Believe it or not, a Winter Olympics just happened in Sochi, Russia. The valiant souls who attempted to live there for a couple weeks were treated to ideal (spring) weather, living conditions that could best be described as “funhouse-like” and the constant threat of Costas-melting death water. While we missed out on our dream of seeing Johnny Weir interview Vladimir Putin, we have, as always, managed to learn a few things.
1) Shaun White can actually fall down.
Twice, guys. It happened twice. Russia must be bumpy. We could say he got what he deserved for putting all of his eggs in one basket, but did you see that snowboard slopestyle course? They actually installed full staircases by all the rails. ON A MOUNTAIN. Why would you do that?
2) Russia would rather have the reputation of stray dog murderer than stray dogs.
We won’t get too graphic by describing again what happened to all of Sochi’s stray dogs, but you saw what happened when they wanted to get rid of Pussy Riot (considered human beings by most). Many of the athletes asserted that they had a fine experience in Russia and that people “put aside” their differences for the Olympics. Wait.. did they mean “beat and poison” aside? Yes. That’s what they meant.
3) Things we can say on TV: “Pussy Riot”
Speaking of Pussy Riot. Television media decided that phrase is all good now. We assume this also means we can print it, wear it on a shirt and drop it in a casual conversation about our day (“My day, grandma? Better than Pussy Riot’s, that’s what I always say”). We shall refer to it as “The Costas Precedent.” Thanks ladies. We’re gonna have fun with that. Also, snowboard announcers can say “ginormous” during a call now.
4) Terms we never knew existed: “Superstar female biathlete,” “Italian luge legend.”
Tied for 14th place. That is the best finish ever for a U.S. female biathlete. As we watch the Netherlands absolutely dominate speed skating, people travel from Norway to WATCH cross-country skiing and a roomful of Russians pretend to actually understand how ice dancing is scored, we realize how different the emphasis on “sport” is wherever you go. In Norway, where fitness is celebrated, any Johan on the street can tell you that a skiathalon is 18 miles and that Slovenian skier/pop star Tina Maze’s new album is actually pretty fresh. To us, though, luge is still just a bunch of dudes doing the same thing they got yelled at for as kids. Here in the U.S. we can’t tell a good luge run from an awful one. But, like ice dancing, diving and baseball, we still like to watch. We have such a lack of understanding of winter Olympic sports that the collective brainpower of our entire country can’t figure out why the U.S. speed skating team had rocks tied to their backs. Nordic scientists are in stitches.
5) Sage Kotsenburg is a new American hero and Bob Costas is the Terminator.
In an age where the gold medal winning snowboarder follows hopping in a bouncy castle as his scores are read by tweeting that all medals should be made of bacon, somebody has to cover this madness with charm and a straight face. Costas coolly dealt with the increasingly young, hip Olympic crowd even as Russian water made his eyes begin to perma-bleed. Sure, they called in Matt Lauer for a couple days relief, but, like most backup hosts, dude showed up mellow and unshaven (and were those sweat pants?). Costas hopped back into the chair in time to have 18-year-old skier Mikaela Shiffrin call him “a party” and ask Johnny Weir straightforward questions about his experience in Russia. Way to go, Bob. (Teddy Roosevelt! That’s who his eyeglasses reminded us of. Teddy Roosevelt.)
6) Skeleton riders wear helmets for decoration.
In an Olympic games full of crazy events like snowboard cross, ski-try-to-not-break-both-legs-when-landing and the 200 meter speed thigh-a-thon, skeleton runs seem absolutely insane. They’re going face first. Why not go all out? Light the track on fire and fill it with cheetahs. You’d finally gain year-round viewership.
What’s even crazier? The guys in back of the bobsled never actually get to see a bobsled run. Also: an ice dancing “free dance” is still so technical nobody knows what’s happening. What have we learned? Watch out for small Russian girls.
7) Twenty years ago is fun and also sad.
Tonya Harding is still batshit crazy (and a mother). The Jamaican bobsled team is still terrible (but not as funny anymore). And lost in all this Harding/Kerrigan revivalist nonsense is the fact that some of Harding’s 1994 outfits look as if they were pasted together by a kindergarten class.
8) God apparently helps other countries, too.
Russia finished with the most medals without any coercion whatsoever (aside from Putin’s glare). The U.S.A. finished second in the medal count after taking by far (12) the most bronze (so America). Also, hockey is proof once and for all that God is occasionally on Canada’s side.
In the end, the winners at these crazy 22nd Winter Olympics were everyone who managed to keep afoot on the wacky Russian ground.
Till next time, winter games. We’ll be sure to keep up with all the athlet… HEY, baseball!