Feb 212010
Authors: Matt L. Stephens

Watching the Winter Olympics on NBC is like having a two-week marathon of MTV’s “Jackass” at our disposal to watch people crash and burn.

It’s on all day, every day, taking only brief commercial interruptions and two half hour breaks for the evening news during prime time.

Admit it, the Winter Olympics – with the exception of hockey, snowboarding, Lindsey Vonn and the surprisingly attractive women of curling teams worldwide – are the redheaded stepchild, twice removed, of the Olympic games.

Unless we are avid participants of one of the events, we watch the Winter Olympics for two things: One, to see the United States kick every other country to the curb in athletic competition (unless you’re Collegian Editorials Editor Ian Bezek, who decided to defect his citizenship to Canada for two weeks), or two: watch those who aren’t Americans eat snow and ice and eat it hard.

For example, despite still being mad at him for breaking up the Beatles, we loved seeing Apolo Ohno become the most decorated Winter Olympian in history, much like Michael Phelps did in the 2008 Summer games in Beijing. It’s fun, gives us something to cheer for with our neighbors. It’s not about the Cubs vs. Cardinals, Broncos vs. Raiders or Lakers vs. Celtics, it’s about America. It’s us against the world.

We loved seeing Vonn take gold in Ladies’ Downhill Alpine Skiing, we enjoyed seeing American Julia Macuso take silver in the same event, but maybe more so than the medals, we cheered inside when we saw the Swedes and Italians completely wipe out on the last fourth of their runs.

Ergo, “Jackass.”


Now it’s not that we’re cheering for injuries, we’re cheering for brief pain. There’s a difference. It was sad when Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died on the track during a practice run. Despite my incredibly bad habit of trivializing death, that was not one of the “Jackass” moments I’m referring to. What happened to Kumaritashvili was a tragedy.

End disclaimer.

Why do we watch figure skating? In 1998, it was because I thought Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski were hot, even if I wouldn’t admit it as a fourth grader.

In 2010, if I’m watching figure skating, I’m rooting for the skater to be unable to land the triple axel or the guy to drop the gal after throwing her in the air. Admit it, we all root for ice skaters to fall. It’s nothing personal, it’s just the way it is.

What’s the best part of speed skating (other than Ohno and Stephen Colbert)? Seeing the domino effect when a competitor trips and smashes into the barrier.

The best part of ski jumping? Ski falling.

The biathlon? Well for this one, I really have nothing. It’s not like we’re rooting for someone to get shot – that’s what countless hours playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is for.

The best part of bobsledding is the Jamaicans, and they didn’t even qualify for Vancouver. Without a feel-good, Cinderella story and John Candy, why else should I watch the sport?

With the exception of the aforementioned events and people, it’s really hard to argue we have any other reason to watch this two-week, international athletics spotlight. There’s no basketball, no volleyball, no spectacle of someone becoming the fastest man or woman on Earth.

In reality, the Winter Olympics are here to entertain us like Jar Jar Binks or Ken Jeong. They have no real value, serving only as comic relief.

For the same reason a director knows without a doubt he’ll always get a laugh from the audience with a punch in the crotch, that’s why we watch the Winter Olympics. For pain. For hard falls. For America, and for an international tribute to Johnny Knoxville.

Sports Editor Matt L. Stephens can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 12:51 pm

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