Sports fans barely have time to digest the beer and chicken wings from Super Bowl Sunday before this Friday, the day the world launches into the two full weeks of snow-dusted Alpine competition we call the Winter Olympics.
But for all of the non-Nordic earth folk (a.k.a. most people on the planet), the Summer Olympics are a lot easier to relate to than their winter counterpart. Why? Because for summer sports you don’t need perpetually snowy mountains, frozen bodies of water and outrageously expensive equipment to give them a try. All you need to run is a pair of shoes. All you need to swim is a bathing suit and a lake or pool.
Winter games are exotic and interesting - kind of like white Bengal tigers - but just like those albino rarities people seem to be more curious about the Winter Olympics than they are loyal fans of its events - which may be why the ratings are so much lower than the summer games. Summer games, on the other hand, are like dogs. They’re easily accessible and almost everyone can say they’ve experienced some of the sports first hand.
To be fair both have their offbeat events (who could forget the long-lost warm-weather sports Live Pigeon Shooting and Solo Synchronized Swimming?) but the Winter Olympics take quirky to a whole new level. Seriously, who can say they unwind on the weekends with a nice game of curling? Or who’s been in - or even seen for that matter - a bobsled? Or been luging? Outside of the Alps where would one even practice for such events?
"I assume the only reason we have them is so that white people feel relevant in sports," Daniel Tosh said on Comedy Central. "Because other than that, the only thing the winter Olympics show me is which country has more rich white kids. What's it cost to go skiing — $900 a day?”
Yeah, we’ll admit it; the Winter Olympics may be a little more elitist than summer games – but we still enjoy the hell out of watching them.
Here are some other things we like (and a few things we don’t) about the Winter Olympics, the eccentric stepchild of the summer games.
LIKE – Figure skating! If you’ve ever been ice-skating you know how much practice it would take to pull off graceful triple-axels and toe-loops - or any jump for that matter. Plus we like the music and the costumes are fun to look at (especially the men’s costumes, which we would argue were swiped from Liberace’s closet.)
DISLIKE – Winter games don’t seem to embrace the spirit of the Olympics like summer games do. No matter how rich or poor you are, you can run, swim, and lift weights (or other heavy objects you pretend are real weighs). That’s why the summer games boast over twice the participating countries, and why since the Winter Olympics’ inception in 1924, competitors from only six countries have won nearly two-thirds of all the medals.
LIKE – The danger. Winter Olympics sports are way more dangerous, which makes watching them more exciting.
DISLIKE – We think the winter games should have never been moved. Before the early 90s the winter and summer games happened on the same year, which made the Olympics more of a monumental experience. Now the impact is diffused with the staggered system.
DISLIKE – We don’t have a frame of reference for what we’re seeing with winter sports. Sure, we know that if a figure skater or snowboarder falls it’s “bad” and they’ll lose points - but for elements of style and technicality we wait glassy-eyed for commentators to tell us what happened.
DISLIKE – Fewer events. Winter Olympics has less than half the events of the summer games.
LIKE – We would have never had such cinematic gems as Cool Runnings without the Winter Olympics. (And in fact, the Jamaican bobsled team is competing this year for the first time since 2002, which makes the games that much more intriguing.)
So brush off those tater skin crumbs and get ready to couch surf your way into the 2014 Winter Olympics, being broadcast this year from Sochi, Russia. We may not totally understand them, but we can certainly enjoy the ride.