U.S. hype melts away in Nagano

February 18, 1998

One of the most severe effects of global warming is that Americans seem to have forgotten what ice and snow is. We've never been able to drive on it, now it seems we've forgotten how to play on it.

As I'm writing this, we've won a grand total of eight medals. Not eight gold medals, eight medals.

For heaven's sake, when people talk about shared prosperity and equality I assumed they meant the global village, not the Olympic village. What, Austria's the only one that has mountains anymore?

When the U.S. Olympic hype machine kicked into high gear last week it was over a potential bronze metal. In curling. (We didn't win.) I don't want to hear about hair stylists, I want to hear about athletes.


Even the winter sports that we made up specifically so we could win a medal - like snowboarding - we're not winning. Maybe that's the key; they were invented too early. So if you have made up a new sport like "snow tetherball" or "ice jousting," don't tell the rest of the world until a month or two before the games, so they won't have time to catch up.

But you've gotta love good old fickle America. It didn't take us long to jump off the bandwagon. Remember in Atlanta when we were actually competing? Every paper in the country ran a daily "medal count" on their front pages. Today? It's buried somewhere on Page 4 of sports between the baseball Rule V draft transactions and Tank McNamara

Ratings have been pinwheeling downhill faster than Hermann Maier. We don't even have Tonya and Nancy to hold our interest this year. Maybe they should issue lead pipes to the hockey team.

But that's another sore point. They've even banned - and I think this is inexcusable - fighting from the hockey games.

Hockey without fighting? What's the point? It's like banning automobile crashes at NASCAR. The U.S. women did win a gold in hockey, which will doubtless lead to the rise of the WNHL next year. But after the match, everyone was talking about how polite the players were. Hey, polite doesn't win ratings. Women holding recently uprooted swatches of each others' hair wins ratings. I know.

Trouble is, there's no one left to hate. The Soviets are gone and you never hear anything about that evil Iraqi Republican Guard bobsledding team. With drug testing there aren't a whole lot of clucks about the East German "women" sitting around the rink shaving their backs. Heck, there's no East German anything.

And try as I might, I can't work up a lather at hearing we're going head-to-head against our "hated arch-rival - Team Canada."

Oh I know, there are great stories, like Maier, who cartwheeled goggles over teakettle down the mountain one day and was winning the super-G a couple days later. Or was it a week earlier? Dang these tape-delays.

But even the human interest stories don't seem to have the same zap. Remember when every Olympic athlete was orphaned from poverty-stricken parents at the age of five, shortly after doctors were unable to save three fingers of his right hand from the ravages of some flesh-eating bacteria?

Now all you hear is "Lars first dreamed of winning Olympic gold when he was lounging around a Swiss coffee bar eating crab balls and sipping a latte perfumed with pernod, talking with the Spice Girls about what percentage of his daddy's inheritance he should invest in 19th century vintages of Cotes du Rhone rouge."

Ah well, I will comfort myself in the knowledge that there are only two nations on the face of the globe that are better than the United States of America in curling.

Tim Rowland, a Herald-Mail columnist, can be reached at

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