February is a tough month. Even though it’s the shortest month of the year, February always seems to stretch out for weeks on end. It’s cold outside (even in North Carolina). My energy bill is uber expensive because of aforementioned cold. And to top it all off, there are no good holidays in February… groundhogs day? presidents day? valentine’s day? lent? These are not days that foster happiness.
It is for these reasons, among others, that I find myself eternally grateful for the seventeen day distraction of the Winter Olympic games. I have been a devoted fan of the winter olympic games since I watched Oksana Baiul defeat Nancy Kerrigan and win Olympic gold in 1994. Somehow I had convinced my parents to let me stay up on a school night (I was nine years old) to watch the live coverage of that tumultuous competition (this was the year that Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigon had the biggest catfight in olympic history). As I watched Oksana skate to victory, two important things happened. First, I developed a strange affinity for the Ukraine. Second, I developed a desperate desire to not only be an Olympic athlete, but to win a gold medal. This is why I was so drawn to the nerdy clubs in high school that contained any variation on the word ‘olympics,’ I participated in many an ‘olympiad’ to appease my desire for a gold medal. At this point, I realize the dream has died. I have never demonstrated any athletic ability whatsoever, let alone the kind of ability that world class athletes possess. I imagine that when Shawn White had to run a mile in grammar school, he was one of those kids that effortlessly led the pack. He certainly wasn’t walking in protest because running felt so unnatural. My desire for gold has thus matured into an unhealthy obsession with watching world class athletes compete while I lounge horizontally on my couch with a glass of wine in hand.
Because I literally can’t think of anything else to say today, I am going to elaborate upon this theme. So without further ado, here is a list of my top five favorite things about the olympics.
1. I love the Olympic games because you don’t have to know anything about the sport to appreciate the event. Because most people don’t follow snowboarding, luge, curling, and figure skating year-round, the commentators inevitably spend most of their time explaining what is happening on the ice/snow. As a person who doesn’t really care about sports, I find this extremely helpful. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know anything about skiing, if I put in my couch time, someone else will explain how I should be watching. The best part about this is that while you are learning, you aren’t being taught by anyone actually in your life. The commentary from a person sitting next to you can go from helpful to patronizing in about 4 seconds, but when it’s retired olympian Scott Hamilton telling me the difference between a triple toe loop and a triple axel, I’m never the slightest bit annoyed.
2. I love the Olympics because you don’t need to know anything about the athletes to appreciate the event. Those cheesy personal interest bits with the musical montage and the shot of the olympian training in some icy high-tech facility instantly transform me from carefree observer to diehard fan. Once I have watched the 7 minute clip, I deeply care for the athlete that has overcome adversity to be at these games, and watching her compete is just that much more exciting. Side note: The Olympic games are best enjoyed in an obsessive compulsive fashion — if you aren’t always watching, you might miss the clip that will make you care about what happens to Lindsay Vohn.
3. The fashion. The figure skaters get all the press– and it is well-deserved, but in general, the winter games offer much more than men in tights and women in short skirts. Have you seen the snowboarders? The American team is wearing pseudo denim snow pants with a waistband that sits at about the mid-thigh. They look like over financed skater boys from an Avril Lavigne music video… it’s wonderful.
4. The drama. What more can I say. What sporting event can match the olympics in theatricality. “Friendly” sportsmanlike competition between superpowers involved in actual military conflicts doesn’t happen everyday.
5. World Peace. This is where my olympic love gets truly sappy. Some part of me really believes that if for 17 days every two years, the nations of the world can congenially compete with each other to demonstrate their athletic prowess, peace is possible.
Now that I’ve begun to sound like a Miss America contestant, I’m going to sign off. But until spring break, and the much-anticipated month of March, I’ll be watching the olympic games, imagining the weight of a gold medal around my neck.