Chuq Von Rospach is a Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management and amateur photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and landscapes. My goal is to explore the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found. You can find out more on the About Page.
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Monthly Archives: February 2006
A few thoughts on the olympic hockey, now that it’s all done.
Congrats to the Swedes for winning — and the Finns for pushing them hard and almost taking it. The gold medal game was great, and played by the two best TEAMS in the tourney. But having said that, the Czechs (in Bronze) and Russians (fourth place) have no shame, and all of them are winners in my books, along with the Swiss and the Latvians.
The U.S. and Canada both disappointed — I’d say they had better players than other teams, but they weren’t teams, they were groups of players. The Finn’s, especially, gelled and got the job done. The Finns and Swedes played like they WANTED the medals, the US and the Canadians looked to me more like they expected the medals.
Which is in some ways an unfair slam — every player on every team played hard, and it’s easy to criticize. The problem I saw with both the U.S. and Canada teams were a combination of factors, but I think the key one was age. Putting a team together is tough under best of circumstances, even without politics. And the politics here is a hard one: do you bring in new, young players, or do you recognize those players that have been supporting and contributing to the program for years? A good national GM has to do both, and deal with the need for players who can help the youngsters handle the pressure, too. I’m glad I don’t have to figure that out.
But in retrospect, both the U.S. and Canada teams had too many veterans that just couldn’t handle the larger ice surface AND the teams with younger, faster legs. This was especially noticeable with the Russians, where Ovechkin pretty literally skated circles around everyone and made both teams look like pylons. That larger, wider surface made a huge impact here, and the teams that opted for speed and youth over size and endurance won out and got medals.
Perhaps the U.S. and Canada could have sent over better teams — but there’s something to be said to being loyal to those who have been loyal to you, too, and I can’t really argue with who sent sent, because the kids will be here in four years in Vancouver (maybe, if the NHL doesn’t stop going; my bet is they’ll work it out) — and there’s no guarantee that the Finns or Swedes wouldn’t have taken it anyway.
so from my point of view, this wasn’t a disaster for either country. Let’s not criticize the U.S. or Canada, but instead celebrate how the other countries have come along and made this a real fight. There are bigger things that winning, sometimes, and let’s not forget them.
Me, I’m just going to enjoy the memories of some really killer hockey, and not worry about the rest. And look forward to four years from now, when the teams will all meet again, and we WILL see a bunch of the younger guys that didn’t get a chance this time. It may not have been the best tourney for Chelios or Modano, but they won’t HAVE one in four years, and after all they’ve done for USA hockey, didn’t they deserve one final kick at the can?
I think they did. And I’d rather credit those who DID win than kvetch at those who didn’t, because otherwise, you (even by implication) belittle their victories a bit…
Welcome back, Tom — it’s damn good to see you again!
And this, in essence, is the attraction of curling. If folks stop snickering about the sport and pay attention, you start to see the complexity and technique involved. It’s a game that can be played by 45 year old fat guys with a beer (happily), but to play it well isn’t easy. In that way, it’s somewhat like billiards or bowling, except that the ice is never (ever) the same, and you’re constantly trying to adjust to changing conditions, and in bowling or billiards, if you understand the shot and have practiced enough, you’ll make the shot. So in many ways, curling’s tougher than both — but it’s still a sport you can play well into middle age (and beyond) if you want, and it’s a sport you can play socially. So there are many aspects to attraction. I don’t expect curling rinks to sprout up in southern states, but I do hope to see the interest and growth continue down in the states — it has a definite place in the recreational sports universe, if people pay attention.
To be honest, the curling in the olympics wasn’t that interesting to me, because substandard ice led to sub-standard curling. But they did the best they could, and the bronze medal in the men can only help visibility.
I was having this discussion at work this week, and someone said they felt it didn’t deserve to be in the olympics because there’s no endurance aspect to it. Not all sports are endurance tests or attacks on your VO2Max — if you look at things like baseball, it’s more skill and timing, or archery is technique and the ability to manage stress. So is target shooting. Yachting and many of the sailing sports are the ability to judge and manage the elements as much as anything — none of them really require a 6 minute mile, much less a four minute one.
Curling ratings went up this Olympics in the states, which I find encouraging — according to one report, CNBC saw ratings 700% higher than their NORMAL programming. Since this olympics didn’t have the “newness” of it being the surprise cinderella sport like it did last olympics, it indicates people were tuning in because they were curious and interested, not just because it was this new, weird thing. Here’s hoping we can keep moving it forward and make curling more visible in the states….
Having a ReplayTV meant that all of that sweet, sweet curling action was just waiting for me to get home from the hospital and plow through it. And I have to admit: up to now, my appreciation for the sport has been a bit of a goof. But after watching hours of it, I’ve realized that yes, it really is a sport, and that it’s a surprisingly interesting, strategic, and cerebral sport, at that.
update: Tom Benjamin talks about the same subject, defining sport in terms of ability to control muscle memory. An interesting concept that may well be on the right track….