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Marissa Lingen

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Olympics post, take one [Feb. 14th, 2010|08:40 am]
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I love the Olympics. Love love love the Olympics. I am happy enough with the Summer Olympics, but the Winter Olympics are the really good ones. In the last few days, I've tried a new-to-me restaurant, gone to two orchestra concerts, spent time with loved ones, cooked, and read books. But never mind that! Olympics!

Unfortunately I had the chance to use my rallying cry ("Shut up, Bob Costas!") within the first half-hour of watching coverage. I also thought it was really tacky that they called in Tom Brokaw to try to get Bode Miller to pay penance for not displaying enough emotion at the previous Olympics. Shut up, Bob Costas! Shut up, Tom Brokaw! Also, shut up, Bob Costas's moire-y sport coat! Shut up, Bob Costas's Hufflepuff Vikings fan tie!

And also, a memo to Carnival cruise lines: we have lots of boats here in Minnesota, so we are familiar with come-ons of various kinds that start, "Come on my boat and...." Very familiar. And let me tell you, "Come on my boat and get a wedgie," is not one that has been tested out as a winner. Really not. Mostly people hear that and go on someone else's boat. Just FYI. markgritter was out of the room getting a snack, so he thought timprov and I were joking based on the type of water slide they were showing or the expression on someone's face. No: actual ad boiling down to, "Come on our boat and get a wedgie." No thanks. Really, I'm good here.

And also, where are my ads for apple pie? I don't want boughten apple pie anyway, but there are ads for America and ads for, no kidding, mom. Blatant, in-your-face, subtlety-is-for-wusses ads for mom. So if we've got mom and America, where is apple pie? Advertisers owe me this.

I wouldn't have been watching these ads at all if the Slovakians had not sent their women's Mites team to the Olympics. What, were the PeeWees busy, Slovakians? What was that? In one of our brief interludes of watching the hockey game instead of the main channel with luge and moguls and short track, timprov said, "Those girls don't even look like they're used to skating near other people." My alma mater was not a hockey powerhouse (we saved that for physics and tennis), but I tell you what, we'd have been ashamed to put a team like that on the ice. To take a page from Dr. Zoidberg's book, your hockey is bad, and you should feel bad!

It just offends me that these countries that have good men's teams cannot be arsed to actually teach their women hockey. Little girls are good at hockey if you let them be. They are tough and fierce and make awesome stubborn jaw-jutting little girl faces around their mouth guards when they are small enough that their goalie pads outweigh them by a factor of two. Their brothers there in Slovakia are playing decent hockey. Let the girls on the ice. Tell them it's good to be fierce and even better to be good enough that you don't lose, here, let me check since we turned back to other things...

...18-0? EIGHTEEN? TO ZERO? Come on, Slovakia. Come on. Your girls deserve better than this. Not that I don't like to see North American teams victorious. I do. I just like to feel like they would have had to have their heads in the game at least a little bit to get there.

Uff da Sam. 18-0. I can't even make a Bull Durham joke here. It's just too depressing. I will hope for better hockey soon. Very soon.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: jhetley
2010-02-14 03:04 pm (UTC)

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Our local university has a pretty good women's hockey team. They play to mostly empty seats. The men's team has sellouts . . .
[User Picture]From: adb_jaeger
2010-02-14 03:09 pm (UTC)

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My wife's reaction after watching about two minutes of the game was exactly the same as yours: "It looks like Mites on Ice".
[User Picture]From: daharyn
2010-02-14 03:14 pm (UTC)

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So I graduated high school from an actual hockey powerhouse (which has a special NHL list in its alumni newsletter these days), and I still don't know jack about the game (what? I went on an arts scholarship! An arts scholarship!), but I took one look at a couple of clips of the Slovakian team and got just as annoyed as you. Everyone should have the potential to play awesomely, no matter the sport. Everyone should be given the guidance to realize that potential, too.
[User Picture]From: buttonlass
2010-02-14 03:17 pm (UTC)

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I needed a laugh. Thank you very much.:)
[User Picture]From: jebbypal
2010-02-14 03:20 pm (UTC)

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I find that most sports would be much better if there was a channel or option to turn off the commentators...Mute is all well and good, but sometimes I'd like to be able to hear what's happening during a game without listening to the drone of commentators. Especially when they are focused on simply praising one athlete above all others in the field or what have you.
[User Picture]From: txanne
2010-02-14 03:26 pm (UTC)

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Yeah. I'm not looking forward to the US/China women today. I mean I am, but...I kind of hope we lose early so the commentators will talk about the game instead of which wholesome athlete's mother is bravely dying of breast cancer, USA, USA. (Is it just me, or are the commentators much more irritating in women's sports? It's like they dye their words pink, or something)
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-14 03:53 pm (UTC)

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Unless you are identifying as Chinese these days, the odds that "we" will lose early are pretty darn slim. The US is a women's hockey powerhouse. I'm really glad to see the Chinese fielding a team, but...not so much with the powerhouse.
[User Picture]From: txanne
2010-02-14 03:58 pm (UTC)

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Rats. I hate listening to American commentators when Americans are on the screen. All jingoism, no information.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-14 04:03 pm (UTC)

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I think that's less likely against a weaker team than against Canada, actually. US announcers in a US vs. Canada match are going to feel the need for their jingoism. With a less experienced team, if they're anything like last night's blowout, they're going to be going out of their way to praise the things the other team did right, because it's easier to be a gracious winner when you're absolutely sure about the winner part.

I am examining my reaction to Slovakia's suckage vs. the Chinese having a team at all, and I think it's that there are not lots and lots of Chinese guys in the NHL, and I think there could be. I think there's no reason why the Chinese can't play hockey just as well as anybody else if they want to. So when the Chinese field a women's team, I say, "Yay, more hockey for everybody!" But the Slovakians already have hockey. Just not for women, apparently.
[User Picture]From: txanne
2010-02-14 04:10 pm (UTC)

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I hadn't thought of that.
[User Picture]From: hobbitbabe
2010-02-14 05:00 pm (UTC)

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When women's hockey reached international awareness (first world tournament 1987), the Chinese sent observers, and immediately recognized that this was an event in which they could succeed quickly with the application of money. So they started training a team full time in Harbin, qualified for the world championships (back when there was only one tier) within a few years, and got as high as, I think, fifth. But then the eastern European teams started appearing, and even without much program depth they were better.

You're entirely right that Slovakia knows how to develop good hockey players and it sucks that little girls mostly don't get that chance. People outside the women's hockey community were astonished to discover at first that there was no Russian team, and then that the early Russian teams were embarrassingly ill-equipped.

The Slovakians are doing one of the easiest short-cuts to developing a competitive national team - they encourage their best players to play US college hockey and/or to play on Canadian club teams. This is easier and cheaper than creating the kind of sport culture at home where thousands of children get ice time and good coaching.

Every time I see an early-round blowout like this, I wonder about the balance between promoting development of the sport in those nations and risking losing credibility in the wider Olympic movement. After Italy, they decided to no longer allow automatic entry to the host team. But they didn't decide to move the tournament back from 8 teams to 6.

Um, I probably haven't talked to you enough that you're familiar with my credentials as a women's hockey organizer and advocate and daughter of same, so you're probably wondering where this lecture came from. I hope you won't take it amiss.
[User Picture]From: fidelioscabinet
2010-02-15 02:31 am (UTC)

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Thank you for expressing this. It sounds like the problem with a lot of programs, in a lot of sports--no one wants to start from the ground up. I am all the more impressed by the Chinese figure skaters, when I consider how much effort they have out in, over the years, into getting a pair that could possibly compete for gold.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-15 04:10 am (UTC)

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No, I appreciate it rather than otherwise.

Does the approach you're describing the Slovakians as using actually work for anybody? Is it a good stepping stone to a real program? Or is it just the cheap way that sort of frustrates people and doesn't really work out?
[User Picture]From: hobbitbabe
2010-02-23 03:04 am (UTC)

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It's too early to tell whether it's a useful stepping stone. But pragmatically, teams like Sweden and Finland probably need to stay within reach of Canada/USA to keep getting financial/institutional support, so sending a few players overseas is a necessary short-term solution.

Another interesting note is that Canadian national teams are always older than US teams, on average. In Canada, elite women players play on community club teams with no age limit. In the USA, most elite women's hockey is on college teams. So after the US players graduate, unless they can get coaching jobs or unless they move to Canada, they don't really have somewhere to play.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-23 12:21 pm (UTC)

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In fact, this is a major plot/character point in the book I'm writing: Janet Laird has just graduated from the U of M and did not make the US national team this time around. All she has wanted to do is play hockey, and she doesn't really feel ready to hang out and play casual rec league games as her only hockey.

I mean, granted, getting pregnant, having to save your boyfriend from the Queen of Air and Darkness, and becoming an ice-witch is a somewhat atypical reaction to, "What do I do without elite hockey in my life?"--one might even say drastic--but the problem is there all the same.
[User Picture]From: mkille
2010-02-14 03:51 pm (UTC)

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We supplied our own lines for Bob Costas last night. For example: "Also, this burlap sack I'm wearing is really itchy." And we thought Brian Williams was the most horrifying commentator, when he contrasted Olympic athletes with "most of us" who are "earnest and reasonable." Even Bob Costas looked embarrassed! And Tom Brokaw's outfit on opening night were worse than Bob Costas of yesterday, which is really saying something.

The speed skating and moguls were awesome, though. And I got to have any interesting conversation with a non-sports-fan about why sports are valuable for me to watch, which featured explanations of the goodness of speed skating and moguls compared to the dullness (to me) of luge, golf and televised poker.
[User Picture]From: ksumnersmith
2010-02-14 04:43 pm (UTC)

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CTV was showing bits of the hockey game between other things, and at the end of one such section Brian Williams said, "You know, it's hard to get excited about a game with a score like that." And it was true.

Did you see the bit where the Slovakian goalie just ... fell over? For no apparent reason? It made me sad, and that was when I decided it was high time for a snack.

(Then there was short track speed skating. I'm sorry, make that: Short! Track! Speed! Skating! Whee!!)
From: orbitalmechanic
2010-02-14 06:21 pm (UTC)

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I watched a smidge of the game with Violet and there was one point when the announcer said it must suck for the Slovakians "to have the Canadians passing the puck around so...freely." And twenty seconds later I though, that was a very kind way to put it.

That said, it's a lot easier for V. to understand what's going on (and see the puck) when, uh, only one team seems to be playing. So that's handy.
[User Picture]From: rmnilsson
2010-02-14 06:21 pm (UTC)

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So jealous. Our basement project is proceeding at a glacial pace and it's keeping us from watching tv on our tv, so if I want to watch the Olympics I have to do so on a computer over the internet, which is far less fun. Sigh.
[User Picture]From: fidelioscabinet
2010-02-15 02:33 am (UTC)

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NBC is pretty mercenary--if enough of us offer to pay a dollar to see Bob Costas stuffed in a bag they might do it.

I reached the point a couple of Olympics ago where I decided to just cheer for everybody.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-15 04:15 am (UTC)

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You are a nicer person than I am. I take instant and hearty dislike to a small number of people, not all that well correlated with nationality except that they're more likely to give me more information about American athletes that will make me instantly and heartily dislike them. However, I always want my favorites to win by doing well, not by someone else doing poorly.
[User Picture]From: skwirly
2010-02-15 01:47 pm (UTC)

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Random factoid: one of my coworkers (based in my company's Canadian office) has taken these two weeks off to volunteer at the Olympics. As the team host for... the Slovakian women's hockey team. Really.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-15 02:26 pm (UTC)

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Um. What an experience for your coworker.
[User Picture]From: hobbitbabe
2010-02-23 03:06 am (UTC)

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Wow. I was team host for the Japanese team at the first women's world championships ever. I'm so envious of your co-worker.
[User Picture]From: skwirly
2010-02-23 04:26 am (UTC)

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Word on the corporate email grapevine is he's having an amazing time. I'm kind of jealous of him.
[User Picture]From: mycroftw
2010-02-23 12:17 am (UTC)

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There have been blowouts in ice hockey for ever, and yes, for some countries, they eventually get better. The Swiss (men) are still a B-class team, but they scared the US, and stopped Canada from getting the "first loser" qualifier with their shootout loss (don't get me talking about shootouts. Please don't).

This year at the juniors, Canada beat Kasakhstan 16-0. Yes, eventually it gets a bit much (although the +/- tiebreaker, see Finland vs the Czechs, means they have to). The only difference, with the men, is that there's about 4-5 "top" countries, and another 3-4 A- class countries, to go with the two or three B-class countries in the 12-team pool. Unfortunately, two teams demote to the second division every year, and two teams from that second division get their year in the sun (made black by sheer volume of pucks aimed at them).

Because women's hockey as an internationally-notable sport is relatively new - the first girls that wanted to play hockey, instead of ringette, were fighting their battles when I was growing up - there are fewer development programs; and it's the second generation of players that can actually play. So there's Canada and the USA, and a distant look back to third place (Sweden or Finland, depending on the day). And from those two teams to the also-rans is an equally big gulf. But I'll give 12 years for there to be two powerhouses, two "win would be an upset, but not surprising" teams, and three or four "will lose, but will hold their own". And a couple of also-rans, who will be being beaten 8-0, 7-1...by the Slovak women. And it won't surprise me if I'm being pessimistic.

It's not fun to beat up a team; it's not fun to be beat up that badly; it's not really fun to watch. But Tomcikova let in 18, 6, 5, and 3 goals - on 67, 48, 45, and 32 shots. Apart from the Canada game (which she was still impressive, given the lack of defence), those are pretty decent save percentage totals, on a team that is totally outclassed. Given real defence in front of her, and you could see a totally different world. Give it a few years, and she'll get the defence.

Frankly, this is something I've never understood about US College Football - for the top teams, 50+point wins aren't unusual, and there are only about 5 "real" games out of the 11, games they have a chance to lose. But the stadia are still packed...
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-23 12:42 am (UTC)

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Are you sure I shouldn't get you talking about shootouts? I don't know you, you see, and it seems like it might not be a bad idea to get you talking about shootouts.

A 50+ point win in US football is like a 7+ point win in hockey--but I take your point, those are just not fun either.
[User Picture]From: mycroftw
2010-02-23 06:27 pm (UTC)

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Heh. Okay. What you responded to was a *short* post of mine to make a *single* point. One can see why you're the author and I'm the cryptographer...

I have lots to say about shootouts, but it can be summed up in one word: No. Slightly longer: Ties are a reasonable, valid result, except in the KO rounds, and at that point, 4v4 overtime until someone scores. Yeah, 5 periods to win the semi makes it harder to win the final, but, if that's how good your team is, there it is.

The only good thing - and I'm not sure it's actually good - about shootouts is that goalies have much more practise in stopping penalty shots, so they're less fearsome now when they happen in real hockey.

On blowouts - what gets me in football is that a) the blowouts get scheduled (apart from classic rivalries that are currently seriously biased, but still have to be played), b) that they sell out, and c) that there doesn't seem to be the furore over "fixing" the college football schedule (on this topic, at least - I realize discussions over fixing NCAA football are legion) that exists over inviting the also-rans into international hockey.
[User Picture]From: mycroftw
2010-02-23 12:28 am (UTC)

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Oh, and see if you can watch the Canadian coverage - at least of the hockey games. Not that our self-centredness is any better (it is, but still a bit much even for this Canadian, and much more so if one is not), but I've watched two games with U.S. commentators, switching between "you don't have to explain that to anyone over 6" (they do, for people who only watch two games of the Stanley Cup finals a year), "come on, even you can't be that dumb" (no comment), and "please, quit with the USA-ing and talk about the game" (also, no comment). Occasionally with "you know, that was a really good play <opponent> made. It wouldn't hurt to mention it, just once" thrown in. Frankly, I wouldn't bet against the Cantonese coverage I get on the multicultural channel being better (for mono-English speakers) than the American coverage.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-02-23 12:41 am (UTC)

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Yah, mostly we watch with the mute button engaged.

It made me saddest of all when we were watching figure skating, which is usually not my thing, and the US coverage was showing pictures of Sale and Pelletier (a.k.a. The Only Pairs Skaters I Have Ever Loved) doing coverage for the Canadians. So I knew that their commentary was there, and probably non-obnoxious, and I couldn't hear it. Feh.
[User Picture]From: mycroftw
2010-02-23 06:30 pm (UTC)

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Heh, that sounds like me and Russ Howard for the curling. I hated him as a player, as a commentator (and as a player - I don't hate him because he's *bad*), he's amazing. But consigned to the morning draws so the real commentators can get their sleep...