la dolce vita

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

At the end of the women's short program last night we heard a series of small explosions. I had hoped the polizia would respond with a show of force and shiny boots and side arms and such, but no -- it was just the champagne corks flying out of the bottles on the other side of the media center.

The NBC side of the media center.

That wasn't Sasha Cohen grinning ear to ear -- that was Dick Ebersol. What a day for the Peacock! First, hissy fits and catfights, then three gutsy American performances. And if the hissies and catfights involved male speedskaters and the guts came from the female figure skaters, well, this is 2006! Who cares? Hissies and catfights and guts! That's television, my friends.

If we've learned nothing else from "American Idol," we've learned that.

The women's competition was brilliant. The skating was impeccable, and the fashion, thankfully, was not right out of the Bada-Bing at Happy Hour. And in an Olympics where the U.S. team, male and female, has often, um, underperformed, all three skaters were at the tops of their games. And they stayed on their skates. And Cohen has never skated better or looked happier to be Cohen. And if she and Emily Hughes and Kimmie Meissner can't stand each other, they are all smart enough to keep it to themselves.

Not so over on the other ice.

So Barbara Poli Fusar and Maurizio Margaglio can make up, but Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis can't?

With the whole world watching, Margaglio dropped Poli Fusar on the ice on her derriere and she emasculated him with a look. Yet all is forgiven (if not forgotten) between the Italian ice dancers.

Hedrick and Davis, on the other hand, won't even look at each other. A stare down would be infinitely preferable to the studied indifference each shows the other. It's childish and it makes both men look small at a time when they should be at their best. Each has a gold medal. Each has a photogenic smile and, let's face it, fabulous legs. In America, even just half of that equation can take you a long way.

They were shown up yesterday, in every way imaginable, by Enrico Fabris, a tousle-haired Italian who makes Roberto Benigni look sleepy. While the Americans were busy hatin', he posted the fastest time of the day and watched as neither man could beat it.

At least Davis was gracious, congratulating Fabris, skating a victory lap. Hedrick pouted and posed. Davis may be a bit of a mama's boy, as some have suggested, but at least his mama taught him some manners.

In a news conference afterward, both men agreed on just one thing: This feud is all of the media's making. We invented Hedrick's goal of matching Eric Heiden's five medals. We fabricated Davis's feud with his own federation. Quotes of loathing were manufactured; pictures of them studiously ignoring each other were Photoshopped. You know, the usual media hijinks.

Let's celebrate with more champagne.

MARIE REINE'S DAY: Calls French ice dancing couple Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder to commiserate about their fourth-place finish. They recognize her voice, make scratchy noises, shout "tunnel" and hang up.

-- Tracee Hamilton


"She's had enough of being in the back seat."

-- Johnny Flowers , husband of Vonetta Flowers, a bobsled pusher who plans to attended driving school in Lake Placid, N.Y., to become a driver

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