Friday, February 19, 2010

Frontside 1080 and other anomalies

Can you imagine doing a backside 940 on the heels of a double corkscrew?

Thank god there is a commentator to let Olympic viewers know what the heck the snowboarders are doing in the halfpipe.

But, it is hilarious to hear all this chatter of frontside this and backside that and even the McTwist 1260. The numbers apparently refer to the full or partial rotations the boarders do while soaring through the big air.

It was great seeing Shaun White do his gold-medal, nighttime runs. He wore the baggy, team uniform, which resembled a Northwest lumberjack complete with a plaid hoodie. His long, bushy red mane flowed outside his helmet.

Boarders maintain this counter-culture hipness long after they've gone mainstream. They still look, act and talk like stoners. While skiers don tight-fitting, multi-colored spandex, snowboarders of both genders wear bulky gear as if they're going sledding. One Japanese half-piper even sported the matty, dread-lock look.

Yes, we get it. Snowboarders are the opposite of skiers. But, it's time to grow up. You're no longer renegades. You're the status quo.

Of course, halfpipe terminology has nothing on figure skating, which is in a tizzy over the "quad" that the second-place men's finisher landed, but that the gold-medal winner didn't even attempt.

The Russian, Yevgeny Plushenko, dissed American Evan Lysacek after the judges gave Lysacek the gold. Wonder what Johnny Weir would have said? We'd never hear the end of it.

But telling the difference between an axel and a lutz or a toe loop and a salchow is why we need someone like analyst Scott Hamilton there in Vancouver. He says these things, but I still don't know what they are.

Figure skating, snowboarding and mogul skiing all suffer because they are judged events. Like gymnastics in the summer games, it's hard to tell the difference between the best competitors.

Not so for the downhill. Lindsey Vonn battled high expectations and a badly bruised shin to ace the premier ski event on the most brutal course the women have ever raced on. She did it on men's skis, which will likely be the norm for women at Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

And quietly, surprisingly, Bode Miller collected his second silver medal today in the Super G, which apparently combines the downhill and the giant slalom races. Nonetheless, it looks like the downhill.

Miller, in spite of his pathetic no-medal performance at Torino, is now the most-decorated male Olympian in U.S. skiing history. He hasn't done bad on the World Cup either.

Speaking of medals, the Americans now have 20, almost double runner-up Germany. But, there is a full week left in Vancouver and the Germans always clean up in the bobsled.

It's always amazing to watch the various biathlon cross-country ski races where the competitors stop occasionally to shoot rifles at targets. To most Americans, skiing and shooting go together as well as figure skating and hunting. However, the northern Europeans consider this all too natural. Why then not expand shooting to other Winter Olympic events. How about ski jumping and shooting? Or, maybe pairs figure skating interrupted periodically with the man and the woman shooting at targets along the boards? The crossover appeal would draw more viewers and advertisers.

Another highlight this week was watching Bob Costas interview Stephen Colbert, the late-night comedian and speed-skating sponsor. It was must-see TV. Look for Colbert's take on the Olympics next week on Comedy Central.

Amid all this Olympic drama and excitement, Tiger Woods held a press conference to say, "Hey, look at me. I'm still here."

And the proper response: Who cares.

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