Every four years another Winter Olympics comes. And each time, I wonder why so many people watch it.

Paul Wong
The Daily Grind<br><br>Steve Jackson

For some unknown reason, millions of Americans are glued to their television sets, hoping to capture every precious moment of bobsledding and giant slalom.

If you chose to tune in to NBC (or CBC if you want superior coverage and stories on Canadian athletes) you will learn more about curling and speed skating than any human being should ever know.

I realize that many people may not feel comfortable making an anti-Olympics statement right now.

The World Trade Center flag will accompany the athletes as they march during the opening ceremonies tomorrow night. The Games are being held in Salt Lake City and the media are trying to turn snowboarding and luge into the most patriotic week of sports in years.

But this isn”t about patriotism Afghanistan is not going to lace up and skate against Chris Chelios and Team USA.

This is about random Norwegian athletes with unpronounceable names like Yevgeny Plushenko and Yorgo Alexandrou (I don”t know who they are either that”s the point.)

This is about high-tech, bright-colored wind suits that enable skiers to fly down the slopes with reckless abandon.

It”s just like NASCAR. I don”t want to watch, but I”ll be sure that I catch the crash highlights on SportsCenter.

Every year these same athletes compete in the World Championships. They have all the same feel-good stories, and they hold all the same events.

But even on their biggest day of the year, these guys could only find television time on ESPN2 at 3 a.m.

But when the Olympics comes along, NBC needs to interrupt every sitcom to remind us that they are covering the biggest sports story around.

Who do they think they are taking to? A bunch of sheep?

Do they really expect us to believe that the same events that nobody cared about two weeks ago are suddenly more important then the NBA or college basketball?


The highlight of the coverage will be as always figure skating.

Unfortunately there is no Nancy Kerrigan vs. Tonya Harding issue this year.

But this event still featurs pretty dresses, plenty of skin and musical accompaniment.

I shouldn”t have to say this, but I will.

Figure skating is not a real sport. Figure skating is art.

“Artistic impression” is part of the scoring process. If your hair is messed up in a real sport, you don”t lose points.

I will not argue about this.

Don”t get me wrong I don”t hate all the winter sports.

As a native Michigander, I have spent many a fun afternoon at Boyne Mountain. And I would like nothing better than to be able to fly like Jonny “Super Air” Mosley.

But the fact is that most of the winter sports don”t make for good television.

For example, you can tune in this weekend and watch the biathlon. In this “sport,” a bunch of people go running around in cross-country skis and shoot guns.

That”s just too exciting for me I”d rather be watching QVC. Unless you live in Siberia, I guarantee that you have plenty of better choices for entertainment.

Despite all my complaints, there is one event that I will be sure to watch this year.

They call it the skeleton race. Basically, this is head-first luge. I”ve never seen someone travel 80-90 miles per hour down a bobsled track with their face inches away from reconstructive surgery. That is something I must watch but just once.

I wish I could be excited about the Olympics taking place in my own country.

It seems like something that I should care about.

But I don”t at all.

Steve Jackson can be reached at sjjackso@umich.edu.

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