The Winter Olympics.
It’s the Winter Olympics and oh how I love it so.
I love the Winter Olympics and I’ll tell you why.
I love the Winter Olympics because, as happens every four years, those of us who rarely if never watch events such as speed skating or competitive skiing or luge now take a semi-studied interest in a new-to-us sport, its competitions, its personalities, its opportunities for witnessing sublime moments of physical achievement, and all this is - mostly - a very good thing:
We see people do amazing things with their ripped and vascular bodies within the framework of a sport that doesn’t only focus on moving a ball from one end of a grassy field to another.
We watch breathlessly as bone-and-blood humans throw themselves down icy inclines at teeth-rattling speed or through the air with hang times that Just Should Not Be and - Holy Half-pipe! - all without the aid of Computer Generated Imagery.
We get to see women athletes daily.
Engaging in international competition.
On national television.
And not just selling tampons.
I loves the Olympics!
The men wearing latex!
Now, admittedly, along with the thrills of victory, the agonies of defeat, and the Redemption® of so many “I coulda been a contender” athletes from previous Olympics, we are also faced with eyebrow-raising images and multitudinous avenues for gentle and not-so-gentle pushes outside our comfort zones, even from the safety of our comfy chairs:
So many new-found possibilities for moving our bodies during months when most of us are more inclined to use the cold weather and slippery sidewalks as an excuse to hibernate with bowls of hot chocolate and Sara Lee coffee cake. (If one is inclined to need an excuse to recline.)
So many sports my kids might want to participate in that seem to have far more statistical risk for skull squishing than baseball, soccer, or even football.
So many women athletes.
Engaging in daily international competition.
On national television.
So many men in latex.
The Olympics can be head-scratching at times.
The Olympics can nudge us from our comfort zone, can make us a little perturbed.
For example: What the hell is going on with curling?
I mean…from a distance (and from a warm, comfy chair), one might describe curling as a bunch of regular-looking guys and women sliding landmines across the ice and onto a bull’s eye while another group of obsessive-compulsive Fly Lady acolytes worry with brooms over the messy, messy scuff marks.
It’s a bit odd, right?
It might be a bit giggle-worthy…even while you’re shifting in your seat a bit.
It might even make you say out loud with a self-righteous point toward the screen (from your lovely comfy chair),
“Oh come on.
I bet I could get heave my wintery love handles off my extremely accommodating chair right now, brush the coffee cake from my mouth, and jump right in as an Olympic level curler. How is this ‘sport’ (and you’d use air quotes) even included at this sort of international level event? Pfft. Will somebody please tell me who’s the long-locked Shaun White of curling and just how bad ass could he be?”
And you’d be partially right.
Anything we’re not used to seeing much is going to look a little odd at first.
And, truly, you might giggle a bit and point again.
But when I actually wondered out loud about the seemingly low bar for athleticism and questionable Olympic inclusion when it came to curling, I was set straight immediately by a trusted Twitter Friend:
“I curled a couple of times and, man-oh-man, it's hard. My legs the next day felt like I'd ridden a horse for a week.”
I can remember clearly the time I rode a horse for fifteen minutes and how for the next week I felt as if someone had run over my legs with two other horses. That quickly I was having second thoughts about the easy-peasyness of curling.
I questioned further:
Did you get to use the broom thingies?
Is it hard to get the landmine thingy in the bull’s eye thingy?
Isn’t this something I could sort of bluff my through for a piece of Olympic hardware?
Twitter Friend’s reply:
“I've used the new brooms and the old-school brooms. (Getting the stone near the target) is art and intuition, plus a skip yelling at you.”
So now let me get this right:
Multiple brooms = Sounds like work.
Art = Sounds like practice and technique.
Intuition = Sounds like it takes time and patience to hone.
Someone named “Skip” yelling at me = Sounds like it would make me cry.
I’m only two Tweets into learning more about the specifics of curling and, damn, my calves are already stinging. A brief foray into the Almighty Oracle that is Wikipedia further cautions that the granite stones can weigh as much as 44 pounds, teams are give 73 minutes per side to complete all the throws, and according to the Wikipedia description….
“The stone is released as the thrower's momentum wanes, or the hog line is approached, at which point the turn is imparted by a slight clockwise or anti-clockwise twist of the handle from around the two or ten o'clock position to the twelve o'clock on release. A typical rate of turn is about 2½ rotations before coming to a rest.”
throwing the stone Just So actually seems to require something along the lines of a Ph.D. in physics, the arm strength of some really big non-regular looking guys or ladies, and/or a rosary the length of Shaun White’s hair strung end to end.
But see? This is the good thing about the Olympics and why I love it so.
The human body engaged in competitive sports is a sublime thing.
Even sports that don’t immediately look like sports because the “ball“ is made of solid granite.
Even sports that don’t look as dangerous as skeleton or pulse-thumping as freestyle snowboard. Well...except for the landmine thingies.
Even sports that include "regular" women.
At an international competition.
On national television.
With men in latex.