As you might know, I missed Friday night’s Games, on account of it being Valentine’s Day and also on account of needing to rest my eyeballs a little lest I contract a case of Bob Costas Eye. And so I missed Meredith Vieira’s debut as the New Matt Lauer as the New Bob Costas. This was a Very Important Historic Moment as no woman has ever anchored the Olympics by herself before because sexism. As an unabashed feminazi, I’m sorry to have missed a Very Important Historic Moment and do hope that Ms. Vieira did not do or say anything to embarrass the sisterhood.
But seeing as she hosted again last night, I’m guessing she didn’t make trouble, and that she was able to introduce events and interview Noelle Pikus-Pace without her ovaries getting in the way (too much). One quibble with tonight’s performance by Ms. Vieira, however: she just rushes right into the U.S./Russian hockey game without so much as a howdy-do or a list of the events we’ll be watching tonight. I NEED INFORMATION, MEREDITH. I NEED TO KNOW WHAT I HAVE TO LOOK FORWARD TO. I understand that the U.S./Russian hockey match was much more exciting than anyone anticipated, and that it screwed up your programming when you had to, at the last minute, devote a solid 30 minutes in primetime to it (Although, what kind of planning was it to not include something of the U.S./Russian hockey match in the first place, you guys, come on. Even I wanted to watch that and was disappointed to learn that I had missed the game yesterday morning and I don’t know anything or care about hockey. Use your brains, NBC.), but we couldn’t just use one minute to have Ms. Vieira give us a quick outline of the night’s events? Psssh.
So, for those of you who, like me, appreciate a little organization and a heads-up, here’s what we have in store for tonight:
- Men’s Large Ski Jump as opposed to that little baby ski jump earlier, apparently
- Men’s Skeleton
- Women’s Super G
- Men’s 1500 Speed-Skating
- Men’s 1000 Short Track
- Unfortunately, no Mary Carillo exploring the world of herring
First, the hockey game. So, as you probably heard, U.S. faced Russia in one of the hockey preliminary rounds yesterday — we are still far from the finals, so no medals were on the line — but because “DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?!” and Lake Placid and Communism, this was still A Big Deal. From what I understand — again, I did not watch the game when it happened thanks to bad programming — Russia and the U.S. were tied up until the third and final period, at which point Russia scored on the U.S., only to have the goal overturned by the referees because the net wasn’t secured or something. And if you were Russian, I’m guessing you wouldn’t have thought that was very funny.
So the game goes into Overtime, which is where we pick it up but after the five minute period, no one scores. So the game goes into Double Overtime which is a 3 shot shootout. One shooter versus the goalie, and unlike soccer where the shooter has to shoot from a particular point, the hockey shooter can just skate right up to the goal and shoot from wherever he pleases.
The American, T.J. Oshie, shoots first and scores on the Russian goalie, hooray! Even better, the Russian, Malkin, misses his shot, double hooray! But then the next two American shooters, van Riemsdyk and Pavelski miss their shots, and one of the Russians, Kovalchuk, makes his, tying us up at the end of the Double Overtime Shootout. BOO. ONLY OSHIE GETS TO SHOOT FROM HERE ON OUT.
Which is exactly what Team USA does as Russia and the US go into Extra Double Overtime Shootout: at this point, they don’t have to swap out shooters, they can put anyone they want in, and they choose to go with the only guy who made anything happen, Oshie. Who promptly misses his first shot. But it’s OK, because Russia misses theirs, too. Oshie goes on to make the next two shots, hooray! But so do the Russians, boo. Oshie misses the 7th shot, OH NOES! But whew! So does the Russian. And then, on the eighth shot, Oshie manages to score, and the Russian misses his, and it is FINALLY over. U!S!A! U!S!A! U!S!A!
Back in the Den of Loneliness, Meredith Vieira interviews Doc Emery and Al Michaels about the game, and they explain to her — even though she was there, too, she saw it herself, live, in person — that this event felt more like the 7th game in the Stanley Cup than a preliminary round, that the Russians really really care about hockey, and that Oshie is now officially a Big Deal. Thanks for the insight, gentlemen! Very illuminating!
And in the Carson City Saloon, which is in Pittsburgh, obviously, where else would it be, people freak over the American’s win even though, honestly, for reals though, straight talk: it’s not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.
Next up, Men’s Large Ski Jump. As noted in my previous entry about ski jumping, there’s just not that much to say about this event. The men, they go down the ramp and then they jump off the ramp and then they fly through the air and then they land on the slope, some farther out than others. It’s fun to watch, but as I am sure Bobby and I have made abundantly clear over the course of the past two winter Olympics, it’s not particularly fun to write about.
Anyway, like the Baby Hill Event, all the best skiers go last, and so like an NBA game, there’s really no point in even tuning in until the very end. While the coaches from opposing countries adorably hug each other and support each other, Kamil Stoch from Poland wins the Gold in this event. He won the Gold in the baby hill event, too, so I’m guessing everyone in the ski jumping world hates him right now. Sure, sure, they’re all like, “Oh, congratulations, Kamil! You totally deserve it,” but in their hearts, you know they are just seething.
Noriaki Kasai from Japan takes the Silver, which is especially impressive as Kasai is 41 years old, this is his SEVENTH OLYMPICS and his second medal. As someone who is younger than Kasai (YES I AM, SHUT UP), I can assure you he has no business flinging himself off of ski jumps, much less winning any prizes for doing so. That is just crazy. And Peter Prevc from Slovenia, who won the Silver on the Baby Hill, wins the Bronze. He’s 21 years old, though, so color me unimpressed. I could have done that too, when I was 21, whatever.
And I don’t have anything to add to Men’s Ski Jump except to note that I learned for the first time last night that my husband’s great-grandfather supposedly competed in this event in the Olympics back in the day. This is particularly surprising, somewhat hilarious and completely improbable if you have ever seen my husband ski.
Men’s Skeleton is next, and because we don’t have some big fake-out retirement story with a soupçon of personal tragedy as we did in the Women’s Skeleton with Ms Pikus-Pace, we just get right to the terrifying head-first sledding. America’s John Daly helpfully demonstrates for us how they “drive” the sled: “You use your left knee to turn left and your right knee to turn right.” Thanks, John Daly, those are some very complicated instructions!
Unfortunately, John Daly is less successful on the ice; after putting up three solid runs, he messes up his entrance on the fourth run, his legs are flopping all over the place, and even I, someone who knows nothing about this sport other than, OH GOD, YOU REALLY SHOULDN’T BE DOING THAT, WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT SLEDDING HEAD-FIRST AT 80 MPH, can tell that in those first few seconds John Daly has blown his shot at a medal.
The other American in the finals, Matthew Antoine, manages to keep his sled on the rails and with a total time of 3:47.26 over four runs, he wins the Bronze. We learn that the Latvian Silver medalist, Martins Dukurs, has a brother in the event, but Tomass Dukurs comes in fourth, losing a chance at a medal and his parents’ love. We learn absolutely nothing about the Russian Gold medalist, Alexander Tretiakov. Thus concludes my time thinking about Skeleton for another four years, except to add that in 2018 the IOC should consider medals for Best Helmet, a category that Canada would sweep:
So, let’s talk about the Super G. “Super G” is not short for Super Grover, although it would be awesome if it were. Instead it’s short for Super Giant Slalom and therefore should really be called the Super GS, BUT WHATEVER. The Super G is a downhill ski race, but unlike the downhill, the skiers are not allowed any training runs on the slope. They are only given one slow-motion look at the track. Which seems ridiculous! This is ridiculous! And what it means is that with a slope like the one in Sochi, which is icy at the top, but nothing but pure slush at the bottom, the first skiers down the mountain are at an extreme disadvantage. In fact, just to prove my point, out of the first 8 skiers, only 1 manages to finish the run, American Leeanne Smith. This is not a promising success rate.
As for the other American, i.e. the only skier that NBC really cares about, Julia Mancuso, she understandably takes the run with a degree of caution. I do not blame Julia Mancuso! She is 29 years old, this run is TURRIBLE, she could break something! However, Julia Mancuso’s and my attitude does not make for Olympic medalists, and she will eventually come in 8th.
We are then introduced to the very pretty Austrian skier, Anna Fenninger, through a video package that involves her skiing on sand in Africa, running around with cheetahs and sticking her hands in the mouths of sedated cheetahs. WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN. Back in Russia, Fenninger straps on her cheetah helmet (obvs) and has what is clearly the best run of the event. She is tiny and tight and doesn’t hesitate in the least, and she makes it down the run in 1:25.52.
The only other run of note is Maria Höfl-Riesch of Germany, who comes in second, despite THE DUDE WALKING ONTO THE RUN TO ADJUST A GATE WHILE SHE’S SKIING ON IT. THAT’S NOT COOL, RUSSIAN OLYMPICS VOLUNTEER. THAT’S A GOOD WAY TO GET YOUR FOOL HEAD KNOCKED OFF, RUSSIAN OLYMPICS VOLUNTEER. DID YOU LEARN NOTHING FROM ALL THOSE PEOPLE WHO WALKED ONTO THE BOBSLEDDING TRACK?
And Nicole Hosp of Austria wins the Bronze, for what it’s worth, although honestly anyone who made it down the mountain without leaving the track, and/or losing a ski or two should get some sort of award, honestly.
Onto Men’s 1500 Meter Speed-Skating where to warm up the crowd and skaters, “YMCA” is blaring in the auditorium. O RLY, PUTIN? RLY?
Shani Davis and Brian Hansen and the rest of the American Speed-Skating Team have decided that the reason they haven’t won A SINGLE MEDAL IN ANY EVENT (yikes!) is because of their new Olympic speed-skating suits which hadn’t been tested in competition. They finally decide that covering the back vents with duct tape isn’t cutting it, and so in this event, Davis, Hansen and the other Americans switch back to the suits they wore in the World Cup competitions where they apparently won all of the prizes, suits that they fortunately happened to bring with them to Russia.
But! Alas! The suits, they do nothing. Brian Hansen comes in 7th and Shani Davis, who is the World Record Holder in this event, he comes in an embarrassing 11th. Oof. Team America should ask to borrow Team Netherlands’ suits because they are winning all the races. Zbigniew Bródka of Poland wins Gold, Koen Verweij of The Netherlands takes Silver, and Denny Morrison of Canada wins Bronze, and the Americans win nothing but a lot of attention for being whiny babies about their suits.
Our final event of the night, the Men’s 1000 Meter Short Track, does not have a single American competitor, but it does have a Good Story: Viktor Ahn is a short track skater from South Korea, whom Americans know from the 2002 Olympics where he was involved in a crash with Apolo Ohno, which took them both down, along with the Chinese and Canadian skater, leaving the only one standing, the Australian, to take the Gold.
In 2006, Ahn won Gold in this event, the 1500 m, and the Men’s 5000 m Team Relay, but then soon after the 2006 World Competition, he had a huge falling out with the South Korean Skating Union. Then in 2008, he broke his knee, and he was unable to compete in a bunch of competitions that would qualify him for the 2010 Olympics. And that’s when Russia swooped in and offered to make him a citizen so that he could compete for them in 2014. Deal! said Ahn, and in 2011 he moved to Mother Russia.
And so he and his teammate, Vladimir Grigorev (which, FACT: is the Most Russian Name That Ever Was) block everyone else out in the very short, but very exciting race, and win the Gold and Silver respectively. Sjinkie Knegt of The Netherlands wins Bronze. I’m sure he can be expecting a call from Putin any day now, offering him an opportunity to come live in St. Petersburg.
We end the competition with a look at the McDonald’s Medal Board and learn that thanks to Russia adopting the best short skater in the world, they are ahead with 15 medals, but the US is right behind with 14, and Norway only has 13 McNuggets right now. WHAT DID I TELL YOU, NORWAY?
And you’d best watch your back, Russia. We’re coming for you next.
Speaking of, Meredith Vieira chats with New American Sweetheart, T.J. Oshie, who though supposedly American, speaks suspiciously like a Canadian, probably by virtue of having grown up some 6 miles from the Canadian border. Careful with those “aboots” and “ehs,” T.J., or people will start asking to see your long form birth certificate. (Ha ha, no they won’t, everybody loves you right now.) Oshie, like every athlete in the history of time, has nothing interesting to say.
NBC closes the night with Willie Geist yammering at us about the Twitterz and the Instagramz, explaining, helpfully, that the athletes, they use them! WHO KNEW? Willie Geist then shows us some boring selfies some of the athletes have tweeted, because this is certainly news, and then informs us that “Sage Kotsenburg” has had the biggest spike in Internet searches since the Olympics began. WELL I CAN SLEEP BETTER TONIGHT NOW THAT I KNOW THAT, WILLIE GEIST.
For our purposes, I’m going close by telling you my favorite Olympics story — one that you most certainly will not hear on NBC.
So in preparation for the upcoming Olympics, Russia created a mascot contest and invited Russians to vote for their favorite via an online poll. Within 40 minutes of the poll being open, there was a clear winner: Zoich.
Zoich, clearly a relation to Futurama’s Hypnotoad, was, shockingly, deemed unacceptable by the Planning Committee, and they announced that he would not, despite being hugely popular, be the mascot.
The Russians were OUTRAGED!!!11!!!!!1! and caused such a fuss that the Sochi Planning Committee eventually had to come out and admit that Zoich was a guerrilla marketing campaign they had created to get people interested in the mascot contest in the first place. They hired an artist and gave him complete freedom to come up with whatever he wanted, as long as it was catchy and would attract a lot of attention.
As the artist explains in his blog, he came up with this description of Zoich: “The Frog Prince is one of the most beloved characters from Russian folk tales who is a quintessential symbol of the national and cultural values. There are Olympic rings in his eyes to promote the Olympic values and tsar crown on top of his head to remind us of the Majesty of the State and Spirituality,” only to have the Planning Committee change the text to read, HILARIOUSLY: “Zoich. Or Zoich big time if you try to leak him against grain. Feeding on dolphins, skiers, and hockey players, as well as churchkhella, bears, and other competitors in the 2014 Olympics mascot competition. Greases his skis with lard and is in training to take part in all fifteen Olympic sports, if they do not extend the list by 2014. Pshh-Pshh-Pshh—his eyes are willing you to vote for him.” The artist, unfortunately, convinced the Planning Committee to use the original description, for who even knows what reason.
The artist then made an accompanying video which you can watch on his site. The artist’s description of the video, however, delighted me for reasons that should be obvious to those of you who read my Lost blog: “It was originally planned to to [sic] make a classic brainwash video. Something like a piece shown to people chained to chairs in one of the “Lost” series episodes. However, the process of the video making revealed the idea to be deadly boring and lacking the Great Imperial factor. So, it was decided to switch to a classic epic movie epic trailer instead, titled “What it would be like if Zoich wins.” The brainwash episode is embedded in the heart of the video in a form of encouragement to follow a link and vote.”
And then the Russians did vote, and they voted for Zoich, but Zoich would never, could never win, and the whole thing ended up being a huge mess of the Planning Committee’s own devising, and I can’t help but think that somehow Bob Costas and The Eye are all victims of the Curse of Zoich.
ALRIGHT. I am back tonight with Figure Skating, Women’s Snowboarding, Men’s Super G and some more Speed-Skating about which I have nothing to say. See you then, my little vareniki.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Chron.com.