The Breakfast Table

The Cold, Hard Truth

The whiteness and the Scandinavian-ness go mittened hand in hand. These people, these Scandinavians, they fly beneath the radar screen of the world. We may drive their cars, or sit on their sleek, blond-wood furniture, or perhaps use their mobile phones. But mostly we don’t think about them too much. Then, once every four years, they come crawling out of the sleek, blond woodwork to dominate these Winter Games. They master all these delightful little sports that the rest of the world has not heard of, never mind practiced daily since apple-cheeked childhood.

Is the very existence of the Winter Games just an excuse to give these Scandinavians a platform? Otherwise we might forget about them altogether. And that would be too bad. We need some rail thin, scruffy blond men around who know the old ways—who can ski and then shoot stuff. If nothing else, the Games serve this purpose.

My girlfriend has chastised me for calling the Canadian skater ungracious. Who knows why Ms. Salé was crying? Maybe she had other things going on in her life, and this just triggered the emotions. Maybe her head was in a bad place. Nonetheless, I maintain that it is quite possible that the Russians won fair and square, minor skating error and all, and the sooner Salé accepts this, the better. NBC, on the other hand, is milking this “controversial” episode for all it’s worth. I say, “Shut up, NBC. The judges’ decision, no matter how neatly arrayed along geopolitical battle lines, is final.”

And now, curling. I was really pleasantly surprised by this. It’s like billiards slowed down and put on ice but far more mincing and cruel. You spend several minutes finding the best way to undo and generally screw up the careful strategy the other team just spent several minutes devising, and then the roles reverse, and so on until all the stones are thrown, or slid, or whatever the curling term is. When I saw the Americans nail what looked like a 7-to-10 split, knocking two Swedish stones out of the ring with a single throw, I kind of wanted to find a curling rink and get down to it. Not as a broom man—that would be demeaning. But as the guy who throws the stones. That guy is cool. In a mincing, cruel way.

Best example of cheap candy-coating: that fire behind Bob Costas, the one I was envying yesterday, turns out to be fake. To me, this is far more disillusioning than the Canadian skaters getting jobbed. You mean Jim McKay is gently philosophizing in front of a VIDEO TAPE of a fire? The world is a sad, sad place sometimes.