Sunday, February 14

Sudden Stop

FIRST: Bode Miller is the greatest Men's skier the United States has ever produced, and not by a little. This is not subject to review, and he shouldn't be subject to his self-appointed Good Ol' Grampa, Tom Bwokaw, second-guessing him, his effort, or his balls-out style. We would, however, be a much better nation if the opposite were the case, and the fucking disaster Mistah Bwokaw and his chums helped launched by not doing their jobs, balls-out, or at all, was subject to regular review by honest people like Miller with no fucking crippling ego issues. Or if, for example, Bwokaw wasn't the latest freeloading beneficiary of what Noah Cross said about old whores and ugly buildings becoming respectable if they hung around long enough.

Miller, you may recall or have had impinged upon you since, was the Practically a Goddam Hippie who ungraciously failed to win five Golds at Torino, thereby letting down NBC, which had spent some fraction of the 2% of its Winter Olympic budget that doesn't go to shill figure skating or skateboarding on snow hyping him as a lock. That was bad enough, but what was several orders of magnitude worse, Miller failed to thank Jesus anyway, apologize profusely to Yum! Brands International, or, in general, act as though how he performed was the business of anyone besides himself.

Blasphemy jail for you! It's interesting that hundreds of thousands root for the Chicago Cubs every season, that Bosox fans only grew more vehement with each passing year of the Curse of the Bambino, and that there's still a Baltimore Colts Marching Band, but Miller misses a couple of gates, in a year in which he placed third in the World Cup--like any American gives a shit what happens in snow sports after the Olympic torch is extinguished--and wound up as the Shoeless Joe Jackson of the Naughts. No, take that back; Shoeless Joe has supporters.

As the Worst Decade in the History of the Republic Not Accompanied by an Almost-Providentially Chosen Leader as a Counterweight draws to a close, it is clear that no argument, no pristine example, will convince Americans to look at how Money has besmirched Sport. Even sports they care about, let alone how this was translated to the Olympics, which used to be a cesspool of semi-amateurism, before the Quadrennial Celebration of Peaceful Intercontinental Competition was told what's what by US television networks. The only people old enough now to remember the near seamless transition from the Cosmic Unfairness of the Soviet hockey team getting to train year-round as the Soviet Army hockey team, while our amateurs were unfairly forced to get by on small stipends and full college scholarships, to the Cosmos-Approved Dominance of Team USAUSAUSA! brought to you by Chevy Trucks, Dow Chemicals, and Rosebud Sleds, seem to approve of it. Provided you win the all Gold Medals you're supposed to, or thank Jesus for letting you try.

Yes, indeed, that battle was lost a generation ago, which is why it's hardly surprising that the New York Times last week brought us the tragic plight of US speedskaters who did not become overnight millionaires just for training. Or why it's more-or-less to be expected that the IOC, and the Games Canadian organizers, would blame Nodar Kumaritashvili for his own death on a luge course they immediately shortened, walled-off, and padded, not because it was unsafe, mind you, but because of the fragile emotional state of the athletes in the wake of his death.

I mean, what'd we expect? The Governor of Indiana, whose name escapes me at the moment, blames the Federal government for asking Toyota to maybe fix the problems that make its cars unmerchantible sometime before they kill everybody. This is what you get. It's what you get when you turn things over to people for whom profit is the one motivator and money the only standard.

And I'm not going to be a hypocrite. I'm a fan of open-wheel racing, and I've seen five wrecks that killed men involved. I've also seen that the people in charge worked to make things safer, and did. At various points they've slowed Indy cars down rather than have raw speed outpace a reasonable guarantee of safety. And that goes back thirty and forty years, back to my youth, when wearing a bicycle helmet was a sure way of getting your brains knocked out by schoolyard yahoos, not a requirement every parent enforced without thinking.

It's 2010. You had a course where speeds were running 20 kph faster than what was called for, and the structural pillars just outside the course weren't already padded? What happened? Couldn't find a corporate sponsor? You try Bubble-Pak? Serta? Silly-Putty?


Grace Nearing said...

To this day, one of my heroes remains Olympic speedskater Beth Heiden. Her brother, Eric, won multiple gold medals for speedskating. Beth was hampered by a bad ankle injury and a rather rude American media, who demanded she win gold too. She said she was happy with her bronze medal, and told the assembled press, "So, to hell with you guys."

Bless her.

JMC said... seemingly falls to me to hasten to add that "balls out" is a reference to steam engine --
The original phrase is actually hinted to in the expression "with a full head of steam". In the earliest days of steam engines, Watt style engines and their successors used a centrifugal governor to control speed. The faster the engine was to run the higher the weighted balls on the governor would rise until at full speed they were at their highest and farthest reach from the center: high or full speed was known as running "balls out". as not to raise horrid images of Tom ("Tom") Brokaw with his danglies in the breeze...
We return you now, &c...

heydave said...

Two things:

First, thanks for the useful history lesson in engines, JMC! I find that description of "balls out" both descriptive and interesting.

Second, you are a very bad man for that Browkaw breezing dangly image.

Plinth said...

"How'd it work out for the rest of us, Fuckhead?"


Plinth said...

wrong tread.