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Olympic semantics, Losing Graciously & Pope Francis

With the Sochi Olympics more than halfway through, so far nothing has gone wrong, if you don’t count the optics of the fact that this is the only Olympics I can remember where palm trees are part of the landscape. This is a long way from the reindeer days of Lillehammer, Norway in 1994.

As for this armchair Olympic athlete, I’m watching shit I’d never normally watch, even curling, especially the women who, because the game is so slow, is ideal for TV close-ups. Other than figure skating, it’s doubtful any other female Olympic athletes spend more time warming up in front of the mirror than the women curlers who must know the sport calls for some serious “time for your TV close-up” moments.

Russian skip Anna Sidorova, who has also modelled, is a sensation at the Games. Sidorova is a little miffed that too much attention has been paid to the aesthetics of the Russian women’s curling team. “First of all we are professional sportsmen, and then we are ‘pretty girls’ or however you want to put it,” she said. “I would like to hear people saying about me, ‘This is a good curler.'” In fact, though curling is not a big sport in Russia, their women’s team currently sits (as of this writing) with 3 wins and 3 losses. Russians in the crowd are enthusiastic supporters of the women’s team, though they are short on curling rules and etiquette, cheering when the other team misses. This, apparently, is a serious breach of the Olympic spirit and curling etiquette. Our very own Jennifer Jones, skip of the Canadian curling team, is easy on the eyes, too, as she yells “Hard, Hard” urging her sweepers (and the stone, too) down the narrow sheets of ice. Nevertheless, the sport still needs some puffing up. Maybe some new rules to make it more TV friendly. Like broom fights. Contact curling could be a ratings booster, where opposing curlers duke it our after a particularly bad end. And then maybe to committee could mull over this suggestion: Add a “danger rock,” to the mix, one that blows on contact with another rock, adding an element of danger. This would be for only the championship game so as to minimize collateral danger.

The Semantics of Bobsledding

Aside from the luge, skeleton, downhill skiing, half-pipe snowboarding, ski jumping, ski and snowboard cross and short-track skating, the bobsleigh has the highest potential for serious injury. As if the sport itself isn’t dangerous enough, for journalists assigned to cover this sport, I sympathize with them as they wrestle with the number of ways the word sleigh and sled can be used. I found eight in one article alone. (And now I’ve got the Christmas carol with the line, “one horse open sleigh (sled?) stuck in my head.)

  1. Bobsleigh Canada (not to be confused with Bobsled Canada, which it may have called at one time but isn’t anymore.)
  1. If you’re looking at different categories for bobsleighing, it’s the two-man or four-man bobsleds.
  1. We have 16 bobsledders going to Sochi, not 16 bobsleighers.
  1. If you’re the driver/pilot, you’re the male/female sled pilot.
  1. If you’re the athlete doing the all-important job of shoving the sled (sleigh?) at the start, then hopping in the back, only to put your head down and not see death coming for the next 50 seconds or so, you’re the pusher…of the two or four-men/women sleighs.”
  1. Glory? It’s bobsledding glory, not bobsleigh glory.
  1. Coaches in other sports apparently point athletes (like former football players with massive thighs) toward bob sledding.”  Not toward bobsleighing.
  1. But if you work for Bobsleigh Canada, and a reporter wants some words of wisdom from you, you become a “bobsleigh official.”

Gracious Losers

In Olympics women’s hockey, there are two countries that wind up battling for the gold medal, Canada and the U.S. They hate each other, a relationship built from too many games played in the four-years between Olympic Games. Meanwhile, every other country along the way is embarrassed by lop-sided defeats at the hands of either of those two teams. Like the Swiss team that lost by a respectable 3-1 margin against Canada. One Swiss team member was asked about the defeat, and put a spin on losing rarely heard amongst professional athletes (certainly not male hockey players who speak in sports clichés but rarely admit they were happy just to get out of the building without any serious wounding of their egos.)

 

“I believe it was a very important game for women’s hockey,” said Swiss hockey team goalie Florence Schelling. “Losing 3-1 is amazing, It’s a great outcome for us.”

 

Florence will not be needing the services of the Swiss team sports psychologist, obviously. And while other teams probably have one, I doubt Switzerland brought one along. If Canada (women or men) fail to win anything but gold, the whole team will be in group therapy for weeks after the Games.

Pope Makes Cover of Rolling Stone Magazine

Pope Francis joins an elite list of rock stars, politicians, movie actors, writers and others famous-for-all-the-wrong reasons whose photographs have graced the cover of the longest lasting rock music magazine. Hell, Charles Manson and the Boston Marathon Bomber have made the cover! Whether the Pope posed for this photo or whether this is a College of Cardinals officially sanctioned photo, the Pope looks like he’d be the kind of guy to put a whoopee cushion on a pew before mass. But I couldn’t help notice how much he looked like Stan Laurel of Laurel & Hardy fame. (Google if necessary.) See for yourself.

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