I watch these Winter Games, off and on, and it never fails to raise my hackles… wherever hackles might be. Two years from now I’ll feel the same way about the Summer Games. There is something unnatural about the events. It’s the precision, the exactitude, slavishness to the clock, the scale and the rigidity of the straight line. There are no straight lines in Nature. Think trees and rocks. It’s enough that we hang our pictures level and have to look at rectilinear cereal boxes and boring buildings.
Why punish the body to fit the ideal? I want to scream, bring on the Deviationist, the Revisionist! Why does a young person train 12 hours a day for years and return home in disgrace having been nosed out by four-one-hundreds of a second? Why must we quantify mastery of the body? Is life and death a matter of calibration? Does a wobble or a bobble signify the measure of a person? I raise my glass to messy humanity. And how is it a nation of gifted and devoted athletes can bring their resources and passion to excel but cannot find the will or concern to serve their homeless and disadvantaged citizens?
I watch and they all look wonderful. I still can’t tell a toe-loop from an axel from a Salchow. They spin, they split, they soar and sometimes they spill. So what? They are artists with abs and pecs. Artists shouldn’t be in competition and be scored. Did we give a numerical rating to Nureyev, Ulanova or Baryshnikov? I hope not. Virginia Wolff declined an O.B.E. reminding the committee that mother taught her never to accept candy from strangers.
Of all the measurements of speed, endurance and accuracy the least defensible has to be the Biathlon which combines cross-country skiing with rifle shooting. After the spate of massacres we have endured one wonders how the hell this para-military exercise is to be prized and honored.
The spirit of camaraderie at the opening soon gives way to Nationalism for flag and anthem. The map of the world is itself a construct of dividing lines, some perpendicular, mostly jagged but all artificial. Athletes train and even live in one country and compete for another. In fact, each event is its own universe.
Celebrate them all and skip to the closing ceremony. Melt the medals. The winners are those who made new friendships, who found kindred spirits in distant lands, embraced their rivals; for everything beyond the judges hyper-critical scrutiny.
After a couple of hours I can feel the Bulgarian judge over my shoulder scoring the way I tie my shoes or cut the morning melon into lop-sided quadrants. Next event: Tooth Brushing.
I’m done now with five minute eggs. In protest I’m going to make them scrambled and probably burn the toast just because.
That was my slalom down the white page. Here’s comes my wobble-bobble……….
So why do I watch? Fair question. Possibly because the whole enterprise is of no consequence and I have a penchant for such matters. I’m a sucker for the tension. It stirs my reptilian brain. I love rooting for Norway (named after me) or Lichtenstein (we went there for lunch and their museum of stamps). I get juiced by the back-stories. By the craziness of the decimal points. It could be that friendly competition is a far better way to sublimate aggression than a shooting war.....but a food fight would do just as well. Those arctic winds and what obstacles we humans put in our way to test our threshold of punishment.... which includes watching the spectacle.