The Fever (2010)

I’ve got the fever, and I’ve got it bad.  I’m having fantasies about Lindsey Vonn.  As I go about my day I sometimes throw it back to Bob Costas in the NBC chalet.  Last night I stayed up way past my bed time watching TiVoed men’s free skate.

I officially have Olympic fever.

I mean, how can you not?  Corny as one might think it is, the fact that every four years nations come together to compete in winter sports is truly awesome (personally, though I’m Team USA all the way, I’m pulling for the people of Pandora to win a surprise gold).  And after the devastating and fatal luge accident that hovers over these Games (made all the more tragic by the simple fact that everyone saw it coming), Vancouver 2010 has produced some indelible moments.

Let’s start with the Opening Ceromonies.  Nobody’s idea of a good time, unless your idea of a good time involves wrecking a Friday evening by yelling at Matt Lauer (so, Ann Curry).  And yet you’ve got a fiery cauldron that almost reaches the fiery temper of The Great One, giant polar bears (they were seriously beautiful), and, if you haven’t checked this out, K.D. Lang covering native son Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” in breathtaking fashion.  I mean, how many people tuned in for a sports event, got a theater show instead, and were happy?!

I'm the Great One. I crap the Olympics.

And then: Team USA’s Hannah Kearney (who also has a blog) gets things off to a surprising start with an upset Gold in women’s moguls.  If you haven’t been watching these Games you’ve been missing not only some of the greatest women’s skiing (more on that), but the inherent greatness of the Games, which is that at no other time in American sports do we so fully value the participation of women’s sports.

Apollo Anton Ohno (I will resist the temptation of every NBC sports broadcoaster to utter, “Oh yes!”) ties Olympian Bonnie Blair for the most medals at a Winter Olympics by an American, ever.  Sure, that’s impressive, but Bonnie Blair never won Dancing with the Stars, so:  Advantage, Ohno.  Oh yes.  (Shit.)

Julia Mancuso has Olympic fever. That's why she's not wearing any clothes.

How about figure skating?  Not my favorite sport, but you’ve got a married Chinese couple coming out of retirement to win the Gold!  You can’t write that.  (I mean, I guess you could:  The Cutting Edge 2: Chinese New Year).  They got no where near the medal podium, but how can you not root for Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig?  He grew up skating on a rink outside the family home in Fargo, N.D.; her parents immigrated from the Philippines–  it’s America, in a figure-skating pair!  Then there’s this figure skating history, beautifully summed up in the incredibly effective ad campaign put together by Visa:  Go World.  (It doesn’t hurt if you’ve got the voice of God himself, Morgan Freeman.)

Yup, I medaled.

Say you like snowboarding?  You’ve got the former Flying Tomatoe, the incredible Animal, Shaun White, going double gold with an amazing hang that put him near the moon!  You’ve got Seth Wescott winning snowboard cross by starting fourth and then taking the lead on an ariel!  You’ve got Lindsay Jacobellis redeeming her Turino tweak by…  well, you can’t have everything.

Hey Ma, I'm gonna touch the moon.

And what about skiing?  Bad boy Bode Miller finds redemption with the bronze.  Julia Mancuso is skiing above her level, with three medals so far, which is impressive enough, but she’s Scottie Pippen, she’s Phil Mickelson–  all anyone wants to talk about is poster girl Lindsey Vonn fulfilling everything by winning gold, despite the fact she can basically no longer walk.  And if you haven’t seen Vonn’s reaction to winning gold, it’s an incdreible mix of pure joy and sweet relief.  (And then, the next day she spectacularly wipes out!  That’s drama.  There’s been some crazy crashes in the women’s skiing.)

Hello, I'm an Olympic skier.

We haven’t even gotten to Shani Davis, and his gold medal!  To Evan Lysacek last night, skating above his ability to beat Russia’s Evegni Plushenko and capture gold for the first American since ’88.  And if there’s one thing I wish NBC would do more of, it would be providing updates on where favorite former Olympians are now.  What’s the inspiring Joey Cheek up to?  Did you know Jamie Salle & David Pelletier are covering skating for Canadian broadcasting?

Remember this Olympic moment?

Everyone four years, the world comes together and catches this fever.  It’s how you wind up caring about amateur yet professional atheletes in sports you don’t ever think of in the off-season (suddenly I’m a speed-skating expert!).  It’s how Stephen Colbert becomes the Assistant Sports Psychologist for USA speedskating.  It’s how you wind up caring about Scotty Lago and Julia Mancuso and Chad Hendrick, and you wind up in a bar on a Thursday night watching a game you don’t understand–curling–with people you don’t know.  And while there’s plenty more to come–US hockey, anyone?–it then all goes away, for a while, anyway.

And there’s a lot of corniness with nations coming together to watch sports, of course, but c’mon:  Tell me you can watch this Dan Jansen spot without choking up a bit, without wanting to catch the fever?  Go Team USA.  Go Canada.  Go World, indeed.

The Nation expects gold, Mr. Colbert.

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