Jeff Vrabel: I’ve got the fever
Time again for my regular and fairly scorching bouts of Olympic Fever, which, despite living with two children with some serious nasal-leakage issues, is one of the only ailments I get on a regular basis. Olympic Fever tends to present with the same symptoms: high levels of NBC, a temporary but very real interest in luge, competitive feelings toward citizens of Switzerland (BOOOOOOOOO SWITZERLAND, FOR SOME REASON), medal pox, constant exposure to Bob Costas and Bob Costas’ weird red eye. Listen, man, I know you can’t control your ailments. And I know that it must be awful to arrive at one of the biggest jobs of your TV career only to find that part of your face looks distractingly crimson, and you’re obviously doing a fine job because you’re Bob Costas, but man I can’t stop looking at your evil eye and wanting to aim a fire hose of Visine at your face.
I’m always excited for the Olympics; I find the entire thing comfortable and reassuring. They’re nice to have on in the background, they offer a glimpse into a remote culture that I wouldn’t otherwise know about, and they offer the chance to watch fantastically talented people score points in figure skating, slope skating and ski jumping and saying, “WHAT IN THE HECK POINT SYSTEM ARE YOU GUYS ON, BECAUSE NONE OF THIS IS MAKING ANY SENSE. WHY IS THE LITTLE RUSSIAN PIXIE GETTING 87 POINTS BUT THE SOMEHOW SMALLER FRENCH SKATER GETTING 75.23912. AND WHY THE DECIMALS, WHY CAN’T YOU PEOPLE ROUND UP?” Unless, for some reason, you don’t get as worked up about arbitrary point system as I do, which is probably good news for you.
(I also enjoy watching competitions where people who are 36 years old are described in such a way that the announcers obviously can’t believe they’re not dead. Thanks, Olympics, for reminding me of all the athletic achievements I will never, ever, ever achieve. I am sad to report that at the age of 38 I’m pretty sure my ski-jumping days are behind me. I mentioned to my wife my interest in wishing I could give that a shot one day, and she gave me a look that unmistakably said, “HAHAHAAHAHAH,” “But you’re afraid of heights,” “You don’t have health insurance right now so how about trying something that won’t inevitably result in you breaking all the bones in your legs?” She can get a lot across in one look, is what I’m saying.)
Anyway, the only problem I have with the Winter Olympics is the same I have with the Summer Olympics: That they happen in places that I do not want to bring my children. But also, both of them result in this amazing phenomenon in which TV announcers, from the relative be-mocha’d comfort of whatever press box they’ve been paid to sit in, will routinely and with a straight face complain about the people who are doing things like FLINGING THEMSELVES off giant ramps and spinning around four times. They talk like this ALL THE TIME; they speak in the calm, removed tones of professionals assigning numbers to situations in which most people would clearly die. They’re not terribly accurate though; one guy just called something on slope-style a “double,” though by my count the whirling dervish of long hair and scarves on the board swiveled around about 30 times. By comparison, I would launch off the board, spin around up to one time, and, in all likelihood, land on my eyes.
And all they do is COMPLAIN. Bode Miller just finished a run in which he basically rocketed vertically down a mountain for 50,000 feet, and he finished a half-second after the leader, and everyone on TV is basically acting like he adopted 12 orphan puppies who all just drifted out to sea. I understand that his performance failed to match the expectations but, GUYS, a HALF SECOND. Meanwhile, the slopestyle and ski-jump women are flinging themselves through the air on elongated crackers, and all the announcers are doing is saying, “Eh, she was better in practice.” She was BETTER than being airborne for 30 minutes in constant rotational motion? The only guy who can complain about this is Costas, because he might not have seen it.
Jeff Vrabel medaled in luge in 1988. He can be reached at http://jeffvrabel.com and followed at http://twitter.com/jeffvrabel.