1) National pride
It is fun to root for your country, gang. And actually, sports fans already know this. They'll go apeshit during the World Cup, but for some reason the Olympics have diminished in America's collective esteem. Why? Because there's no huge enemy to root against anymore? Glad you brought it up. I will gladly provide you with enemies.
Summer Olympics: China. No-brainer. They ruin the environment, pay their workers nothing, and will probably dominate the world in 5-15 years. Also, they're cheaters; the government forged birth certificates so gymnasts could compete underage. When the actual government is the main perpetrator of illegal tactics, you know you're dealing with a seriously flawed mentality. Also, they purposefully train all their athletes for the stupid sports like pistol shooting and badminton and diving. Is there anything more aggravating than watching two slender Chinese women do perfect synchronized dives, and realizing they've been training for this since they were like 3? Gross. Yes, they win the medal count, but let's see them ever win a swimming or sprinting event. Man, it's fun to hate the Chinese National Team. Or at least the concept behind it; I actually feel sorry for the individual athletes. But if they ever become decent in basketball, or something important, watch out: that distinction will be instantly erased in my mind.
Winter Olympics: Germany and Russia. What, we're going to let the fact that geopolitical landscape has changed since the 1940s and the Cold War, respectively, deter us from holding a grudge? I have not forgotten. "Nazi" and "Commie" are still two of my chief insults.
2) The Ridiculous Stakes
This is especially true for the athletes in individual sports. They have one chance every 4 years. 4 fucking years! Do you realize the amount of pressure that entails? They basically have to succeed now. Who knows what will happen over the next four years? They could lose their passion, lose their skill, get hurt, etc. You cannot count on a second chance. No other sports work like this. Most have yearly championships, so the margin for error is greater. Even though soccer's World Cup comes around every 4 years, all the players get to compete in other competitions and leagues that are hugely important on the sports spectrum. But a ski jumper? He has World Cup every year, and approximately 7 humans give a shit about the ski jumping World Cup. Nobody will remember how he fares. They'll only remember that time in Nagano when an ice patch made him wobble a bit on the landing and he finished 4th instead of 1st and lost his chance at a medal.
Seriously, think about some of our sports icons. Look at A-Rod. He carried this huge reputation as a choker on his back for a long time, and it took years for him to get over it. If he was an Olympian, he'd have had maybe two shots to prove himself, and he'd be a bum forever. There's such a slim shot at redemption when your chance only comes once every four years. I can't think of anything more pressure-packed.
3) The Human Element
Granted, NBC can milk these to a disgusting degree sometimes, but tell me you don't get a little weepy when you hear some of these hard luck tales set to inspirational music, and I will call you a liar to your face. How about Bill Demong? He's labored his whole career as a Nordic Combined competitor, had no success in the Olympics, and then he cracked his head on a pool earlier this decade and lost his short term memory for a while. He had to sit out for a year, get his life together, maintain his mental stability, and then work for years just to get to a level, now, where he's got a shot in what will probably be his final Olympic games. And Vancouver will be full of these stories.
4) The Drama of Figure Skating
For whatever reason, figure skaters (male and female) are about 3,000 times more emotional than your average athlete. They're prone to frustration, tears, and various other kinds of melodrama, both on the ice and off. That, plus the dancing element, guarantees that women absolutely love figure skating. This is the one time I'm ever on the phone with my mom talking about sports. And the drama component will be multipled this year by the presence of Johnny Weir, who is just a hysterical human being, and who I badly want to win gold.
Watch curling. Just watch it once, and tell me you don't want to learn this sport and play it on Saturday afternoons with your friends while drinking. They call it "chess on ice." CURRRY! CURRRRY HARRR! (I'm not sure what they actually shout.) (edit: my girlfriend, who has had several uncomfortably close encounters with people from Canada, tells me it's "Hurry Hard.") The Canadians always seem to win this event. This is what they do instead of bowling. (Hey, why isn't bowling in the Olympics???)
There are actually a billion more, but I don't have to time to list them at the moment. Suffice it to say that I'm very, very psyched for the Vancouver games. Please watch Sunday as Bill Demong goes for a gold in Nordic combined at 1pm and Tim Burke does the same in the 10km biathlon sprint at 2:15. They're from my home town! Woooo!
Oh, also, a nice young gal named Liza Pfeiffer e-mailed me and asked me to post this:
Tomorrow, February 12, the world will gather to watch top athletes from around the globe compete in the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Athletes from Team USA, who have been training their entire lives will take the stage to represent our country. I'm writing with the hope that you could share the news about Team USA with the readers of Seth Curry Saves Duke!.
Anyone who registers on Teamusa.org will have access to the latest info and will receive exclusive updates throughout the games. I've put all that information including some very cool Team USA widgets and banners into this social media news release here:
Team USA News
Do with that what you will. Looks cool.
Duke-Maryland on Saturday at 1pm. This is actually a huge test of the Perfection Proclamation. More words on this Monday. Have a great weekend, and Happy Valentine's Day to the lonely and unlonely alike.