On evening, in 1992, during the Albertville Olympics, I discovered my then 4-year old son attempting to recreate his own Olympic endeavor. Having stacked his Playskol table and two chairs atop a sofa, then placing a cardboard box over the stack, covering it with a a white blanket and climbing to the top of his makeshift mountain, he yelled "Look, Mommy!" just before he attempted his first -- and last -- indoor luge run. While his ingenuity and swiftness in engineering his sliding track amazed me, I should not have been surprised that he would have thought of it. After all, my television had been set to non-stop Olympic broadcasts for the duration of the Games, as it has been for every Winter Olympics since I first fell in love with Jean-Claude Kielly in the 1968 Grenoble Games.
I'm not much of a sports fan, by every four years, I learn the names of the sliders, the skiers, and the skaters. I brush up on the subtle differences between a triple lutz and and triple toe loop, learn the number of medals in each discipline, follow the made-for-TV rivalries, listen intently to the melodramatic stories of Olympian lives. During the day, I can now feed my addiction with the internet -- pictures, videos, commentary -- and when I'm near a TV, NBC, MSNBC, CNBC are on heavy clicker rotation.
Why do I like the Winter Games so much? Perhaps because I watch athletes do feats that I know I could never attempt. For example:
Skiing - My sharpest memory of my one attempt at skiing is that I went the weekend after Michigan changed its drinking age from 19 to 21. My friends abandoned me on the beginners' slope, and I abandoned the slope after two attempts and bruises that didn't fade for a few weeks. How anyone can remain standing on long strands of fiberglass confounds me.
Skating - I can skate forward. I can skate backwards. But, having honed my best technical skills on the neighborhood Overbee's Pond when I was eight, I'm best at the triple ass spin, a technique frowned upon by the Skating Federation.
Sliding - I mostly do this in my car in the winter. At speeds far slower than 90 miles an hour. Without cowbells. Sometimes I think I deserve style points, though.
Freestyle & Snowboarding - I have never been that hip.
Curling - Until last weekend, when my husband had the curling matches on for most of the day, I would have said that brooms on ice scare me. But, having realized that CNBC stands for Curling. Nothing But Curling, I realize that this may have been a sport that I could have aspired to. The strategy of the game intrigues me. Still, trying to sweep stones over "pebbles" into the "house" seems a bit odd. I do like the tradition of the winners buying the losers a drink. Quite sporting.
I never had any dreams about being an Olympian, though for years I would tell people that the 'J' in my surname was pronounced as in "Jean-Claude", and I had my hair cut in a Dorothy Hamel Wedge. Two weeks of races on fast sleds, jumping over obstacles of snow, jumping into the air, flipping head over heels on purpose, or racing downhill in roller-derby fashion: watching people trying to go fast and defy gravity while on slick surfaces will always grab my attention. Good thing that the Winter Olympics are only held once every four years; it would be too much excitement for me if it were more frequent.