The Winter Olympics and Snowopolis the Second

I am so into The Winter Olympics that it’s not even funny, and it’s probably not healthy either. I could literally sit on the couch all day, every day while the games are on and watch every single sport. So obsessed, don’t care. Obviously that’s not a feasible option in real life, which really ticks me up, but (not so) luckily for me, we have been snowed in for the thirty thousandth time this season. It sounds like I’m exaggerating, but if you lived here, you would completely know that it feels like at least that long.

The first few snowstorms we didn’t bother to name. The one we got hit with just a mere week and a half ago we named Snowopolis. Hence how we are now on Snowopolis the Second. Snowopolis the Second is actually just a mini version of Snowopolis the First and the crazy snowstorm prior to that, which had a whole life of its own and need not be named. This snowstorm actually deserved no name at all, far more a name of its own, which is why its name is a rip off of the first Snowopolis. (Did you get all of that?) The only reason this snowstorm has become of importance is because I live in a township run by people more likely to get drunk and fall asleep in the snow than to actually actively weather a township through the storm.

Our township has been complaining since November that they are running out of salt. However, more than two months later, they have not actually gotten any salt. To the township, this also means that there’s no need to even go scrape the roads with the snowplows. Instead, they decided to impose a Declaration of Disaster Emergency for our township in a snowstorm that is a mere sliver of the ones we’ve been getting. The roads are not bad at all, and this is actually the best our road has been following a snowstorm since they started rolling in in early November. (Yep, you read that right, our township was nearly out of salt right after the snowstorms started. This is because they are famous for salting our roads in warm conditions when there are no snowstorms being predicted.) Our road is always the worst of the township roads and the last road touched. Everywhere else but our township, including areas that have been hit much, much harder than us, are open with no Declaration of Disaster Emergency so much as pending. So when I say the people who run our township are idiots, I am really not making a mountain out of a molehill.

There’s zero reason for any of this, and to make matters worse, they’re sticking us indoors until Saturday. That would be fantastic, except I have to get to the store tomorrow. We are living in a house with nothing to eat and have run out of dog food today, which has never happened before. I have medication to pick up. I am not typically an irresponsible adult who does not pick up things ahead of a snowstorm. There were duel problems with this scenario, however. One was that it is impossible to shop without money, and I wasn’t getting my money until today. Money is really, really tight and I didn’t have the spare money to go out and pick up food without charging it on a credit card, which I only use for emergencies. The second is that the news did not call for this snowstorm, claiming it was going to miss our particular area and we were only going to get a “light dusting” of snow today. I saw no reason to run out on Wednesday and unnecessarily charge things on my credit card when I could go out today and buy the stuff forthright. It snowed so hard today that it was dangerous to even attempt going out. Tomorrow is going to be a perfectly clear day, but the township is saying we aren’t allowed to leave, even though it was just dandy if we went out in the snowstorm today. No Declaration of Disaster Emergency was issued during all the snow. I have news for the township. I am going out tomorrow, because I refuse to starve and let my dogs starve for absolutely no reason.

What the township is failing to see in this instance isn’t only that they have little reason to declare a Declaration of Disaster Emergency, but that you can’t tell people they can’t leave their houses, even if they have an imperative reason to do so. Just because someone doesn’t have to go save a life with their superhero like job doesn’t mean they don’t need life saving things, such as medication and food that they were, by no fault of their own, unable to obtain prior. If given a hard time, I will simply explain to them that I am on disability and must go get medication. If they’d like to argue with me, they can take it up with my doctors and maybe gain some common sense in the process. You can not, under any circumstances, keep people from getting things they absolutely need to survive. And yes, I am cranky, because I’m living off of the little bit of food we do have in our house. Also, we’ve been going back and forth with the township over the issue of them leaving a sheet of ice at the bottom of our driveway, instead of properly plowing it out, as well as them fixing a pipe that belongs to the township and is causing the ice, so I’m already pretty ticked at them.

The only shining star in my day that lacked communal common sense is the Olympics. It’s safe to say that when I saw the weather man had lied to us yet again, I curled up on the couch for a day of Luge, Figure Skating and Slopestyle. I literally can not help myself. There has to be some kind of therapy for this. I’m beginning to fear that when the Olympics are over that I’m going to spend the rest of the year in my psychologist’s office looking for condolences over my lost love of The Winter Games. It will be the worst breakup ever and I’m already dreading it. Since they will be gone from our TVs in just over a week, let’s talk about them.

I just want to start out by saying that I think everyone who makes it to The Olympics is incredibly talented and should be so proud just to be there, whether they medal or not. They are already amazing! The only way I would be making it down those hills is to lay down and roll. Otherwise: death. If I tried to professionally figure skate, I’d break something three feet onto the ice. If I, by some grace of God, made it more than three feet: death. All of you athletes representing every country around the world, I am in awe of your talents. That being said, let’s be brutally honest together in the spirit of critiquing our teams knowing that if we even merely tried to do what they excelled at: death.

In previous years, my sport to watch in the Olympics has been Figure Skating. I would get all twinkly eyed over it and cancel plans for the day to stay in and watch them. This predates the time of the internet and On Demand, so I was super serious about my Figure Skating. I remember all of the skaters trying to land quads and gaining an incredible amount of points when they were able to. I remember pairs skating so fast you found yourself dizzy just watching them. This year is just not the good old fashioned ice skating that I remember. So much has changed since the last Olympics and I’ve been perplexed on how they are scoring and judging, so I’ve decided this pretty much isn’t my sport to watch anymore. Though still wowed by the skaters, I admit I have little idea of how all of this works, and really no one is pulling out the quads or skating fast. Instead of being twinkly eyed, my eyes are glazed over in confusion.

Even with my lack of understanding in this newfangled world of Figure Skating (Man, those words make me feel old.), there is one team that has left me perplexed throughout the competition. It is that of Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, aka: the really tall guy and the very miniscule girl. The perplexity does not just come from the height difference in the pair, but the scoring. The pair is, no doubt, insanely talented, but the question remains, were they ready for the Olympics? They have been earning what is said to be “record breaking” scores for the pair, yet are consistently fifteen to thirty points behind all the other teams at any given time. If these are their highest scores yet, but they are that far behind, are they in the same league as their competitors? Did they ever have a fighting chance coming into this? Also, Marissa has either fallen, gotten caught on her skate or the ice, or not properly stuck her landing nearly every time she’s come out of a jump, throwing her off of rhythm with her partner. There are webpages dedicated to how many times she has fallen, and she’s become known around the internet and in my group of equally obsessed Olympic friends (And those not so equally obsessed, who still spent several hours talking Olympics with me today. What’s up, Ashley?), as “Oh, her.” Everyone is beginning to know her for this reason. Given another four years, I think the team could have been real contenders to medal, but this year, I feel that they were just not ready for a competition of this magnitude.

With the gleam of Figure Skating behind me, where my undying love for the Olympics really comes in is in the snowboarding and skiing events. Mainly, the Halfpipe and Slopestyle. These are the sports I understand. I get the tricks, I get the scoring, I know what the judges are looking for. I get really crazy about it and start yelling at the TV when I think they deducted points for the wrong reason or ripped someone off of points when they had a good trick. I even yell when they don’t land the trick properly, but the judges let it go. I completely turn into a guy during the Superbowl, minus the facial hair and farting.

The real disappointment going into these competitions was that the Olympics had promised to pay heavy homage to Sarah Burke, but failed to do so. Sarah was a pioneer in getting the Superpipe Skiing event added into the 2014 Olympics. Sarah landed on her head in January of 2012, after pulling out of a trick in Park City, Utah. She appeared to be okay, but went into cardiac arrest moments later, while still on the pipe. She was resuscitated and placed in a medically induced coma, but had irreversible brain damage and succumbed to her injuries nine days later. In death, she donated her organs and tissue, something she had requested be done if she were ever in this situation, and saving the lives of several others. To simply skip over doing a tribute to her, no matter how small, was not in the spirit of what the Olympics are all about. Her family and husband even made the trek to Russia to cheer on her former teammates, which is so inspiring. Even though they couldn’t cheer on their own daughter, they were still there for her friends.

That wasn’t the only frustration I found with this year’s events. The majority of my yelling stemmed from the nasty course conditions the Olympians were up against. I spent the entire Women’s Halfpipe competition cringing and hoping no one got seriously injured. I thought the women handled talking about the condition of the course on competition day well, simply stating that, “The conditions were the best they had been,” but you could see in the way they were moving down the halfpipe that the conditions weren’t what they should have been. The girls were getting little air compared to what they should be, and consistently getting slowed down on what has been called the flat section of the pipe, when a flat section should not exist in the middle.

The course first took out Arielle Gold, who was poised for a medal position, according to the media. She was knocked out of the competition during the training round with an injured shoulder, ruining her chances of competing in the Olympics. When Kelly Clark took her fall during her first of two runs in the finals, it was very reminiscent of Sarah Burke’s fatal fall in 2012. Had Kelly come down just a half a second sooner, or a few more inches to her left, we could be looking at a repeat of that situation. It was a hard couple seconds, watching her slide down the half-pipe unmoving and wondering if she was going to get back up. Thankfully, she did and went on to do a successful second run that earned her the bronze medal, but no one should ever have to be frightened by a scene like that strictly due to the conditions of a professional course.

Granted, any great athlete could fall and be seriously injured any day, in any place, in any conditions,  just as Sarah was, but forcing athletes out in conditions they knew weren’t ripe for the halfpipe was asking for trouble. A lot of people would say these girls had the option of backing out, but they came thousands of miles from all over the world for this. They are counting on those responsible for the courses to tell them when it’s unsafe, a choice that Sochi refused to make, leaving these athletes open ended to fates much worse than anyone has endured thus far in the competition. If they’re told the course is safe, they’re going to compete, because they are, above all else, athletes representing the world. The high temperatures and melting snow have left the workers continuously trying to find ways to refreeze the courses, leaving the competitors little idea of what they are getting into each time they go out to compete. The fact that no one has been fatally injured goes to show what amazingly strong, controlled and incredible athletes made it to these games. It’s their skill alone that has kept the accidents fairly tame compared to what they could easily be.

With all the controversy going on in these events, the biggest line of contention in this year’s Olympics has undoubtedly been surrounding Shaun White, and for reasons listed above. A day before the competition in Sochi began, Shaun made what quickly became and unpopular decision full of criticism to pull out of the Slopestyle competition due to the questionable safety of the course, a course he was also injured on. He has been heckled by nearly everyone in the media, as well as his fellow competitors, including two young Canadians, who showed unsportsmanlike conduct by shooting harsh words toward a fellow athlete. The only respect he seemed to gain was from that of the Men’s Halfpipe winner, Iouri Podladtchikov (If you can say that five times fast and correctly, I will pay you.), who thanked Shaun for making the sport what it is today.

Personally, I think Shaun made the right decision in pulling out of Slopestyle, and I commend him for having the balls to do it when he realized the sport just wasn’t working out for him. I think what everyone is failing to  understand when they bring their judgement toward his decision to the table is that he is up against kids ten years younger than him. At twenty-seven, his body just isn’t working like it did when he was sixteen or seventeen. As someone who is a year older than him, I can attest to the fact that your body says no to a lot of things it used to say yes to. (Running when something isn’t chasing you, for instance.) Add this to the fact that he’s had two open heart surgeries as a child and has also been a crucial support system for his sister, who has gone through nineteen brain surgeries as a child. This is someone who is not just physically strong, but mentally, and knows what he can and can not handle. If he backs out of a competition, it doesn’t necessarily mean he is incapable of winning a gold medal in that competition, but that he feels it’s not something he can safely handle without the chance of straining his body past its limit.

Picking on someone who knows their limits makes you the weaker person. Him not responding to what others had to say already made him the winner, whether he had gotten the gold, or earned fourth place in the Halfpipe. For years he has taken gold in this sport and has shaped the sport into what it is, earning his fame, recognition and his spot as one of the most prolific snowboarders the sport will know. He doesn’t have anything to prove, especially not to those who are at their first Olympics, or have been there before and failed to win. They are just getting started. Their time will come, but it will come slower if they feel the need to constantly criticize those who helped build and shape the sport.

Unfortunately, that’s not the only thing Shaun has gained flack for during the competition. What’s important to remember is that the media goes into these games with a plan. They watch the contenders and know who will likely end up on the podium and who will not. They formulate their media around those people before they even board the planes to Sochi. Because Shaun has always been the forerunner in his events, their campaigns centered on him as a shoo-in to win any competition he went into. When he dropped out of the Slopestyle, the frenzy started. The media had already planned on reporting on him, so they had to quickly turn things around and start a scandal. They decided the real story was in how the other snowboarders hated him because he was so stuck up, when the story could have been about an athlete who, though not old, is considered to be in sports that require this kind of athleticism, and how with that age came the knowledge to really know his body and what he could handle. It could have served as an inspiration to other competitors on how to know when to pull out of a competition before you seriously injure yourself, and how it is okay and smart and respectable to do so. And also how you are still a winner just for making it to the Olympics.

I think it has been in poor taste to say he’s “too big for the sport,” or “doesn’t want anything to do with the rest of the snowboarders.” When I trained for horse shows, a far less brutal sport, I trained alone. I didn’t want bothered either, and it didn’t make me stuck up. It made me a focused athlete who went in to have fun, but also to do the best that I could do, which was win. That’s what sports are about, being all that you can be, and when someone takes that seriously, suddenly they are stuck up. They don’t deserve what they have. It’s sad and pathetic, and it’s also poor judgement, especially from media outlets who have never been present as part of the snowboarding clan at events and are going on hearsay alone. As media personnel who have never partaken in the sport a day in their life. As Shaun’s mom has said, “It’s funny: They will tweet things, but up on the mountain they will be right next to him and not say anything.”

I’ve always been a fan of Shaun White for his undeniable talent; not his personality, not his persona in the media, but his plain and simple talent. I don’t know him personally, so I can’t judge the kind of person he is, but when you love The Winter Olympics as much as I do, being a fan of Shaun White goes right along with that. I’ve been disgusted to hear the media go from saying nothing but good things about Shaun, to nothing but nasty things since he dropped out of one competition, and even worse things when he didn’t win, completely missing the point that making it to the Olympics alone already showcased his talent and spoke for itself. What many reporters except for this guy from the Washington Post fail to point out is that he does give $1.2 million dollars to St. Jude’s Hospital every single year. The reason he went ahead and cut all of his famous hair off was also for charity. He takes time for his fans, even if it means skipping the press and further pissing them off. In other words, Shaun rightfully doesn’t give a hoot what you think or the press thinks, because you don’t know him. But he does give a hoot what he thinks of himself, how he takes care of himself, and what kind of person he is, and that’s all the media needs to launch a tirade at anyone. It’s completely undeserved, media. Completely undeserved.

While we’re on the subject, what does everyone think of his hair? Serious question. My friend and I (What’s up, again, Ashley?!) spent over an hour debating his hair today, because crap, you guys, we are stuck inside and going stir crazy. She hates it and thinks that he needs to bring his long hair back, because his short hair is too “preppy.” I like it. To be honest, I never actually knew what his face looked like. I could identify him on hair alone, and that was the only way I identified him. I flat out did not recognize him with his hair cut, and his face doesn’t look like I thought it did. I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean either, but it just didn’t. His face isn’t that bad. I’m Team Haircut. I’m also team, Even My Compliments Are Kind of Accidentally Mean.

Aside from all the crappy (and sometimes funny) things happening in Sochi, like bad course conditions (crappy), unfinished hotel rooms and the partially complete Olympic Village (crappy + funny), and media attacks on star athletes (also crappy), there’s also been some really amazing things happening there as well. You have the two female skiers, Tina Maze and Dominique Gisin, who tied for gold in the Alpine Skiing event. The odds of this happening are ones I can’t even begin to fathom, but to tie down to a fraction of a second was really something to watch. Both girls were so gracious about the entire thing, sharing the podium, hugging and smiling. It was a true show of sportsmanship and unity of the world to watch these girls become comrades, without boundaries or politics or jealousy.

Another really unique thing to see was three Americans sweep the podium in tonight’s Men’s Slopestyle in skiing. The most remarkable part of this story was based around Joss Christensen, who won gold against all odds. Just six months ago, Joss’s dad, an avid skier who introduced him to the sport and supported him through his Olympic dreams, passed away. He pushed through the emotional pain and continued to ski. When his mind was grieving, it was also focused on getting him to the Olympics, for his dad. He competed with a picture of his dad in his pocket, a father who I’m sure couldn’t be more proud of his son right now, even from Heaven. These are the kinds of stories that you just can’t make up, and what makes me love the Olympics so gosh darn much.

I also have to admit that I’m a little bit of a jerk in the way that I also love the Olympics because people falling is funny, as long as they are not hurt. I would like to say that again, it is funny as long as they are NOT hurt. Someone falling and getting hurt is never funny. People losing is also never funny, so yes, I am a total jerk when it comes to this, but I was accidentally more of a jerk than I meant to be this evening when Swedish Freestyle skier Henrik Harlaut took his turn at competing. Not only did this kind dreadlocked sir find himself unable to keep his pants up and save our eyes from continually getting flashed by his electric blue and black underwear, but he also said he was keeping an egg in his pocket for good luck. I made the offhand comment that I hoped he fell and broke the egg, simply because I thought it would be hilarious to break an egg in your pants.

You guys, he fell. Hard. I’m so sorry Henrik. This is totally my fault. I won’t make it up to you because I don’t know you, but I will give you the advice to wear pants that fit you better so that you never flash anyone again and we can call it even. Trust me, it’s useful advice.