Sochi Olympics: Big air points

I’ve been watching the Olympics, with hand poised to cover my eyes, anticipating another Agony of Defeat moment — some hideous spill or fall or crash or shockingly disastrous under-performance, a moment that will forever define the athlete’s career and make even his loved ones look away in dismay. Also I wince a bit when NBC cuts to a protracted back-story on, say, Julia Mancuso, or some-such glamorous athlete, which invariably is not so much a piece of journalism as a kind of heavily edited dream sequence, with lots of slow-motion footage, and sunsets, and glossy-magazine imagery starring all that fabulous hair, so that at first glance you’re not sure if you’re watching something related to a sporting event or merely seeing a shampoo commercial.

Also I am confused a lot, and keep saying out loud: How do they score this? And: Is he the guy in red? I spend much of the Olympics wishing I’d done more homework, and understood the rules better. Some sports combine timed speed with “air points” and “style points.” Back in my day, a stopwatch was all we needed. But no, they keep inventing new sports, like “slopestyle curling,” which I think we can all agree is insane (those poor athletes with their brooms, dodging that stone as it hurtles down the hill — frightful!).

There are some sports, like ski jumping, where every jump looks exactly the same to me, and all the jumpers appear to be leaning forward and getting the big air in precisely the same way, and I can’t tell what makes one of them better than another. Is it something they do with their knees?

Bode Miller came up empty, and it’s not the first time he’s done that, but I feel for him. He says he basically can’t see the slope when the sun’s not out, and that he made a big blunder by not getting eye surgery. I totally relate! When the light is flat like that, and everything’s gray and there are no shadows, I won’t even turn right on red. I all but go into a fetal curl. Still, it’s an unusual explanation for an athlete: He’s basically saying, “The sun wasn’t in my eyes.”

Secretly, I like it when someone wipes out in a skiing or snowboarding event — not because I want anyone to get hurt, or because I’m so easily bored that only mayhem and injury and despair will get my attention, but because even I, a total dimwit, can discern that a skier has had an unsuccessful run down the mountain when he or she winds up upside down in a snowbank. The obviousness of it appeals to me. It’s simple. Skier lost a ski. Skier crashed. Skier is now over at the edge of the woods.

Which reminds me, I miss that guy Hermann Maier. The Hermannator. Here’s the great clip of Maier going keister over elbows in Nagano. Wow.

Here’s another famous one: Franz Klammer goin’ after it in the downhill at the 1976 games. He doesn’t crash, somehow. Don’t try this at home.

 

 

 

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."
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Joel Achenbach | February 7