There's a segment of the population, a fairly sizable segment really, that doesn't have the slightest interest in the Winter Olympics.
Disinterest is a valid perspective, I suppose. There's no rule that says a person has to be mesmerized by this stuff. You're free to watch college basketball or "The Real Housewives of Bemidji" or turn off your television and spend all day and night commenting on political blogs if that's what makes you happy.
But it's kind of fun if you let yourself go, to get lost in the zaniness.
I wasn't always willing to be amused by this stuff. I think I've experienced all the phases of Winter Olympics watching during my adult life.
At first, I was determined to be anti-Olympic in the winter. Didn't like non-traditional sports. Didn't like the fact that TV always wanted to make it an us-vs.-them event. Didn't like the heart-warming side stories. Didn't like that they were forcing this stuff on us during the middle of another important NBA midseason. Didn't even like cold weather.
I was anti-, because it's fun to feel superior. Holier-than-thou has its own personal rewards. But eventually I had one of those "Green Eggs and Ham" moments. I took a taste.
Say! I like to watch them skate and ski!
I do! I like them, Jean-Claude Killy!
So I will watch some snowboarding.
And I will watch Peggy Fleming.
And I will watch them curl a stone.
And I will watch Vonn break a bone.
And I will watch them here and there.
Say! I will watch them ANYWHERE!
And it grew from there, and I wanted more and more cross-country skiing and speed skating, and I became angry that information wasn't always readily available (oh magical Internet, where were you in the early '80s?) and annoyed that others weren't as enthusiastic about these things as I was. How could something be front-page news one week, then seemingly non-existent for the next four years?
And so I'd mock people who couldn't identify Matti Nykanen.
I'd chastise the "sports fan" who was more interested in the Pro Bowl than Hermann Maier.
I'd lecture on the enduring luginess of Georg Hackl.
I'd ridicule the unenlightened who didn't comprehend the majesty of Torvill and Dean.
Yeah, I made that last one up. But the rest... I was a winter sports snob.
But really, how much mileage can you get out of that? I have no problem being counterculture. But seriously, you can't feel like you're bucking the social mainstream when NBC comes along every four years and extols the virtues of the half- pipe.
So I lived with the fact that winter sports were going to disappear from our consciousness for stretches, but that they will periodically return and dominate the television for two weeks.
It can be mind-numbingly fun. These aren't sports we follow closely, and mostly they're performed by people we can't even identify. Heck, sometimes we're not even sure about the rules. But really, that makes it easier to enjoy the sport in the abstract. Can you believe how tired that biathlete looks? Is that guy in the back of the bobsled gonna end up with whiplash? Do you think it's possible to perform a figure skating routine in normal clothes?
It turns out it's a lot easier if you don't take this stuff too seriously. If you treat it like a 17-day miniseries, you can be amused by the high jinks, dazzled by the speed and beauty, and sucked in by the occasional melodrama... and still have time left for the NBA All-Star Game.
Ah, acceptance, welcome to my living room.