Oh, NBC

Feb. 7th, 2014 10:51 pm
Every single Olympics I optimistically assume that, bad though NBC's commentary will be, it cannot possibly be as bad as the commentary at the previous Olympics.

And then, we have tonight's NBC Coverage of the Opening Ceremonies - on tape delay, of course -- with this gem:

"19th century [Russian] imperialism is about to be swept away by two events -- the Russian Revolution AND THIS COMMERCIAL BREAK."

Brazil, YOU'VE BEEN WARNED. If you decide to deny visas to the entire NBC staff, we're behind you.
These are just random thoughts from the past few days:

1. Democrats, Republicans, WHY DO YOU HATE US SO MUCH? We are a SWING STATE! We could go for you EITHER WAY in this election? Woo us by STOPPING THESE HORRIBLE ADS.

(For those outside the state, this isn't so much the presidential ones, which whatever their myriad issues are at least not deliberately offensive to any thinking person. Yet. The ads for the Senate race, however, are disgusting, and need. to. stop. The congressional races are equally awful. Why not just go ahead and accuse one another of incest and serial killing while you're at it?)

2. The dressage ended up causing some controversy, with me saying that the horses were pretty, some people (not naming names) saying that the horses were silly, one cat saying that the horses were scary, one cat saying that the horses wanted me to scratch him (I must confess I find this dubious), and the fish quietly deciding to just float above it all, as it were.

3. But, ok, the dressage, alone, without music? Deadly dull. The dressage with music? SO WRONG AND ABSOLUTELY AWESOME. I mean, you have a horse dancing to White Wedding, and if this does not showcase everything completely wrong and completely right about humanity I don't know what does. It was beaten shortly after this when one of the horses danced to the Lion King, although I admit that I was saddened that this was not followed up by either a) a voiceover from Jeremy Irons or b) actual lions descending down and chasing everyone, which would have been fun.

4. Some people not naming names suggested that it would be more fun to do the pole vault without a mat on the other side. Or at least give more of an incentive.

5. Meanest sport: the modern pentathlon, where the athletes had to do horse jumping on a horse they met for the first time 20 minutes before riding the horse, and by "meanest" I mean "mean to the horse." I watched bits of this, and talk about unhappy horses with a general attitude of "what? Look, dude, we've just met. And let me demonstrate the problem by trying to buck and get you OUT OF MY SADDLE." Major contrast to the dancing horses.

And now, my favorite sports of the last part of the Olympics:

6. Mocking NBC on Twitter (what can I say? I have simple tastes.)

7. Synchronized swimming. The pairs were particularly impressive.

8. Rhythmic gymnastics! This consists of either one woman whirling and jumping around, or several women whirling and jumping around to the sound of music, with bonus occasional unexpected bits of juggling and jumping through hoops! I don't get it, but I like it. Hopefully this is going to end up on YouTube someplace, because the sight of the Bulgarian rhythmic gymnasts tossing golden balls around to the sound of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata is really something that should be shared.

9. Javelin! Men and women running, throwing sticks, and connecting to the ancient past! What's not to love? Other than NBC's rather pointless commentary on this one.

10. Pole vaulting! Thanks to the surprisingly decent pre-Olympics show from the local NBC affiliate, which essentially went around and found local athletes playing all of these sports, supplementing this with shots of athletes preparing to do various events, I learned a tiny bit about pole vaulting and about how the top pole vaulters have personalized poles designed precisely for their weight and ability. The poles are, to put it mildly, a pain in the neck to transport: the local news showed packing the poles (which takes hours); getting the poles on a truck; getting the truck to the airport; getting the poles checked into the airline; and then the real fun – picking up the poles at baggage claim and getting them through customs and security. And after all that you just hand your poles over to the Olympic people and hope the poles make it to the field. Erk.

Beyond this, I just liked the people flying through the air and then going THUMP.

Four years until Rio! I can't wait.
Ok, yes, the Olympics are over. But not necessarily my ranting! (And for those of you freaking out, no worries – this blog will be returning very shortly to its usual habits of completely ignoring sports.)

Positive comments about the actual sports will be in the next entry. )
So today's excitement involved four cops pounding on my door asking for a [name redacted], which was followed by the four cops coming in and searching the house, while calling for backup to search the small house in the back and the back yard.

The whole thing undoubtedly would have gone better for everyone if 1) I had remembered where the hell my state ID was 2) not attempted to replace my ID with a pile of mail one piece of which was addressed to someone else entirely and two pieces of which had the helpful identification of "resident", 3) the Grey One not startled everyone by thumping thump thump to the floor and running away to hide ("What was that?" "Oh, the other cat. Sorry, she's terrified of people." "I think we just have to check.") 4) I could've remembered which of the various keys in the laundry room actually worked for the back house, 5) the Little One not wanted to help, and by "help" he meant, "pick me up and cuddle me" a concept he best gets across by headbutting cops, and 6) Dispatch had not given the cops the entirely wrong address.

Fortunately two of the cops recognized me -- "Still using that electric trike?" -- which was enough to convince them to call Dispatch. Less fortunately the entire thing and trying to find my ID sent me into a pretty bad coughing fit and made me dizzy, which then led to an exciting conversation about calling for an ambulance and the strong suggestion that I should not be driving and I need to be very careful on the trike. After this they took off, to the great distress of the Little One since the cop wasn't petting him anymore. And before people ask, no I have absolutely no idea what all of this was about.

After that it seems kinda an anticlimax to mention that the latest Freddy the Pig post is up at Tor.com, and that I have found a new love in the Olympics, rhythmic gymnastics, mostly because that doesn't look as if anyone is about to IMMEDIATELY DIE and also does not involve running on broken legs, always a plus. Sure, a bit of an anticlimax, but we aim to keep this blog complete. Kinda.
Have just felt wiped the last few days. So, scattered comments:

1. I'm late on this, but the latest Freddy the Pig post is here.

2. Watching Olympic swimming reminded me of an old Sprague de Camp story, which pitted a drunken mermaid versus a sea lion at a swim meet, with the moral that sea lions are not exactly good at following swim meet rules, along with a swimmer's joke about the breaststroke. Which in turn got me thinking about mermaids and selkies again and rereading some mermaid stories, and thinking of sailors in the night, beneath the moon, hearing distant cries and not realizing that far from being the calls of mermaids or sirens, these were the calls of seals upon the rocks, meaning that their boat was far too close to shore and they were about to crash...

...3. So sometimes I can be a bit morbid in where my Olympics thoughts take me.

4. Let's counter that last thought with this. All together now, AWWWWWWWWWWW.

5. What I've seen of trampoline? TOTALLY FREAKING ME OUT. WHAT IF YOU MISS THE TRAMPOLINE ON THE WAY DOWN?

6. And then this.

7. And, for those of you who may have missed my expert coverage of the equestrian events on Twitter, I am here to tell you that the horsies are very pretty. Sometimes they knock over poles. The fans in the stands have colorful hair. Go horsies!

Why I am not invited to be an official commentator on this remains a Deep Mystery.
So mostly a few random Olympics links for your perusal:

1. Over at the AV Club, Ryan McGee takes on NBC's problematic coverage of the Olympics. McGee is particularly good at discussing the broadcast versus streaming options, and NBC's dilemma.

2. Weightlifter Zoe Smith explains to various people that she's not actually doing weightlifting to become attractive to men.

3. Never let a lack of boats stop you from rowing at the Olympics.

4. This Polish player plays table tennis without a right forearm, and is really good (link may not work outside the United States, or inside either; try Googling Natalia Partyka.) She will also be competing at the Paraolympics.

5. Eight badminton players suspended for trying the strategy of throwing games. Spectators are not getting a refund.

Possibly more later if I reach a coherent state.
But the Guardian is creating little video reconstructions of major Olympic moments...

...in Legos.

(NBC has photos here.
1. Regarding NBC's Sunday coverage, I can do no better than to quote Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel: "Dear @NBC, despite what you think, people will turn in in droves to watch live sports on a Sunday afternoon – Sincerely, the NFL." Yes. That.

2. Despite that and interrupted viewing anyway from various causes, the synchronized diving? Awesome. I am especially in love with the swimsuits from the Chinese diving pair which manage to be gorgeous, flattering and practical and probably one reason they won the gold medal, but also delighted to see two people absolutely thrilled to win a silver medal at the Olympics. Because, yes, that is an amazing accomplishment – just getting to the Olympics is an amazing accomplishment, for that matter – and doing so by spinning after leaping off a diving board, yay.

3. Gymnastics? Continues to terrify me.

4. Tor.com posts? Continue to get done with this in the background. Fiction? Still slow. Very slow. Frozen honey moves faster. But I don't really think I can blame the Olympics for this. (Or so I tell myself.) But I did finish a small piece of flash fiction this morning, quite by accident, which has done wonders for my mood.

5. H and I saw not one, not two, but THREE bald eagles yesterday -- one a juvenile. And a bunny rabbit quickly getting beneath the nearest cover. Today, the lawn was visited by a flock of ibises. We're nowhere near the flocks of birds Audubon described when he made his first visit to Florida, but I keep hoping we are inching back.

5. On a rather less pleasant subject, the Readercon Board of Directors statement is here, the petition protesting that statement is here, and yes, to confirm the multiple emails I have been getting on this, I believe Walling is one of the people referenced here I say "I believe" because it has been three years, I do have a neurological disorder which is playing havoc with my memory, and although Walling is a fellow Tor.com blogger, I did not connect the name with the face until Friday. Nor was he the worst person I encountered at Readercon.

I could say a great deal more, but I think plenty of pixels have been spilled on this already. Moving on!

6. Ben Payne has a few words regarding these sorts of blog pile ups here. (He says he doesn't mean me, but I'm pretty sure he does.)

7. And a more cheerful note, if you think YOU have problems, check out indignities suffered by this poor cat. Oh, the FELINITY.
Admittedly, I did not have high hopes for NBC's Olympic coverage to begin with. But, yesterday morning, I staggered out to realize that, gasp, NBC was doing something unusual: showing sports. (I KNOW!) The event in question was the men's cycling, which was pretty awesome even if the NBC commentators were under the impression that it was actually the Tour de France, but, CRASHES! Beautiful English countryside! Struggling at the last minute to win through all odds! Hampton Court! Buckingham Palace! YAY Olympics!

We took this as a decidedly positive sign, especially since this was followed by live showing of women's basketball (also awesome). Sure, we were also watching taped delayed Swimming Heats, but We Gained Expectations! NBC had Learned Its Lesson! We were going to --

We were going to watch an interview with a gymnastics coach, followed by a video of Emotional British People watching the Olympic torch race, while what NBC called the "marquee event of the day," Phelps versus Lochte in the swimming pool, was going on live. I took a nice long nap.

This pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day's coverage. NBC shifted from live coverage of various things to Touching Personal Stories. I caught up on some upcoming Tor.com reviews. Tape delayed events (I liked the rowing). More work on some Sekkrit Stuff. Bland Interviews. Tor.com reviews. Plenty of Commercials. No archery even as the rest of the world assured us that event had been pretty awesome.

The highlight, though, came later, when the local news, doing their best to put a happy face on the various murders and boating accidents of the day, breathlessly told us that they would NOT tell us who won the swimming race, to "keep the suspense" going. Literally five minutes later, NBC Nightly News popped up, announcing, "And the BIG NEWS OF THE DAY IS --" giving us the results of the race and a detailed commentary. (Sorry, those of you in Syria feeling that you are the big news of the day. Perspective, see?) So much for suspense.

Apart from the lack of suspense, the rest of the evening made decent enough background noise, what with men's gymnastics and swim races. I do find the gymnastics kinda freaky/scary to watch, partly because this was among my worst sports at school (I was unbelievably bad at everything except for the balance beam, where I was just very bad) and partly because I keep assuming they are going to fall and land on the equipment and never ever walk again and partly because part of me keeps thinking that bodies shouldn't move that way. Swimming, though, yay. Beach volleyball, though, painful (that's slamming on hard sand a lot.) Archery, though...well, can't comment on that. Not that I'm bitter.

You will notice that the hopeful word "Telemundo" does not appear in this post. This is because Telemundo abruptly stopped appearing on our TV. We're still getting Univision and a couple of other Hispanic channels, but Telemundo is only popping up in fits and starts. Alas; the short bits we've managed to see of Telemundo's coverage suggests that's been excellent.

(And yes, I assure alarmed readers that this blog will be returning to non-sports coverage after this Olympic interlude, and no need to worry that football season will be intruding.)
NBC: Fail

Ok, it's really almost a tradition by now: NBC gets the rights to broadcast the Olympics; NBC manages to screw up the Olympic broadcast, by not showing live events, skipping here there and everywhere, pausing to show us Interesting Things About the Host Country, which are invariably Never Interesting and always happening while NBC could be showing us, you know, athletes, failing to show most of the most popular events live, and showing only tidbits of some of the bizarre sports that we only get to see at the Olympics.

Even by these standards, however, NBC managed to sink to new lows last night. How low? Let's review:

1. NBC decided not to cover the Opening Ceremonies live, on the basis that They are complex entertainment spectacles that do not translate well online because they require context, which our award-winning production team will provide for the large prime-time audiences that gather together to watch them.. (Canada, meanwhile, managed to show both the live Opening Ceremonies and an edited version for primetime, apparently in an effort to make more Americans ignore the bitter bitter cold and decide to head up to Canada to live anyway.)

2. NBC also blocked United States ISPs from live streaming from international coverage. (Despite this, I should note that certain employees of Universal Studios, Florida, which is currently partly owned by NBC/Universal, were watching an apparently excellent live feed from Costa Rica. Fail. Other people at SeaWorld got a hold of a BBC feed, but, to be fair, SeaWorld isn’t an NBC property.)

That would have been fine – after all, NBC did pay millions for the rights to show this, except --

3. NBC then failed to show the entire opening ceremonies. Missing were what the BBC calls a moving dance tribute to terrorist victims, complete with a rendition of "Abide With Me," (NBC cut into this with an inane interview with an uncomfortable looking Michael Phelps who clearly just wanted to leave, like, now); several parts of the history of British music number; bits of the Arctic Monkeys, and bits of the Parade of Nations. So, NBC refused to allow Americans to watch the Opening Ceremonies elsewhere and then refused to show Americans all of the show. Yay.

4. But even that was dwarfed by commentary that was, even by NBC's standards...jaw droppingly awful, prompting the immediate #NBCfail twitter tag. And which meant that instead of noticing much about the ceremony, I found myself snarking about NBC's coverage instead.

What I thought of NBC's commentary, live. Cut to save some of you from having to endure it a second time. To get a real sense of how bad it was, skip to the bits about the Parade of Nations. )
From several alert readers, more dispatches from the ongoing squirrel-human war:

1) Now, they are disguising themselves as helpful superheroes. Do not be deceived! Just look at those stances!

2) And, they are biting our Olympic athletes. In a decidedly alarming foreshadowing of the abysmal reporting we can expect from NBC on the Olympics, this is how they chose to portray the event; this is an alleged picture of the miscreant.

3) But finally, a bit of a counterweapon.
From multiple sources this morning, reviews of the little one eyed plush figures. Read through at least to the bit about Lord Coe, and prepare to feel very sorry for little Paddington Bear.

(Speaking of which, is anyone selling a little Paddington Bear in an Olympics T-shirt or trying to play table tennis? That would be kinda awesome, and he could still wear the hat.)

Having said all this, my excitement about the Olympics has been kinda tempered this morning by very sad reports from the Guardian that, gasp, the opening ceremony was deemed "too long" and therefore we aren't getting any stunt bikes. Left unsaid, was NBC's additional observation of "not enough time for lengthy commercial breaks and dubious commentary from Bob Costas where he attempts to explain to Americans where the hell Swaziland is or fills us in with various "interesting facts" about whatever country is marching down the thing now before immediately cutting away to the commercial before we get to see any of the considerably more interesting countries. So I am all sad. Also wondering exactly how NBC is planning on showing the Opening Ceremony, beyond "badly" (this is a given) given the timing -- I'm assuming we're going to get one of those annoying tape delayed things again, after I've already read how ridiculous/wonderful/no stunt bikes everything was on Twitter.

While I'm chatting, in the extremely unlikely event anyone from NBC is reading this, I'd just like to remind them that the vast majority of people, even American people, tune into the Olympics to watch, you know, the Olympics, and not your upcoming little segments about "weird moments of British life." I know some of this is coming, since you can't help yourself, NBC, but can we try to restrict it this time around?

...having said that the local news assures me that many of the events will be shown the same way they were in 2008, on the internet with very little commentary. Keeping my fingers crossed that NBC will actually do this.

...having said that, I promise, this will return to a mostly sports-free blog mid August or so.
1. Via Charlie Stross and [personal profile] supergee, the Olympics are selling alien plush toys as Olympic mascots. Yes, yes, OFFICIALLY.

I'm telling you, what with the lasers, the missiles, intense fights over chips, and now, ALIENS, this is going to be the Best Olympics Ever! Unless, that is, you happen to live in London (sorry, guys) or unless, that is, you happen to be stuck with NBC's coverage (if it's any consolation, Brits, consider that your revenge.)

(I do have to say that I'm kinda in love with the alien in the Changing of the Guard uniform. THIS IS AWESOME. Exactly what it has to do with running, swimming, and table tennis -- well, you got me, but it's awesome.)

2. This one, I admit, is mostly [profile] dzuummod bait, but The Daily Show, in between Viacom squeaking, has put up Louis C.K.'s response to the discussion about his response to Daniel Tosh's rape joke and the subsequent discussion. Having said that....not sure if the link works in Canada, but I suspect this interview will be up on a YouTube channel shortly not facing the usual takedown notices.
Let's all gather together and applaud the efforts of Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong the Alpine skier from Ghana. He may not have won a medal. He may not have even placed particularly high. But he was one of only 49 out of 102 starting skiers to even finish both slalom racers. And he first saw snow in 2002.
Ok. After Thursday, I was almost ready to cut NBC a break. Almost. Mostly because – are you listening, NBC? – Thursday night NBC took the wise step of showing LIVE SPORTS COVERAGE and reducing the number of irrelevant episodes about polar bears. I had, I decided, been a bit hasty in my judgment of NBC.

And then came Saturday night, where NBC shifted to showing us irrelevant video about, god help us, the Canadian Mounties, who, last I checked, are not an Olympic Event. This was, I am assured, to Teach Us About Canada. (I am continually amused by NBC's attempts to paint Canada as a foreign and exotic country, and not as the land of low drinking ages that I know and love.*) This was but one lowlight in an evening that largely went like this:

Men's short track: LIVE! ON TV! TREMENDOUSLY EXCITING!

Women's short track comes on. NBC immediately cuts to taped coverage of other events.

Men's short track: LIVE! ON TV! TREMENDOUSLY EXCITING! General agreement that we need more short track. Fortunately, the women are coming up –

NBC immediately cuts to taped coverage of other events.

This was the evening where [profile] tgregoryt fell asleep while watching, and really, it was difficult (for anyone other than an infuriated small grey cat) to blame him. But all of this paled to the utter incompetence that was the Sunday program. For those that missed it, and I am not blaming any of you, here's what happened:

Sunday afternoon: The Olympics debut a fabulously exciting new event, ski cross (basically, four downhillers leaping down the ski cross track at the same time, allowing you to really watch them race, plus, flying jumps and crashes.) Of this, we see only the qualification runs, which include just one skier shooting down the ski cross track at one time, not allowing anyone to really watch a race, live. The Olympics also have the Super Combined, where American Bode Miller took gold. Of this, we see nothing live, because, NBC has decided to show the Czech/Russia hockey game instead.

Which meant that, Sunday evening, since NBC had, it decided, already shown us hockey, it would instead fill the evening with taped coverage of the Super Combined and Ski Cross and more Inspiring Stories and occasional live shots of "Hi! I'm an ice dancer! Laugh at my costume!" until suddenly a freaked out NBC realized that it was missing the real story of the night, abruptly cutting into taped bobsled footage (with assurances that we'd get back to that) with "Whoops! So sorry we absolutely failed to show you the most exciting event of the night!" Grr.

Not that I'm a major fan of hockey, but, grr.

(For those reading in shock, and wondering, what has happened to this blog, rest assured, we will be returning to our usual sports free blogging in one more week – until 2012.)

* I do freely admit to my Canadian readers that far too much of my impression of Canada was formed in merry carousing in Montreal. Where, I must add, we encountered surprisingly few Canadian Mounties given what we were doing.

Olympics

Feb. 16th, 2010 04:07 pm
1. First, a quick memo to AT&T: In the future, you might just want to ask NBC just how frequently your commercials will be aired, and if it's going to be about "once every ten minutes" you might want to consider investing in the funds to create a second commercial. It's not exactly that I'm against your rather pretty image of a snowboarder landing on the moon (though, even as a speculative fiction writer who likes to think of people snowboarding and skiing on the moon, I had to question some of the physics behind this, though, now that I'm on the subject, how many of you would LOVE to see a huge dome put up on the moon where we could have low gravity halfpipe competitions and REALLY see some figure skating? That's what I thought. Get to work on it, NASA. Moving on…) it's that last night I could literally sing along to this commercial, I'd seen it so many times. You might want to follow the lead of Visa, which at least presented different, if otherwise equally annoying, commercials.

2. Here's what happened in the live afternoon coverage: cross-country skiing. And a lot of it. Some people have (rightfully, as events would later prove) complained that NBC is showing only the American athletes and an occasional winner or two. This was not at all true for the cross-country skiing coverage, which featured pretty much every single athlete in the race, along with increasingly desperate attempts by the commentators to fill the air space.

Meanwhile, NBC was failing to show any live coverage of the ongoing downhill or snowboard cross races. Any - in fact, we originally assumed that the downhill had been cancelled again – instead, choosing to show taped coverage of these events after we knew the outcomes.

Now, for cross country ski fans, this was probably an excellent thing. At the same time, and not to be cruel here, is NBC really trying to tell us that they think that more people would tune in for endless cross-country skiing instead of the wild and unpredictable snowboarding? Clearly not, given that they wanted to make sure that snowboarding was shown in prime time.

3. After this, we got the local news, which reminded me just why I no longer watch the local news. Memo to the local Orlando NBC affiliate, WESH: Not enough is happening in the central Florida area to fill an hour of news. Even an hour of fluffy news. This is not, mind you, a bad thing, and a considerable improvement over the "watch that homicide" and "watch us remove this little baby alligator from a park" and "evil nail salons" segments that filled the South Florida news, but, let's just sum up the lack of news in, say, a half hour instead of an hour, shall we?

4. On the other hand, NBC, enough major world events happened last night that you should not have had problems filling up a freaking half hour of what was supposedly a world news show. Moving on!

5. The actual coverage started at 8. It went more or less like this:

Bob Costas said something uninteresting.
Commercial.
Video of one athlete.
Commercial.
Score of one athlete.
Commercial, commercial, commercial.
Touching segment about Overcoming Tragic Odds.
Commercial. Commercial. Commercial.
Bob Costas said something uninteresting.
Commercial.
Video of one athlete.
Commercial. Commercial. Commercial.
Polar bears!
Commercial. Commercial. Commercial.

Here's what we didn't see: most of the downhill racing, most of the snowboard cross, anything of the speed skating except for some tch-tching about the ice quality and video of coaches looking concerned. But, polar bears.

Now, I have to admit, I love polar bears. To the point where at least two readers of this won't go to Sea World with me any more because "you get just a little TOO into the bears." Polar bears are about the most awesome bears ever, except for cute brown bears and shy black bears and fearsome grizzly bears – I love bears. I am all about bears. And on the plus side, that schedule provided plenty of opportunity to head to the bathroom.

But the Olympics is not about bears. (Maybe it should be, but that's another entry.) It's about athletes.

Not that you'd know it from the NBC coverage.

********

On a brighter note, however, the gold and silver medalists in the pairs skating were absolutely astounding. (Pretty much everything in figure skating qualifies as something I can't and could never do, so, jaw dropping.) And I have gained a new obsession in snowboard cross which might just take over the downhill as my favorite Olympic event.
So in a couple more weeks it is entirely possible that this blog will undergo one of its rare forays into, gasp, sports. Nope, not because of the Superbowl, which, as per long tradition, I will not be watching, but because of the upcoming Winter Olympics.

The Summer Olympics intrigue me because of all the generally obscure sports that I never ever see outside the Summer Olympics and that I can never do or have never done. (I did do a bit of archery, in the sense that I pulled on the bow several times and completely missed the target every time, and shot a rifle once and fell flat on my back, and I have a magnificent record of losing at swim meets, but to put it mildly I was abysmal at gymnastics, volleyball, basketball, tennis and track and field events and my knowledge of horses can be summed up in the following sentence: "Oooh, that horse is pretty." And so on.) So it's like watching an exotic or hated (gymnastics! Volleyball! ) series of sports, in between watching television cameras focus on the men's speedos in the diving competition. Yay! And ping-pong. (The internet and live streaming of the more obscure Olympic events, without the focus on Sports Americans Are Winning made the entire thing considerably more entertaining. Memo to NBC: I cheer on Americans much more loudly if I have the chance to see their competition. Thanks muchly.)

The Winter Olympics thrill me because for the most part (except curling) these are sports that I've participated in or at least tried out once or twice, and was sometimes even decent at (although a couple of tries at luge was enough – that is one terrifying ride). Which means that with the exception of some of the more technical aspects of figure skating (I really can't tell between a salchow and a toe loop and a lutz and whatever – as far as I can tell, the skater just jumps into the air) I know what's going on.

Which is a long introduction to discussing women's ski jumping – one Olympic event that I haven't tried.

And one event that once again, will not be open to women.

In theory, this decision has been made on "technical grounds." The technical grounds are largely dismissed here, but come down to one point: men competitive ski jumpers outnumber women competitive ski jumpers.

But this statement inevitably creates a chicken and the egg issue. Training for most Olympic sports is expensive. At the very least, time spent training is time that cannot be spent at, say, a regular job. Back when I was a varsity swimmer, for instance, I trained for two hours daily – and always, without fail, lost. The winning swimmers trained for at least four hours daily (this includes weight lifting, diving practice, jogging/walking, and sometimes yoga or tai chi). Swim meet days were pretty much useless for anything else; they meant taking a bus and doing warm-ups and cheering on teammates and racing and cheering and then heading back; sure, I always intended to study but it never worked out that way. This was all time that could have been spent on a part time, income earning job, which is why so many college athletes depend upon scholarships – trying to train, study and work isn't impossible, but it's difficult. And, important point, swimming is a comparatively cheap sport. With skiing, you have to add the costs of transportation and equipment. In college, I was never more than a five minute walk or fifteen minute bus ride away from the pool; I was an hour away from the nearest ski slopes, which certainly didn't have competitive ski jumps or freestyle slope training opportunities; really training would have meant a long car ride or airplane ride. Skis, ski boots and snowsuits cost more than swimsuits. Lift tickets usually cost more than pool access. And while it may look easy enough to just crouch and swoop down a competitive ski jump and fly through the air, accomplishing that without risking utter knee destruction requires additional weight training. Your knees won't survive without surrounding muscle and strong ligaments.

Which means that athletes need sponsors. Fair enough, but as the woman in the first article notes, if she hasn't a hope of competing in the Olympics, she can't get a sponsorship. Or, for that matter, a scholarship – these are tied to Olympic or popular sports.

Which is why I have an issue with the "we don't have enough women ski jumpers." My guess is, many potential women ski jumpers have turned to other thrilling ski sports such as downhill and freestyle because there they can get the financial support they need. Turn women's competitive ski jump into an Olympic event, and I'll bet anything you'll find plenty of women who want to compete in it.

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