Sociologists and reality TV have proven that we love an underdog. And if that underdog is prone to crash and burn, we love them even more.
Think about that clumsy ski jumper in the opening credits of the old Wide World of Sports. His agony of defeat – flipped like a turtle, arms and legs akimbo, hurtling to his doom – epitomizes our greed for an ungainly exit.
And since that was the last time anyone saw a 90-metre ski jumper actually wipe out… well? OK, that’s why we need to fix the Winter Games.
C’mon, who remembers any of the gold medalists from Calgary in ’88?
But flops like Eddie the Eagle and the Jamaican Bobsled Team are scarred into our memory. Because they were underdogs who delivered the goods.
And isn’t it what that mumbo jumbo Olympic Latin is all about?
“Citius, Altius, Fortius”. Roughly translates into “Wipeouts are more fun to watch than athletes crossing the finish line standing up,” just like “ad hominem” means “I can hum the jingle to this commercial” and “a pedibus usque ad caput” is “public transit is unreliable.”
I want to see the luger ditch the sled and bodysurf the course. I want to see biathletes shoot at the Olympic mascots instead of some target. And, in the name of Toller Cranston, I want to see the figure skaters blindfolded.
1. Let all the racers go down the course at the same time.
Be gone any notion of racing against a clock. That isn’t racing. It’s timing. Tick tock… oooh, isn’t that fun to watch! The clock is not a competitor. Other competitors are competitors. This isn’t cycling.
A rare kudos to the IOC for stealing an X Games ploy of having snowboarders (and for the first time this year, skiers) race against each other on the same course at the same time, binding to binding in a tight pack. Let downhill skiers and figure skaters do the same. Mass starts = more wipeouts.
2. Make the opening ceremonies an event.
We’ve made the opening ceremonies such a big deal, why not make them the first chance to medal, thereby justifying the $1,100 price tag for seats? Judge teams on apparel and poise as they enter the stadium. The Bay or Roots could be the first company to win a medal. Each country’s team has their entry procession choreographed to music written by a composer native to their land. Canadians could enter to “The Safety Dance”, some BTO, or Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”. Germans get The Scorpions or Kraftwerk. Austria? How about some Haydn? Sorry, Norway, it’s ’80s castoffs a-ha for you.
3. Biathlon is silly. To watch or to do.
The whole idea of people in shiny, skintight suits anywhere but Vegas or a Bee Gees reunion – let alone cross-country skiing through the woods, stopping to shoot at a stationary target with guns boasting enormous scopes – is pitiful. Release all the competitors into the woods at once with paintball guns. They can ski around and shoot each other. Last one standing wins gold. Another version would see competitors ski into the woods and try to hunt animals. Winner is the first one to bag Olympic mascot Squidji.
4. Get real. Bobsled, luge, and skeleton are just tobogganing, something kids do when their parents make them go outside in winter.
Chuck the latex superhero suits and wind tunnel-tested sleds worth more than a Lexus. Replace with the trusty wooden toboggan, the kind that dink on the back of the Canadian five-dollar bill is riding. It seats four just like an official bobsled and you can get one at Canadian Tire ($39.74 on sale). Replace luge and skeleton with Krazy Karpets. And don’t run the races down some refrigerated waterslide, let ’em challenge the moguls’ ski course. Wipeouts galore.
5. A brand new event on the moguls’ hill: inner-tubing.
National teams of six pile onto an over-inflated tractor tube. Everyone starts at once. Try to pull and shove other teams off their tubes. First one to the bottom with all six riders still hanging on wins. Bonus points if a team chugs six beer each before the starting gun.
6. The 90-metre ski jump event has the most potential for carnage, but is skewed toward safety.
Solution: handicap the competitors. Instead of those skis as long as picnic tables they jump in now, strap on Super Slider Snow Skates… or make ’em jump on that Krazy Karpet. Better yet, do it on snowboards! Best though, a random audience member is picked to participate. That’s the real Olympic spirit — true amateurs going for gold. And some instant celebrity for our lucky contestant. Think of the Twitters, the YouTubes, the large hospital bills.
7. Snowmobile racing.
NASCAR of the North. Already a legitimate sport in Manitoba and the Dakotas and an opportunity for sponsors to attract the “Bubba” element, a group of hard-drinking fans not normally enamoured to the nuances of Olympic sport. Also another good chance for Canada to medal because competing nations would have to enter their own, homegrown brand of Ski-Doo, which must, like NASCAR, be liberally festooned with decals for auto parts suppliers. Imagine the Russians on a Lada-made ride or the Czechs on a Škoda.
As much of a sport as darts or distance running and comes with the street cred of the famous Iditarod race. Even has an Olympic pedigree. Dogsledding was a demonstration sport at the St. Moritz Games of 1928, though called skijoring and swapped sled for skis. Bonus: politically correct tie-in with indigenous culture. Humour bonus: countries must supply dogs tied to their national heritage. Germans would use dachshunds, poodles for the French, the English, bulldogs and so on. Pity the Mexican sledder with a team of Chihuahuas to mush. What do you use for a whip? Dental floss?
9. There’s no Winter Games equivalent to the decathlon.
Because it’s intolerably dull, takes several weeks to complete, and carries the burden of a points-scoring system so ponderous and complicated that no one has yet figured it out (10,000 points for fifth place in discus? Howzat?). However, some measure is required so that braggarts like the Norwegians and Finns can listen to their dreary national anthems again and again. Since there are only 15 categories of sport in the Winter Games anyway, let competitors try out every sport and call it the “pentekaidecathlon”. Add a couple of extras in there that they don’t know about, like judo and swimming.
10. Each athlete has to draw the event they’re to participate in from a hat during the opening ceremonies.
Put some of that rank amateurism back into the Games. Every athlete will become an amateur when they have to take on a sport they’re totally unfamiliar with, without time for training or nauseating TV ads with that feel-good tinkly piano music that tell us how great some bank is for supporting them. Watching an overweight curler have to butt out his smoke and strap on the goalie pads for hockey, checking out a figure skater getting shot by a biathlete, or seeing anyone not versed in 90-metre ski jump pushing off from the top of that icy ramp… now that’s quality viewing.
“Eddie the Eagle, CBC.ca
“Spread Eagle” and “Atomic Wipeout” pdbreen/Patrick @ flickr. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.