There's Snow Games Like the Winter Games

If you are one of the 14 people who regularly read my columns, I guess I owe you an apology. It has been a little while since I last wrote. But I have a great excuse.

I was completely absorbed in watching the Winter Olympics.

Normally, the Winter Games interest me about as much as watching a how-to video on knitting sweaters for cats, mainly because, being a native and lifelong resident of the God-blessed sunny South, I have a difficult time relating to the competitors. I never could quite figure out why anyone in his or her right mind would want to dress up like a five and a half foot sausage and slide down an icy hill at the speed of sound on the equivalent of a couple of pine fence planks. Nor could I convince myself that grown men of free will and sound judgment would don selections from the Liberace winter collection and perform ballet wearing shoes outfitted with razor blades while zipping and spinning across a frozen swimming pool.

But this year was a little different.

The proverbial freezing of hell that accompanied the New Orleans Saints’ victory in the Super Bowl seems to have had meteorological effects far beyond Satan’s lair. The normally balmy South was subjected to a particularly cold (and oddly, wintry) winter. Even here in river country we saw snowfall three times. Quite honestly, I’m having the hardest time remembering the last evening the weather warmed up enough to venture outside comfortably in only my underwear, one of the better perks of living along the Gulf Coast.

The abnormally frigid temperatures prompted two major behavioral changes in me. First of all, I discontinued any excursions outside in my boxer shorts, much to the delight of my neighbors and, as it turns out, their ten dinner party guests—including three sheriff’s deputies and a lawyer. Secondly, I spent a substantially greater proportion of my time in my favorite chair with a remote in my hand, hopelessly searching for a renegade rerun football classic or some baseball game from a league with a citrus-fruit name. But it was not to be.

Fortunately, the combination of being held captive in a recliner and trying to keep my appendages from falling completely off of my body due to frostbite made me extremely sympathetic to the poor souls ordained as athletes in the Winter Games. So, for lack of anything better, I watched. And I watched. And I wondered.

Who in the world came up with some of these “sports”?

Bear with me here. Even a low-latitude dweller like myself has some appreciation for many winter sports. Hockey is a little like soccer. Downhill skiing and cross-country are classic. Figure skating is like dancing on ice. And speed skating is just roller skating for Eskimos. But I must say, I was scratching my head on more than one occasion trying to figure out what combination of cheap liquor or street drugs would ultimately spawn some of these competitions:
  • Curling – It is apparent to me that curling’s roots must be in shuffleboard. (I just imagine some snowbird clad in Bermuda shorts and black socks, returning from his annual pilgrimage to Panama City Beach, vowing to modify shuffleboard for play in the frozen tundra.) However, where did the other three players, particularly the “sideline screamer”, come from? And traditional shuffleboard is not complete without cheap cigars and light beer (widely known to be the great equalizer among shuffleboard players), of which I saw none at the Games, which may explain why curling did not hold my attention.
  • Ski jump – Ski jump is clearly an adrenaline junky’s sport. But who was the guinea pig for this one? This smells strangely of a bad combination of rye whiskey and two frat brothers competing for the affection of one blonde vixen at a ski lodge. “Yeah, Cal, I bet if I crouch down real low while going down the black slope, I can build up enough speed to hit that big hill at the bottom and clear the highway! That’ll get her attention. Here, let me have another shot from that flask.”
  • Luge – Did some bobsledder feel that things had just gotten a little too safe? Good grief! Actually, I wonder if the origins of luge are not entrepreneurship at its finest. Some owner of a water park in Minnesota was sitting around one Saturday in January trying to figure a way to make his investment pay all year long. “Hey, that’s it! We’ll run water down all the slides and allow it to freeze, then we’ll rent out small pieces of metal roofing and let people slide down on their backs. What a great idea!” Unfortunately for the first lugers, it would have been nice if Mr. Water Park had developed a braking system at the same time.
  • Skeleton – Skeleton has to be the craziest winter “sport” of all, so named I’m sure because that was all that was left at the crash site where the pilgrims of the sport met their fates. As much as I typically enjoy criticizing Yankees, I do not for a minute believe that this one has Northern origins. No, I am convinced that skeleton has its roots in south Louisiana, probably during the great freeze of ’89. Bubba and his pal decided to mimic the lugers they had seen on TV by dragging one another on a mechanic’s creeper down frozen rice field ditches, pulled behind a four-wheeler. Then Bubba got a great idea.
            “Hey, you know what’d be cool?”

            “What, Bubba?”

            “Let’s get the truck and go faster.”


            “Hey, you know what’d be cooler?”

            “What, Bubba?”

            “Lay down on our stomachs and go head first.”


            “Hey, can you do me a favor?”

            “What, Bubba?”

            “Hold my beer. I don’t want to spill it.”

I have no idea if this is exactly the way these events came into being or not, but it seems reasonable. Push the envelope. Just a little more risk. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to be going. It’s Bubba’s turn to drive the truck, and I have to get my helmet on.


Popular Posts