This is Diana Nyad for KCRW. And this is The Score.
The hype is on. NBC is hot on the countdown to the Torino Olympics. The grandeur all unfolds nine weeks from tomorrow. Trouble is, and I've made the point before, the Olympics lost a great deal of luster once the change was made, early 1990's, to alternate the Winter and Summer Games every two years. The old system of The Olympic Year, Winter Games first, followed by Summer Games in the same calendar year, hoisted the Olympics up on to a unique pedestal. They are, to my mind, considerably less special now that we seem to have Olympics after Olympics forged upon us in rapid-fire succession.
Didn't we just watch the summer athletes, Michael Phelps, et al, go for the gold in Athens? I recall the last day of the Athens Games, suffering through several promos for the Torino Winter Games...two years in advance! Don't these broadcasters get how overstimulated our lives are these days? We're prepping for the holidays at the moment. We're grouchy as heck that one arrogant idiot trashed the entire season for the Philadelphia Eagles. We're watching the Saddam Hussein theatrics in Baghdad. We're following the investigation into Sam Alito's Supreme Court nomination. We're desperate to know who's going to be Paris Hilton's New Year's date. These broadcasters are out of touch if they think we're going to get excited about an event that's more than two months away. Even this season's Super Bowl, which will kick off just a few days before the Torino Games, hasn't had a trickle of hype as of yet.
I can't be focused on who's going to win the half-pipe this early. Although a half-pipe interview at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002 was one of my all-time favorite Olympic moments. The NBC interviewer was a bit of a Dudley Do Right. Very buttoned down. He was pressing a young woman as to her chances in the final, talking ad nauseum, basically just to hear himself talk. She couldn't let him bluster on and she finally tugged at the sleeve of his pressed parka and said "Come; on, man, you've got to chill, man. It's a beautiful day. Look at the sun glistening on the snow, man." Dudley Do Right became sullen, as if the teenager had thrown his career down the half-pipe itself.
Now I will admit after watching Bode Miller in Beaver Creek, Colorado, last Friday that the alpine ski events in Torino could be highly entertaining. Miller was last year's overall World Cup Champion, the first time an American has achieved that in 22 years. Here's a kid who was home-schooled in the forests of New Hampshire. He grew up in a cabin with neither electricity nor running water. He's a throwback to so many of the maverick alpiners who threw caution to the wind, on the slopes and off. There certainly have been the suave, James Bond type skiers in Olympic history. The Jean Claude Killy's. But when we think of Billy Kidd and Bill Johnson and Tommy Moe and Alberto Tomba, we think of wild guys, hair never close to combed, living life on the edge, literally. Last Friday, Miller was determined to get his first win on this year's World Cup circuit. In his infamous, totally reckless fashion, he threw himself down the Giant Slalom course in Beaver Creek. The crowd gasped when at one point he careened out of control and went all the way horizontal, one hip brushing the snow's surface. Defying gravity and all orthodox technique, he somehow bounced back up, crashed his way down to the bottom, poles flailing, and wound up winning the event. The day before he took second in the Downhill event, in part because he chose a line that catapulted him 65 feet vertically into the air, not the fastest route. You get the sense winning is not always the Bode Miller objective. After that Downhill, when asked why he didn't follow the line that would have given him a faster time, he typically answered: "Yeah;, but who knows when I might ever get to jump that long and that far again?"
Miller is primed to compete head-to-head against another bold and brassy alpiner, Austrian Hermann Meier, in Torino. Meier missed the Salt Lake City Games because he nearly lost his leg in a motorcycle accident. But he's back racing down mountains again and that's a rivalry I am looking forward to come February.
I will follow Apollo Ohno, the short track speedskater, too. And the Canadian men's hockey team, with the Great One, Wayne Gretsky, directing that squad. The pros of the NHL will be on the ice in Torino and it will probably be more entertaining to watch them play for their own countries than in the melting pot of the NHL.
OK, it does seem apparent that I'm going to get in to the Winter Olympics. Just don't push it on us this early. And when the Games do come around, don't expect me to ever, ever appreciate curling. I've watched, as open-mindedly as possible, but that manic broom sweeping, with the intent to move that big puck just inches at a time, is totally lost on me. For now, let's say Ciao to Torino and pick that story back up in a couple of months.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW. And that's The Score.