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Life out there by Bret Kofford: Smoking the freezing half-pipe

February 20, 2002

I know, as a patriotic American, that I should be watching the Winter Olympics and rooting for the home team, particularly after realizing how much NBC has spent on its televised coverage, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars on Matt Lauer's and Katie Couric's adorable sweaters alone.

But here's the thing. I don't like the Winter Olympics.

Oh, there are events I like in the Winter Olympics. I like the luge and the toboggan and the timed ice-fishing relays and the dog-sled team races and the short-track speed skating because it reminds me of the glory days of roller derby, although people need to cut off the jams sooner or someone is going to get hurt. And I love the hockey because I always love hockey. People without teeth fighting reminds me of my extended family in South Carolina.

And who doesn't love the pure joy of simply having reason to say Dick Button time and time again?


Deep down what I don't like about the Winter Olympics, I guess, is the whole thing reminds me of the worst five weeks of my life. My friend, the always scheming Dave the Rave, had gotten us jobs at the Badger Pass ski resort in Yosemite during our long winter break from our "studies" at Fresno State. What I thought would be a fun but money-making break from school turned out to be day after day of cold, dark and dank conditions working in a ski rental shop and dealing with snotty (literally and figuratively) people who would get angry because I couldn't guess their boot sizes.

While working on the summit I tried skiing for the first time, but I decided on my first day on the bunny slopes that if I really wanted to voluntarily spend a lot of time being cold, wet and falling down, I would transfer to San Francisco State and join a fraternity. So my favorite winter sport remained basketball, followed closely by getting under a blanket quickly (far and away my wife's favorite winter sport.)

Despite many folks thinking I am some sort of freaked-out radical, I am a traditionalist when it comes to sports. Those mysterious deaths of Frisbee golfers in 1998? I neither admit nor deny involvement. And I'll concede I used to like the Winter Olympics more before they added all these new sports, including moguls, the half-pipe and the water pipe, which seem to fill the tragic void of the American ski bums/stoners demographic not being able to win Olympic medals.

Notice how many more medals the U.S. has earned in the Olympics since the inception of events favored by guys with names like Trey and Royce who start every sentence with "whoa," "dude" or "whoa dude." Before free-bong skiing, the U.S. used to finish between Liechtenstein and Andorra in the Winter Olympics medal standings. Now we even top Norway and Finland, where it is so cold for so long pregnant women knit ski masks for their babies.

Many people have criticized the addition of curling to the Winter Olympics in recent years, but I like it, mainly because so many people don't and I am nothing if not a contrarian. And to be honest with you, I haven't seen anyone sweep that fast since the last time I forgot my wedding anniversary. (For more bad jokes like the previous one and others featured in this column, you can purchase my new book "112 Bad Jokes by a Below-Average Columnist," available at all local bookstores.)

I have to admit I don't mind losing in curling or anything else to the Swiss, a fine people indeed who often have intriguing names that don't fit, such as Jean-Pierre Beetlebum or Marie-Claire Meyerhofferschnitzel, names equivalent to someone being named Rocco Vito O'Reilly or Lupita Jones.

One good thing about NBC's television coverage is it never fails to keep us abreast of how our U.S. athletes are doing.

"Yes, the 15-kilometer cross-country race seems as if it is going to come down a photo finish to Russian Elena Polarberareyu and Swede Inger Finger, and we may get back to that in time for that exciting finish. But first let's cut to Kate Olsen of Bemidji, Minn., currently 29 minutes behind and in 36th place in this grueling race."

"Tim, with another year or two of hard work, I think Kate could get into the world's top 30. What a display of courage this is. Now let's cut back to the studio with Matt and Katie."

"Thanks Tim and Bob. Speaking of displays, Katie, that sweater you're wearing is a truly magnificent display of color and fabric."

"Thanks Matt. And that white turtleneck under your striking sweater is just fantastic. Now let's cut back to the courageous story of American Rocco Vito O'Reilly of Whitefish, Mont., currently in 118th place in the 120-meter ski jump."

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