2/27 4:42 p.m. Torino. I had not planned on watching the Winter Olympics at all. I'm not a fan of winter sports per se --not even the feyest of ice skating routines. I know, minus ten gay points.
I have some residual memory of when I was a kid getting a kick out of the feel and sound of the crunch of snow under my shoes and the tinkling of the trickling of melting ice. Sledding at recess behind our one room school house. Throwing open the curtains to watch with awe as snow fell on Christmas Eve. Catching snowflakes on the tip of your tongue.
That was a long time ago.
So, of course, not in my plan, but I end up watching the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics at Torino on television. It was nice. Neat, even. I'd even cal it inspiring. Then Bode Miller's face started showing up everywhere --on the cover of every magazine, including the NY Times Sports magazine. I honestly had never heard of the guy. And if I never hear of him again, I wouldn't mind.
Ah, but then along came Apolo Anton Ohno. In every interview he's unfailingly articulate and polite. And cute as all get out. And he could skate. He's got five Olympic medals that says so, too. Not 'til today did I learn he was on the cover of Cosmopolitan and somebody's 50 sexiest men list. I don't have a list, but if I did... he'd beat out Matthew McConaughey (and George Clooney) in a heartbeat.
Do enough interviews with people and you get a feel for who's genuine. I like the kid. He's got the great All-American story: raised by a single parent who worked two jobs to support Ohno's training. Found sport to stay out of trouble. He's helped raise money (I think the last count I saw was in the nature of $11 million) for Ronald McDonald House in his native Seattle in addition to giving back to innumerable other charities. A role model --and dare I say it?-- hero, to the entire Asian-American community.
And did I mention he was cute? I'm not a betting kind of person as a rule, but I have a feeling he's not likely to end up in Betty Ford. Of course, he's young still, and the Island of Lost Boys may yet sing their siren song.
If I was annoyed at anybody during the Winter Olympics, it was the NBC reporter who kept repeatedly pressing Ohno to say if he was going to Vancouver in 2010 or retire --while the kid was still trying to get his breath back and process the single most important moment in his life. It was like sticking a microphone in the face of a mother who just lost her kids in a fire and asking, "How do you feel?" Even if you didn't go to j-school, you know what I mean.
The closing ceremonies were even better than the opening. I want one of those 125 mph air blowers! Way cool! Look at those guys flying in the air! You just knew they were having a good time! It looked like a lot of fun to me.
Tom Brokaw's moving segment on the role of African Americans in the liberation of Torino from the Nazis, had it aired prior to the Olympics or at the beginning, along with the stunning kick-ass photography of Torino and the Alps they showed in the last 30 seconds of Sunday night before they started running their credits, might have given NBC a big boost in their ratings. Instead of the worst television viewing audience in 20 years, it could have been the highest. Someone tell the mucky-mucks at NBC they blew it. Nobody's fault but their own. They can't blame it on "Dancing with the Stars" or whatever other crap was on television. The major networks all had re-runs on, I guess in assumption that everyone would be watching the Olympics. And in just a few minutes of airtime at the end of it all, it was obvious that NBC had assembled the talent in Torino that they needed to hold the audience.
I caught myself thinking how great it would have been to watch the final footage on a flatscreen. Hey, I got to see it. And the NY Times did have a full page photo of Ohno inside. Was it racism that had the (presumably heterosexual) white male on cover of every major media outlet? Was it the conventional wisdom or presumption of Miller's celebrity draw that made them proceed with the biggest embarrassment of amateur athletics for the foreseeable future? I'd like to listen in on what some journalism profs would have to say about that in their classroom discussions.
Whatever. The Winter Olympics are over now. I found a new poster boy. The next time I get to see Apolo Anton Ohno will probably be on a Wheaties box. If he doesn't compete in Vancouver, NBC would be fools not to have him do commentary. He never faltered once on camera that I saw. Oh, that's right. They are fools. But even fools can learn from their mistakes. Or not.
Anyway, enough of that. It's Mardi Gras and time for some serious celebrating. ...and that is not a contradiction in terms, especially where this year's Mardi Gras is concerned. Do yourself a favor and click onto the Gumbo Pages, and you'll see what I mean. The sun is shining, it's a beautiful day out. Go out and play.