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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Looking back at Sochi and other things

Now that the 2014 Olympics in Sochi are over, there are a few things to review.

First, NBC has to be extremely proud of its wide-spread and extensive coverage. The network made sure that everything was covered on all the different venues on all hours of the day and night, on all different channels.

The ratings proved that NBC did a fantastic job, even through Bob Costas' battle with pink eye. It was the first time in ages where the Peacock flew above the other networks in the ratings, so it proved that America loved NBC's coverage as well.

Now, for the Games themselves. The hockey was definitely exciting with Team USA's thrilling shootout victory over Russia, but the air came out of the balloon with the semifinal loss to Canada and then the inexplicable shutout loss to Finland in the bronze medal game.

Hockey fans certainly took to the Olympics, evidenced by the sale of team sweaters, not just Team USA, but Canada as well. So is it worth it for the NHL to shut down operations for three weeks, then pick things back up again?

Only time will tell what kind of hockey we will see in the coming weeks, but you can be rest assured that the NHL applauds the Olympics, because it helps the sport to be more mainstreamed than it is regularly. More people _ especially women _ watched hockey over the past two weeks than they did during the course of the regular season.

Some hockey purists are pushing for the Olympics to make hockey a sport in the Summer Olympics, so this way it doesn't interrupt the regular season like it does now. That's just not going to happen. There's not a lot of ice to be found in July and August. And the NHL isn't going to let that happen, because the league's popularity is at all-time high right now, after the outdoor games and now the Olympics.

Now, I'm not exactly an expert on the other sports in the Winter Olympics, like curling, which is still too bizarre for words, or the biathlon, which combines skiing and rifle marksmanship, neither of which I know anything about.

But I found one Olympic sport to be especially exciting. That was snowboard cross, which was basically like motocross on snowboards. Five guys streaming down a ski slope on a snowboard at the same time. There were collisions galore, even one time where a competitor actually leaped over the other.

I was totally mesmerized by the entire thing. The event was breathtaking.

I can't believe I actually just wrote that about the Winter Olympics. Before this year, my memories of the Winter Olympics included Bob Beattie screaming Franz Klammer's name and Dick Button blubbering and crying over the "travesty of Tai and Randy," namely the skating pair of Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, after Gardner was injured and couldn't skate. I also felt bad when Dan Jansen kept falling and falling.

Needless to say, I wasn't a big fan. Sure, I still get choked up by the sight of Mike Eruzione standing on the podium and waving his USA hockey teammates to join him after the Miracle on Ice in 1980.

But there isn't much more.

Give me some snowboard cross any day of the week. If there was a snowboard cross league, I'd be watching it regularly. It's the biggest novelty since the XFL. You could even give me a network of snowboard cross. Heck, there are already enough sports networks on the air now. I can watch virtually every single sport that the Big Ten can offer right now, including gymnastics and ping pong. I can handle the snowboard cross network.

So we can put Sochi in the memory banks now. Hopefully, Costas' eyes have recovered and he can continue to spew his ridiculous venom about how the American Indians are persecuted by the name Washington Redskins.

One last thing: Now that the Winter Olympics are over, can Tonya Harding crawl back to the trailer park she rolled out from and go away forever? Does anyone in the world believe that she had nothing to do with the attack on Nancy Kerrigan?

Just give the girl a couple packs of Parliament, a couple bottles of Boone's Farm and some beef jerky and let her disappear. I cannot believe a word she says. Bottom line is that after 20 years, does anyone really care? Especially since Kerrigan went from being the nation's sweetheart to a pariah in the matter of a few months.

I applaud athletes like Jason Collins and Michael Sam coming out and revealing that they are gay. The world of sports should be more accepting of those who are gay and lesbian and not shun them.

And yes, for now, stories like that should be atop the fold of the sports section, because they have come out and proudly and bravely proclaimed their sexual preferences.

However, there should be a time when this is not newsworthy, when it becomes commonplace. Everyone should be more accepting of gays and lesbians. Chances are that we've all had friends that are gay and couldn't handle the scorn that comes with it, so they remained private.

I've been a sportswriter for 32 years now. I've heard stories of professional athletes, some big name players, being gay, but would never dream of reporting it. More than likely, there have been others who were _ and kept their lives private.

More than likely, I've had teammates over the years who were gay and no one knew. We didn't worry about what would be said in the locker rooms. Honestly, no one paid that much attention to it.

So yes, it's a brave world that Jason Collins and Michael Sam have entered. They deserve credit for their courage to come out in the macho world of professional sports. But in reality, it shouldn't be a big deal at all, because it's just part of real life.
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1 comment:

  1. Is the case against the Redskins name really that ridiculous? What if they were called the Pollacks, or WOPs, or a derogatory name for any other ethnic group? The Cleveland Indians logo is even worse to me. I'm not frothing at the mouth angry about it, but I don't think the conversation is totally out of place either.

    I did like NBCs coverage as well.