Athletic Breeds

Athletic Breeds

Athletic Breeds
An email conversation about the news of the day.
Feb. 12 2002 11:32 AM


Seth, I don't like the canned taste of these Olympics, either. A live telecast would have made our Olympics even more of a national event, I think. There would have been televisions blaring in offices and factories and bars, and more people checking watches and schedules, interrupting their lives to see sports history made and to feel in a small way that they are, for whatever it's worth, part of that. The smallness of that feeling is all the smaller with the canned goods we're given, but I suppose that by condensing the games, NBC also condenses the audience into saleable chunks, and expands the profit. Time is money again. So it goes.


I don't get the impression you want to talk about the World Trade Center flag and the kind of patriotism you see at the Olympics, so let's talk about Jim McKay. I regret poking fun at that old fellow. These are his 12th Olympics, I think, and he seems one of the few elements here not perfectly packaged. So he stutters now and then. So he forgets what he was going to say. That sort of thing makes me feel at home. If Jim McKay looks like he's about to fall dead, it's only evidence that he's yet alive. In that regard, I've never been sure about Bob Costas.

I should probably say something about the sports at the Olympics. Halfpipe was added four years ago to rejuvenate the Olympic image, and somehow it doesn't seem that surprising to see the U.S. men's team capture all medals in the event. The halfpipers are a different breed of athlete. Their faces are very young and without the traditional Olympic look of people who have been through years of painful training. They're simply doing their own thing, you know, and if judges choose to attend, well, man, it's a free country. But I would think that for Danny Kass and the rest, the renegade bit might be harder to play now that the judges have lifted them to the podium, and they have an understanding of what it means to be embraced by the entire world.

Jamie Salé in figure skating didn't get the same feeling yesterday, and don't you feel sorry for her? The desperate look is very vogue in figure skating, and the awareness keen of the judges' presence. And when the judges told Salé that she and her partner were only second-best in the world, there she was on the stand, sobbing. I think the quality that makes a champion rarely creates a gracious human being.

I cannot leave without mentioning Georg Hackl's glorious silver in the luge. It was the fifth medal of his career in that event, and Mr. Hackl, whose appropriate nickname is "the White Sausage," was referred to as "one of the great Olympic athletes of all time." Not to take anything away from Mr. Hackl's contribution to luge, or from luge's contribution to humanity, but I cannot hope to defame the Olympics any better than that.