Saturday, February 18, 2006

Olympic Thoughts

Just watched us lose to Slovakia 2-1, despite outshooting them by ten, and a couple of things popped into my mind. First, Slovakia is now loaded with NHL talent. And I don't just mean NHL players, but NHL all-stars. Go up and down their roster, and right now on paper they're every bit as good if not better than the United States. Hossa, Demitra, Gaborik, Svatos, Bondra, Satan, Chara, and Visnovsky are all all-star caliber players. And that doesn't include Ziggy Palffy and Josef Stumpel, who would have been playing if not for injuries.

Second, we simply can't finish. We have a lot of great playmakers, but not too many finishers. The ones we do have aren't finishing. Gomez, Modano, Drury, and Weight are all terrific set-up guys, but Guerin and Tkachuk aren't getting it done. The rest of our lineup on offense is essentially a lot of good but not great players. The goaltending has been good, but even that's not as reliable as it's been in the past. This team is in trouble. At this point, the only way we get in is by besting Latvia in goal differential. We have a comfortable margin right now, and I can't see them passing us in that department, but if they get a fluke win over Russia, we're probably done.

In other Olympic news, Anonymous in a comment that has been deleted and resurrected at least three times now asks:
And on a side note, can any of our non-X-game athletes do something worth a damn this year? Bode? Out. Johnny Weir? Out. Women's hockey? Out. Michelle Kwan? Out (though Cohen should win a medal).
I'm glad you brought this up, Anonymous. Couple of things about this comment. First, you really gotta hand it to the U.S. When we realized that we couldn't compete in traditional winter Olympic sports like the biathlon and luge, well, we just made them add new ones that we could win. Problem solved! Old fashioned American ingenuity.

But the other problem is this: Most of those aren't sports. Sure, the boarder-cross is a sport, but half-pipe? Half-pipe takes a place alongside other Olympic non-sports like figure skating. No sport whose winner is determined by the subjective opinions of a panel of judges is a real sport. Are they athletes? Oh, God yes, they're tremendous athletes. But so are the perfomers in Cirque de Soleil. That's not a sport either. It's an exhibition. High school marching bands get judged and win medals too, but that doesn't make it a sport. For something to be considered a sport (by me, anyway), I need to be able to tell who wins by looking at some objective measure of performance like a clock or a scoreboard, and what it shows should roughly align with what I've seen. I shouldn't have to be an expert in the nuances of the sport to be able to tell who's won. Sure, it's easy to tell when someone falls, but at that level, laymen can't generally tell the difference between two pefectly executed routines. Indeed, often it seems that person who performed best doesn't win.

And I'm not just picking on figure skating and half-pipe here. The same goes for ski jumping. As long as there's a style component to the landing, it's not a sport. Just give it to the dude who goes the farthest. I don't care if he flails his limbs throughout the flight and lands on his head. If he went farther, he should win. When you're skiing down a 120 meter hill, there's already a pretty good incentive to land cleanly. Personally, I wouldn't need the carrot of style points, because there's already a damn big stick waiting for me if I don't land properly. I'm willing to extend this to boxing, too, a judged sport that probably leads to the most controversy. If they want to change the rules to say that you must knock your opponent out to win, I'm on board. I don't care if it takes 3 rounds, 30 rounds, or 300 rounds. If the winner is determined by a bunch of guys who think they might possibly have maybe seen a jab land, or not, that's not good enough.

Anyway, I'm still a little pissed about the hockey game, so I'm going to start drinking.


J. Michael Neal said...

I'm looking forward to a Finland-Slovakia gold medal game. Let all of the highly touted powerhouses fall before the two teams that, very clearly, want it more than anyone else.

I've been watching international hockey as often as I can for about a decade, which, admittedly, isn't very often given that I live in the States. Oh, to have TSN. Still, in that time, I have *never* seen the Finns mail in a game. Not in the World Juniors, not in the World Cup, not in the Olympics. This obviously means so very much to them, that I can't help but root for them.

You look down the Finnish roster and, while there are a lot of very good NHL players, the star powers just isn't there. On paper, they should be getting run off the ice by the Czechs and the Canadians. As I said, though, they seem to want it more. And remember when the consensus was that, with Kiprusoff and Lehtonin out with injuries, goaltending was going to do the Finns in? How long ago was that?


Josh said...

And actually, the Men's Curling team is doing really well. They weren't supposed to, but they have made the medal round, where they only have to win one bonspiel (game or match) to get a medal and two to win the gold.