Tag Archives: Shaun White

Why I’ll be watching the Winter Olympics

I want to get this post in here now when there’s still a little time before the Winter Olympics begin. I’ve been a fan of the Olympics, summer and winter, going back to childhood. I’m not fanatical; I can’t recite a lot of facts & figures or remember exactly which Olympics happened in which place. Nonetheless I have a strong emotional bond to the games and find a lot of meaning in watching them on TV.

In years past I’d watch the games and by the end I’d get super-excited for the next ones but then a couple years would pass and by the time the Olympics rolled around again, I’d be distracted by other matters and not so gung-ho and it’d take awhile to “get into” them again. This was a a mistake.  I have learned is to DIVE IN RIGHT AWAY. No, I can’t sit through all 18 hours of the Opening Ceremonies, but I make a point to watch a little and some of whatever sport follows the next day or two. I find that jumping in gets me excited and invested; I quickly feel like part of them. When I have dragged my heels and not leaped in, I’d typically regret it because soon enough they’d be over and I’d be wanting more.

I have my favorite sports, sure, but I’ll watch a little of a lot of things. I am amazed by what human beings are able to do. That alone holds me spellbound. I can’t skate or ski  or snow board or ride a bobsled but I sure enjoy watching people who can. The levels of skill people have reached in these sports – and so many others – is phenomenal.  When you watch the Olympics for awhile, you begin to feel like a professional judge too and sling around the language the commentators use: “He didn’t get enough air on that half-pipe.” “She has her legs under her today.” And always: “Look at that amplitude!”

I will watch sports I see no point in; like the luge. How did this become a sport? I don’t know. “Jim, they’re reaching speeds of 110 miles an hour on this turn in the track, which we call Dead Luger’s Curve.”

Bob Kostas, NBC’s main desk anchor for the Olympics since 1992 – 1992!! – has stepped down. I’m a bit disgruntled about this – I loved having him at that desk pulling things together in his affable, confident way – so I’m mighty curious to see how things go without him. At least the humorous Mary Carillo will still be doing her taped segments that focus on the host country’s culture and people. If you see one of her segments coming on, watch it. Learning about the host country is one of the games’ pleasures and she’s a fun commentator.

The Olympics make the world feel smaller. This year in particular I personally really need to feel that. I want to hear about things that unite us. I want to see countries “getting along” at least in the spirit of competitive games. Even North and South Korea have had a little thaw; the two countries’ athletes will march together in the Opening Ceremonies and the women’s hockey team will feature a conjoined team. I’m not naive enough to think “okay, great, everything will be fine now!” but I still find these small things heartening.

Whoever NBC packages as the “it” athletes of the games – the ones they promote and push on the viewing audience – will probably not be the heroes of the games. The Olympics always bring surprises, some good, some not so much. Sometimes a person touted as the best flames out at the games while an up-and-comer nobody had heard of steals the show.  I love this part, watching things unfold.

I am athletically inclined and fit but I am not brilliantly skilled in an sport. I can appreciate what it must take both to become so and to remain so, especially with younger, stronger athletes always coming along behind you. (Note: I will be rooting for Shaun White.)  When you watch the Olympics your notions about age become entirely skewed. An “old lady” in skating  is 28. The announcers will make such a fuss, they’ll make it sound like she left her walker at the rink’s edge before hobbling onto the Olympic ice.

When I watch the Olympics, I feel motivated. I make sure I don’t just sit on my ass in front of the TV for two plus weeks straight. I like to “participate” in my own little manner. I’ll do push-ups during commercials or other little physical things that help keep me in shape.  I have no dreams of joining any Olympic team but I like to maintain myself at my own level. If  THEY can do THAT, surely I can take a long walk!

I will cry. I alway cry when I watch the Olympics. Watching someone do something they’ve worked all their life for moves me. I love seeing the parents in the audience waving their flags and signs; they look like people you know, regular folk.  Sometimes an athlete will surprise themselves with the brilliance of their performance and break down in joyful tears. A winning team will jump on each other and hug as one moving animal. A hard-luck story,  of a skater who traveled 8 hours a day to reach the rink to practice,  or an athlete who learned to ski on cardboard skis or something  in a poverty-stricken sad lttle part of the world, never fails to get me where I live.

 

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Watching the wheels turn, literally

I’m an unlikely fan, albeit a very casual one, of skateboarding. I’ve never been on a skateboard nor do I have any desire to be. But of the few people I follow on Facebook, Shaun White is one. He’s an obvious choice and frankly, I’m not sure I can name any other famous skateboarder other than Tony Hawk (I think that’s his name). I follow Shaun because he amazes the hell out of me; to stay so dominant for so long is quite a feat with so many youngin’s nipping at his wheels. He snowboards too. The funny thing about him is he kind of presents like a typical Californian – this is a guy who played “air guitar” on the podium one year while the National Anthem was being played at the Olympics – and yet he is clearly so driven and skilled. He posts unbelievable photos of himself in action – how is a human being doing that?! – and is funny and charismatic as well in his comments. (He also is the “Zelig” of the sports world; he seems to be everywhere and know everyone. I would not be surprised to see him in a photo op with the pope, doing “rabbit ears” over the man’s head.)

Back in high school I liked a guy who skateboarded. The skateboard was incidental. I just mention it because that’s really my only personal acquaintance with skateboarding in general. I don’t even remember watching him skateboard. I did know he was a member of the skateboarding club at school but I couldn’t even tell you what the guys in the club actually did. Did have they have competitions? Merely get together and try to learn new tricks? I couldn’t say. The main reason I remember that at all is because there was a photo in the high school yearbook of the club, where they were all holding their skateboards and one of the guys (not the guy I liked) was giving the finger to the camera (while smiling of course). I knew who that guy was and I’m sure it was deliberate. How the picture was allowed to be printed in the yearbook I don’t know. Here we go. It’s not the clearest but still.

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Tasteful no?

My community built a skateboard park ten years ago. It’s a nice looking spread with a “low bowl” and a “deep bowl.” It attracts an assortment of people including little kids, tough looking guys, and even adults. They held a fancy skateboarding exhibition way back when it opened and I went. There were talented guys plus there was free pizza. That part I remember well. I’ve mentioned this before but I once read that if a cat jumps up on a counter and finds food by happenstance, it’ll jump up on the counter a hundred more times on the off-chance it finds food again. I can appreciate this. Although it’s ten years on, I remember getting free pizza.

The park stays in my mind for another event too. I don’t remember this event as well but it was another kind of exhibition and I stopped by. A woman I knew showed up and sat with me while we watched. Then a guy I also knew sat down on the other side of me. Although they may have previously exchanged a word that day, I introduced them properly. Well, next thing you know, they are kind of having a conversation “over” me; like he was asking her questions and such. It wasn’t quite like I wasn’t there but if I’d gotten up and left I don’t think anybody would have minded. I mention this because afterward they started dating and in time got married. The funny thing was I wasn’t match-making (not that I matchmake ever) and wouldn’t have put the two together. So what do I know?!

So this past weekend the park had an anniversary exhibition and free pizza was advertised yet again. Yay! I would have wanted to go anyway but a little extra incentive can’t hurt right? It was billed as a two hour event but apparently most of the show took place in the first hour so I didn’t see too much when I showed up at the second hour. The event wasn’t well attended and there was a lot of pizza so I got lunch out of it. It was delicious – I make my own pizza and very rarely eat any other because frankly mine is damned good and healthy to boot – but this was a novelty. I was so content. The weather was fine; I had food to eat and skateboarders to watch. Just the relaxation I needed.

I don’t watch football, basketball, or baseball but I sure like watching skateboarders. The wheels make an appealing whirring sound too which I’m not I sure I realized/or remembered. (Whereas the sound of kids slamming their boards up and down in a parking lot and bouncing off curbs – which they do here despite the park in spitting distance – is irritating.) Enjoying the skaters at the exhibition I was thinking how much of the sport is in the knees; lordy they must take such a pounding.

A woman passed by me with her young granddaughter who was asking about the skaters and how you could get like that. The grandmother responded, “Practice, practice, practice.” I didn’t say it out loud but I thought, “Or you can eat pizza and watch.”