The Breakfast Table

The New X-Treme Olympic Ethos

That WTC flag is getting a little overexposed, don’t you think? It actually appeared at the World Series, the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Super Bowl, before making its Olympic entrance. Who’s its publicist? We’ll know the buzz has faded when it shows up with Scott Baio at Mall of America.

I found the opening ceremonies a mixed bag. First, they ripped off Sydney with that lone-child-in-a-fantasy-world-of-wonder bit. And Sydney did it better: The Australian kid levitated, which is far more impressive than dancing on ice. I did enjoy the light-up kinetic animal sculptures, some of which were gorgeous (I loved the buffalo). But then they threw in all that Mormon iconography, with the pioneers and the pushcarts and the hardships. Don’t be fooled—those weren’t just any frontier families. Those were Latter-day Saints. I spent an unplanned five-day interlude in Salt Lake once—during which I toured several church facilities and was repeatedly encouraged to convert my dead ancestors to Mormonism—so I have some familiarity here. I was on the lookout during the opening number for Golden Plates and such but didn’t catch anything quite that overt.

The downhill events frighten me. These guys travel at 80 mph, and not only do they not use seatbelts, they don’t use cars. I do share your shame over waiting for crashes. I used to watch a lot of Nascar, but I soured on it a bit after Dale Earnhardt died, and I felt guilty over my impulse to root for spectacular pile-ups. Given this, and after seeing Jim McKay’s story on Bill Johnson, the skier who wiped out last year and got severe brain damage, I watch downhill with great trepidation and awe at the skiers’ fearlesness.

Is McKay the Pat Summerall of the Games?

I think I’ve bought into the new X-treme Olympic ethos. By far my favorite event so far has been women’s half-pipe snowboarding. The boarders choose their own music to accompany runs, and I counted at least two Beastie Boys tracks. One tiny Japanese boarder was jamming out to “We Will Rock You” as she prepared to shred. The luge runs all looks the same to me, but I was truly stoked (correct usage? Or was I “rad stoked” or something?) when Kelly Clark nailed that McTwist-720 combo to win the gold. That looked like fun! By the way, couldn’t they just suspend drug testing for the snowboarders? I can’t imagine blood doping really helps you on your front-side fakey inverts, and what boarder worth his salt doesn’t pull a bong tube now and then? I fear they’re driving the top competitors away.

It’s freezing here in New England, and I envy both your living room and the roaring fire behind Bob Costas in the NBC studio. I think all the figure-skating drama (can Michelle Kwan quell her demons???) will heat things up, don’t you?