Olympics is this. Some "sports" are dependent on some panel of anonymous experts sitting off to the side who get to decide who wins. Everybody says that. But I'll go one better and look at it from the other direction—why is it that some sports are so totally dependent on subjective judging, but, as soon as a contest has an objective measure to go by, all considerations of style get thrown out the window? In my opinion, there are lots of Olympic events that should have two gold medals—one for the objective measurement, whatever it is—speed, distance—and one for style. The big skiing contests should have two golds—one for who gets to the bottom first, the other one for who gets there the prettiest. Case in point: Lindsey Vonn won the downhill, but in my world, Julia Mancuso would have gotten a gold for style. Vonn uses men's skis and she's stronger, so she goes faster. Fair enough. Gold for her. But Mancuso's run was a thing of beauty—cleaner and more elegant, to my uneducated eye. Where are those darn figure skating judges when you need 'em?
Speaking of figure skating, that's one I missed—Kim Yu-Na. I saw her post-competition exhibition, and it was clearly special, but I haven't seen her medal-winning performance yet.
Speaking of curling, I demand a Curling-Snowboarding Super Combined.
Finally, every two years I need somebody to remind me of something: I like the Olympics. It appears that two years is always just long enough for me to completely forget that. It never fails—every time the Olympics comes up, I think, pfah, who cares, whatever—goodie for people who like that sort of stuff. Then, by the end, I'm totally addicted and I go into withdrawal after the closing ceremonies. I need to somehow remember that I'm one of those people who like the Olympics.
Maybe in 2014 I'll remember. I'll try.
Oh, and—Canada? Thank you!
MikeP.S. I also got a lot of good work done on my book project. I put in only about ten hours between Thursday and Sunday, but I think it was a crucial ten hours—the project had been stalled and it needed a little kick-start. I got it reformatted, which I'd been procrastinating over, and I expanded the initial page count considerably. Once I get cruising on it it should just be a matter of sticking to it and putting in maybe an hour a day. I hope I'll be able to keep it going from now until it's finally finished.