s
s
Sections
Search
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Login

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

LoginSubscribe

I am not a dedicated watcher of the Winter Olympics. But I do tune in occasionally, and when I do, it’s frequently not wonder or excitement or patriotism that I feel. It’s a deep sense of mystery. Why are these skiers stopping to shoot things? Why are these siblings doing a sexy dance on skates? Why are these people sweeping the ice with brooms? Did the housekeeping staff not show up?

I’m not bashing the athletes. Well, maybe the curlers. Otherwise, these Olympians are amazing. Some of the world’s greatest thighs are on display at the Winter Games. There is real power and grace in winter sports. I just don’t get them. I feel no connection. And I know I can’t be alone.

California has regal mountain ranges and (say a prayer) lots of snow, and therefore lots of skiers and snowboarders. Those activities make sense to us. And hockey is familiar, of course. It’s sort of the weird uncle at the family table of North American sports. But some of these Winter Olympic events are utterly foreign. They seem lifted from a mythical world of ogres and tattered fur coats, where people survive by trapping martens and digging up berries from beneath several inches of snow.

It’s fun, as a novelty. But it’s not compelling, because we don’t have the shared history to appreciate men arduously chugging 50 kilometers on skis. And come on. All that snow. All that ice. Event after event. Enough of the white background already.

People, it doesn’t have to be like this. The Winter Olympics don’t have to be an Arctic Gladiators-style carnival act. They can be great sports. We just need to move some things around.

We’re so used to our current sets of alternating Olympic Games that we have come to see them as normal. The more you think about the groupings, though, the more bizarre the whole system appears.

The Olympics, in total, offer a vast breadth of athletic competition. There are events on fields, on courts, on courses, on tracks, on mats, on rinks, on slopes, on horses and bicycles, in rings, pools, rivers and harbors. Olympians run, jump, punch, grapple, kick, dribble, shoot, glide, ski, pedal, sail, swim, dive and row. The variety is staggering.

Now consider how we have chosen to divide the events. In the winter? The things on ice and snow. In the summer? Eeeevvvverything else under the sun and under the lights. It’s as if we decided to divide the United States into separate territories (and let’s face it, that may be only a few years away), and one side got the vast expanse of beaches, mountains, valleys and deserts, while the other side got Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Do you know how many sports are currently represented in the respective games? The summer has 42. The winter has 15. This is seasonalism at its worst.

The Olympic sorting makes semantic sense because we have chosen to stage the games in winter and summer. Winter = snow and ice, so what else could we do? But it would be just as logical to hold the Spring Olympics, made up of swimming and diving, and the Autumn Olympics, made up of every other damn thing.

And so sports fans such as I wait impatiently for the Summer Games to roll around every four years, so we can get a glimpse of Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, Kevin Durant and a thousand other intriguing athletes, performing eclectic feats of brilliance. And on the other four-year cycle, as sort of a snack to keep us going, we get a block of ice.

We can do better. Bring your brooms and clear a path, folks. It’s time to rearrange the games.

There are a couple of sports that are meant for the Winter Olympics, but getting them there would be problematic. I’m talking about basketball and gymnastics.

Moving basketball to the Winter Games would invite a major kerfuffle with the NBA and other professional leagues, just as we have witnessed occur between the NHL and its players in recent years. Moving gymnastics would screw up the TV ratings. That sport and figure skating attract massive audiences, and the overlap must be great. I’m a realist, so hoops and uneven bars stay in the summer.

Here, on the other hand, are some sports that should flip from August to February:

WRESTLING: The average wrestler is pastier than the Pillsbury Doughboy, because he/she spends virtually every waking hour in the gym. This is not a summer activity, as the local prep calendar will confirm. The move would also have the benefit of adding something to the Winter Games that might have been recognizable to the ancient Greeks who spawned the Olympics.

BOXING/JUDO/TAEKWONDO: Pummeling an opponent’s face is timeless and not beholden to the calendar. Move all of these combat sports to the winter.

SWIMMING AND DIVING: There’s something appropriate about high school kids swimming at an outdoor pool in the sunny springtime. But Olympic swimming long ago moved into indoor aquatic centers. The pool events could immediately become the second most popular at the Winter Games.

VOLLEYBALL: This is a fall sport in high school. NCAA women play it in the fall, NCAA men in the spring. But all of that is largely to avoid direct competition with that other event involving tall people and nets — basketball. Volleyball is tailor-made for the Winter Olympics.

WEIGHTLIFTING: Unless the lifters are all oiled up and this is taking place on Venice Beach, it should be a winter competition.

BADMINTON: Unless this is taking place at a backyard picnic in the host city, this should be a winter game.

FENCING: Indoors. Winter. Duh.

HANDBALL: I don’t know what this is. But it should be part of the Winter Olympics.

Now we’re talking, right? Imagine how much more compelling the Winter Olympics would be with an Andre Ward, a Katie Ledecky, a Rulon Gardner. Think of the ratings boost for NBC with a deeper lineup of sports.

If it ever happens, you will enjoy a true feast of athletic prowess every fourth February. Meanwhile, enjoy your block of ice.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

Show Comment