Good Games Despite Underachieving Americans
February 17, 2014

The 22nd Olympic Winter Games from Sochi, Russia are half over. Shaun White didn't win the halfpipe, Shani Davis didn't win the 1500 meters, Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso didn't win the downhill, and Lindsey Jacobellis had no one between her and gold and fell. Again. It's not exactly the stuff they put on Wheaties boxes, but it is the stuff that makes sports so compelling and entertaining.

I have endeavored to watch as much Olympic theater as I can. Through Sunday night, I have seen all of the NBC afternoon and prime time coverage, all three men's hockey games, and even the men's curling match between the USA and Canada (MSNBC edited that one down to two hours). I haven't watched all the broadcasts as they aired, and my TiVo has gotten quite a workout, but I have watched.

I love the Winter Olympics. Biathlon is fun to watch. So is slopestyle, cross country, Nordic combined, and ice dancing. Two weeks every four years is plenty, but you still get an appreciation for what those athletes do, and how difficult it is to do it. The other thing about the winter games compared to summer, is you can watch the finals of every event if you want to. That's almost impossible to do during the summer games. The Winter Olympics award medals in five or six events per night. The summer games can have over a dozen or more each evening.

It's not really about the Americans for me. You have to admit that the shootout hockey win over Russia was way cool, and the US sweep of the medals (Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy, Nick Goepper) in men's slopestyle was phenomenal. But how about the Netherlands getting all those wins in speed skating, Darya Domracheva from Belarus winning three biathlon golds in the same games, and home town Evgeni Plushenko leading Russia to the gold medal in the team figure skating event, but then having to withdraw from the individual? Good stuff, all of it.

Through Sunday, Team USA has won four gold medals, but none in your “traditional” Olympic contests. Christensen won in Men's Ski Slopestyle, and the other three first place finishes came in Snowboarding—Sage Kotsenburg (Men's Slopestyle), Jamie Anderson (Women's Slopestyle), and Kaitlyn Farrington (Women's Halfpipe). Nothing wrong with those events certainly, but for those of us who have been around a half-century, it's a little surprising not to see big finishes in other events.

Aside from a preliminary round hockey win over Russia (which you have to admit was quite a good one), it's the sliders who should get all the notoriety. Utahn, mother of two, and now silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace got a lot of well-deserved attention in Skeleton, but it seems that just days after becoming the first American luger to win a medal, people are already starting to forget about Erin Hamlin. That's too bad, but it all part of the show. One week down, one to go. Stay tuned for women's figure skating—coming up next.

Suits vs. skis: You may be familiar with the United States' lack of success in speed skating, and many have theorized that Team USA's new top-secret super-aerodynamic uniforms aren't working, and are the reason to blame. The athletes wouldn't directly say it, but Shani Davis said this after finishing eighth in the 1000 meters, “I felt great, but I just simply couldn't get up to speed. I skated as hard as I could possibly skate and I was eighth. We have to go back and figure out exactly what it was, but for sure, it wasn't me.” The United States switched back to the old suits, and Davis went out and finished eleventh in the 1500. NBC analyst Dan Jansen had a more realistic explanation, saying that the Americans have not performed well at low altitudes (the skating arena is at sea level)...After getting blown out by Sweden and several other countries in cross country, a Norwegian newspaper called the Norway defeat the biggest debacle in the nation's sports history. Ouch!

Bad timing?: When two speed skaters finish in a dead heat, the timing can be extended from a hundredth of a second, to a thousandth to break the deadlock. In alpine skiing, if the time is the same to the hundredth of a second, it's declared a tie. That happened twice in each sport, but Bode Miller ended up getting a bronze in the Super-G, when maybe he wouldn't have otherwise.

Well said: NBC's Todd “two runs, you only keep your best score” Harris after Lindsey Jacobellis fell with the lead in the Snowboard Cross, and failed to win a medal for the third time: “ the cruel and unpredictable serpent of snowboard cross rises up and bites Lindsey Jacobellis of the United States yet again.”

The eye has it: NBC's Bob Costas returned to the prime time anchor chair tonight after missing five nights with an eye infection. Matt Lauer filled in for the first two nights, then Meredith Viera for two, then Lauer again. Costas introduced himself tonight with his usual humor, saying he was “filling in” for Lauer and Viera.

Mom update: It was one month ago tonight that she fell out of bed and injured her leg. She was very upbeat when I talked to her today, and hopefully she'll be leaving the physical therapy center soon. She has a doctor's appointment tomorrow (Tuesday), and hopefully we'll know more after that.

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