If you have not been watching the Winter Olympics but want to blend in at social gatherings, do not fret. I am here. I have been doing almost nothing BESIDES watching the Olympics. Here is an abridged version of everything that has happened so far.
(We are in what the NBC announcers erroneously and continually insist on pronouncing as PyeongChANg.)
1. The Ice Rink for Going Around Very Fast
People wearing shiny fabric sheaths that force me to realize I do not recognize the flags of any countries that are not my own are rapidly circling a short track. There is a lot of strategy involved in this sport. For instance, a bad strategy is to fall over and slide off the ice, taking everyone behind you out with you. A good strategy is to be in front of the person who does that so that you do not bump into him.
(Commercial urging us to let Walmart ring our doorbells.)
2. The Dangerous U Made of Packed Snow
A child on a slippery board flips around in the air four times and does not die. This is not enough to medal.
(Commercial about how you should not listen to naysayers, because there will always be plenty of naysayers telling you that you don’t know what you are talking about and your ideas are bad, and that these negative Nellies will always outnumber the people who tell you that what you are doing is right, whose entire meaning changes when you learn that it is from Koch Industries.)
3. The Ice Rink
Beautiful Canadians skate passionately to some music that I cared deeply about in middle school.
(Commercial where Apolo Anton Ohno is handed a peanut butter bar from Hershey’s and it confuses him but the man in the commercial with him is too full of pity to explain his mistake.)
4. Ice Rink Again
Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski sit on the side of the ice, resplendent in matching bedazzled headsets that look like you told two glamorous time-traveling aliens to blend in and they are doing their best. A third person is also there. His headset does not match. He keeps trying to say things, despite all signals that no one is listening.
Someone with sharp knives to his feet leaps into the air, spins around, and lands on one foot, like some sort of magical god.
Third Man: Oof.
Johnny: That will cost him.
Tara: He was supposed to do a Quintuple Garofalo there, followed by Six Widgets and a Twist, and he only did Eight Gallops.
Johnny: He will receive NO CREDIT for this element.
(Commercial for a new NBC show that might be “Friday Night Lights” or might be a show about a football team trying to put on “Spring Awakening” as its fall musical? I honestly think I have less information about the show the more commercials for it I’ve seen.)
5. The Ski Place
We are on a steep hill covered in snow. An athlete goes sliding rapidly across what is very clearly just a big stretch of ice and somehow manages to turn instead of flying off the mountain into the jaws of certain death.
Announcer: She’s really attacking the course but she is still 0.08 of a second behind the Italians! IN THIS SPORT, THAT IS A DECADE.
(An ad announcing that you’re about to see an ad for “Ready Player One,” followed by an ad for “Ready Player One.”)
6. Manmade Snow Place in an Unnatural Shape
Announcer: This snowboarder has been pursuing this gold medal like Captain Ahab after the White Whale for the past 12 years.
Interview with Snowboarder: I’m mostly very relaxed now and I don’t spend every waking moment obsessing about my past failure. Ha, ha! My friends say I should maybe let go of this but then I think … what IF.
She fails to get a gold medal.
(Inadvertently sad commercial featuring footage of her as a young child.)
7. The Dangerous U Packed with Snow:
Ladies balancing on boards look alarmingly relaxed and give fist-bumps before launching onto the course.
Announcer: This person is 34, which is to say VERY OLD, ALMOST AS ANCIENT AS METHUSELAH, and is widely considered to be a grandfather of the sport. She will now attempt to leap into the air, assuming her bones do not WITHER INTO DUST immediately.
(Commercial that, confusingly, features an athlete who is not competing in these Olympics at all because he or she did not make it out of qualifiers. The commercial tries to allude to this fact tastefully but doesn’t succeed.)
8. The Ice Rink Again
Adam Rippon appears. He speaks and the viewer is blessed. In watching him you realize that your eyebrows are not all that they could be. Mike Pence, wherever he is, feels sad and has to go shut a window.
Johnny: Here are the rivals. One of them has been expected to win the Olympics for the past several years, and the other is a 15-year-old upstart.
Tara: This doesn’t remind me of anything.
Johnny: Me either.
Third Man Who Is Still There: It is tough to fend off a fresh-faced competitor when you are a dry and withered scrap of bone feebly hoping to cement a legacy at the advanced age of 18.
(Commercial: PSA for moms, as a concept.)
9. Ice Rink
People play hockey like normal but it means more because our country’s honor is on the line.
The game ties. Then, thanks entirely to the thing you were loudly shouting on the couch, the Americans win. You did it! It was all you. It is good that you woke up everyone in the house and also did something to your neck that requires a hot compress.
(Commercial from Comcast promising one specific town that it will be able to have broadband.)
10. Ice Rink
Tara: What a skate. It had grandeur and purpose.
Johnny: I disagree. I thought the music was too big for it.
Tara: What? No! It had not just grandeur but also austerity, and of course, it was so undeniably plangent. She’s a very mathematical skater, but this time I think you’d be hard-pressed not to feel her grave, vast solitude.
Johnny: Do you think so? I thought it had suavity but not froideur. It was fragile, but it lacked naivete.
Third Man: (tries to say something but his microphone has been shut off)
Everyone waits on tenterhooks for an incomprehensible number combining a technical score and a random but very specific number selected by the judges to reflect something called “elements,” a word that means both nothing and everything.