A Hazy Shade of Winter Olympics


I know it’s blasphemous to many of my fellow Americans when I say that I don’t care for most Olympic sporting events, especially the Winter Games. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I hail from East Texas – where the closest we get to winter sports is on that one day every decade when an inch or two of snow falls and we throw out our backs trying to luge down the driveway while destroying our complete inventory of Rubbermaid storage container lids.

Despite my distaste for Olympic competition, there are aspects of the overall spectacle that even a detractor like me can appreciate. Let’s begin with the opening ceremonies, which can only be described as an extravaganza of unbridled artistic pageantry that leaves most spectators somewhere between “Wow!” and “Whaaa?”

This year’s opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea, included a special visit from Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. When the American delegation marched into the Olympic stadium to the refrains of South Korean pop hit “Gangnam Style,” the expression on Kim Yo Jong’s face belied the fact that she was either severely constipated, disgusted by the stench of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s hair pomade, or resentful that the Americans’ entrance music was the same tune she sings to console her big brother when one of his intercontinental ballistic missiles explodes on the launch pad.

Another memorable feature of this year’s opening ceremony was the entrance of the Tongan delegation, led by a Chippendales dancer in full, shirtless, coconut-oiled glory. I have to admit that I was impressed, even though he stole my idea for next year’s Valentine’s Day gift to my wife.

The opening ceremony always culminates with the lighting of the Olympic patio fire pit. This year’s lighting was especially moving as two athletes, one each from North and South Korea, held the Olympic torch and ascended a flight of stairs together before passing the torch to celebrated South Korean figure skater Yuna Kim. Surprisingly, the American toy industry then took center stage as Yuna set fire to a giant Slinky that extended to ignite the cauldron sitting atop a white, porcelain plant stand.

Although I usually find something more interesting to do while the Olympic sports are on television (like tightening our toilet seats or clipping my daughters’ pet hedgehogs’ toenails–no, really!), my wife is always entranced by the figure skating competition. In an effort to spend some quality time with her, I do make an attempt to share her enthusiasm, but my focus is not on the romantic beauty of the skaters’ routines or the fluid grace of the athletes themselves. Instead, this year I’ve been speculating on whether commentator Johnny Weir’s hair has reached an altitude sufficient for it to be declared space debris. I also enjoy producing a variety of (sometimes) fake bodily noises at strategic moments throughout the skaters’ performances. (You should hear the sound I make for the triple Salchow.) This behavior elicits lots of chuckles from my youngest daughter, but my wife often responds by silently, but firmly, handing me a screwdriver and toenail clippers.

One of the few Winter Olympic sports that truly catches my interest (until the first commercial break, anyway) is curling, a sport often played by guys with dad bods yelling at rocks while flinging them toward other rocks. I can’t help comparing it to bowling, a sport at which I excelled as a pre-teen. While the other kids were basking in the athletic glory of football, baseball and soccer, I could be found in a nicotine-infused bowling alley throwing strikes and spares amid mouthfuls of cheese fries from the snack bar. (I even had my own bowling ball–which meant that a girlfriend was out of the question.) I can’t say that I have any inkling about the rules for curling, or the reason for all of the sweeping, but I admire any sport that combines athleticism, dexterity, and janitorial work.

Notwithstanding my facetious attitude toward the Winter Olympics, I do take pride in being represented by the amazing American athletes who’ve sacrificed their time, energy, and sense of fashion (per the Ralph Lauren fringed gloves) to compete on behalf of the U.S.A. I sometimes overhear the National Anthem being played on the T.V.–when we haven’t lost to chemically enhanced Russians–and see Old Glory raised above the awards podium, and my heart swells with pride for my country. In these moments, I sometimes even feel compelled to stand and place my hand over my heart–as soon as I’ve put down the hedgehog and toenail clippers.

– Jason (Jase) Graves is a married father of three daughters, a lifelong resident of East Texas, and an Aggie. He writes about home and family issues from a humorous perspective, and his blog is published at https://susanjase.wordpress.com. Other than writing, his primary hobby is sleeping as late as possible.