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 Texas : Features : Humor / Column : "Stumbling Forward"
The Wrong Side of the Mountain
by John Gosselink

Alfred. E. Newmanlink
I don't know about you, but I'm being eaten up with Olympic fever. I've spent a good two, maybe three, minutes voluntarily watching the Winter Olympics, most of which time I was frantically searching the couch cushions for the remote.

Have I gotten older and crankier or have the Olympics gotten weirder? As I remember them from watching as a kid, the cold Olympics had cool events with guys with really skinny skies flying off huge ramps and not dying, down hillers doing 80 down the side of a mountain, wiping out, and making that neat cartoon "growing snow ball" thing, and ugly, big hipped figure skaters knee-capping the pretty ones. Now that was some good watching.

What little I've seen of this year's Olympics (where are they being held? Turin, Torino, Toledo, Tallahasse maybe?) has either confused me or made me feel uncomfortable. Have you seen the event where two guys in skin tight body suits lay on top of each other and fly down a bobsled track on an unseen sled? At least I hope there's a sled under there.

This raises all kinds of questions. First, how does one decide he might be good at laying on another guy and sliding down a mountain? Do they take turns being on the bottom? Are their particular skill sets which determine top or bottom? Is it possible to watch this event without making a joke referencing a recently Oscar nominated movie about really friendly cowboys and then chuckling uncomfortably?

Then there's all these new snow board events competed in by what looks like kids from our skateboard park. There's a lot of unnatural flipping, unkempt hair, and "attitude." Lots and lots of "attitude." I don't even know what this "attitude" is, poor hygiene maybe, but the announcers use that word a lot. I prefer screaming at these kids to get off the sidewalk to watching them 360 granny kick on the half pipe.

I have no idea what that last phrase even means.

I've gotten the impression they're making up events as they go. It feels like an old Judy Garland / Mickey Rooney movie in which the neighborhood kids have to put on a show to save the old firehouse.

"Hey kids, gather up! Let's put on a sporting event and charge admission! And not those boring old events. Hugo, Sparky, Frankie, and Blue, you all ski down the hill bumping and pushing Ben-Hur chariot race style. Suzy and Chuck, do that figure skating thing you do, but we'll call it 'ice dancing.' And wear something sparkly. Billy and Jo-Jo, ski slowly around a pasture, stopping occasionally to shoot at something for no apparent reason. The rest of you, just lay on top of each other or something. Hooray, we can do it if we believe in ourselves!!"

If we're going to make up events, why not have some that Southerners can relate to. How about the "drive on icy roads with Texans" mile. Since none of us know how to drive correctly on ice - "Ma, is it turn into or turn away from a slide? Ah forget it, I'll just punch it and hope for the best. Hey, who put that embankment there?"- this combination destruction derby / Miracle mile will test contestants' reflexes and will to survive. This is surely a ratings getter.

We could also have "last second pipe wrap" dash in which participants simulate driving home from work and hearing that the first hard freeze of the winter is going to hit that night. The contestant than has 21 minutes before nightfall to run around all hurley-gurley trying to find insulation tubes, old towels, anything he can find to wrap as many exposed pipes he can. The losers have to stay up all night listening to 14 faucets drip and imagining they hear pipes bursting.

For our more creative athletes, we could have the "pathetic attempt to persuade yourself a light icing is a snow fall" biathlon. In the first event, the athlete would try to persuade a parent / school administrator / employer type authority figure that a blizzard has hit the area and that school / work should be canceled. Then, in order to continue this charade, the athlete must attempt to make a snow man with a couple of handfuls of dirty ice scraped from the corner of the driveway. Contestants will be penalized if they make "snowballs" to throw at each other since, since this "snow" is mostly just ice and gravel, which would hurt.

I know these are a stretch, but if we're going to weird up the Olympics, let's really weird them up. With one appendum. Though it's weird, I'm still of the mind that the less events in which we have people laying on top of each other, the better.
John Gosselink
"Stumbling Forward"
February 28, 2005 column

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This page last modified: February 28, 2006