The Winter Olympics begin tonight--so it is time for my quadrennial plea to NBC to show us something other than figure skating in prime time. I'm not going to get into the debate as to whether figure skating is a sport or performance art (the latter) but can we please give the US audience a chance to enjoy some of the much better events.
We can start with ice hockey. There will be no need for an NHL All-Star Game this year--because the Olympic Hockey Tournament will be four or five All-Star Games--except the guys will actually try hard and hit somebody on defense. The ultimate game will be when Canada and Russia face off for the Gold Medal in front of 20-thousand insane Canadian fans. I cannot wait to see the Penguins' Sidney Crosby continue his blood fued with the Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin. Unless of course, Team USA crashes the party behind the red-hot goaltending of the Sabres' Ryan Miller.
I know the network executives say hockey just doesn't work on TV. But high-def and widescreen formats make the action easier to follow now--and international hockey doesn't feature the fighting that some believe turns off most casual fans. You fight in the Olympics and you are done for the game--and the next game too. So what you end up with is a wide-open style of offensive hockey--further boosted by the larger ice surface of international rules. As much as this "dump and chase, old-time-hockey" guy hates to admit it--Olympic hockey is actually better than NHL playoff hockey.
And don't be afraid to show the ladies hockey teams as well. The US and Canada are miles ahead of the rest of the world in this sport--but their meeting for the gold medal will be just as competitive as the men's game. And don't forget, Team USA's Head Coach is Wisconsin's very own Mark Johnson--he of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. Isn't funny that if you ask any sports fan over the age of 30 what's the greatest moment in Olympic (or all sports for that matter) history they will likely tell you the Miracle on Ice? If you give us hockey--we will love hockey.
My other request again this olympiad is more curling. Yes, curling. The sport has gained a cult following the last two Winter Games thanks to late-night coverage on CNBC. Now it is time to give the game the prime time coverage it deserves.
I like curling because of the interesting blend of strategy and finesse. I know we Americans don't always appreciate the sublime (hence the popularity of WWE Raw)--but like chess, curling usually plays itself out many steps in advance with positioning and execution determining who wins. Plus, curling is probably the closest thing to an "everyman sport" in the winter games. The competitors don't wear special wind-reduction suits or sequined costumes. It's usually simple sweats. And the oldest Olympic competitors are usually curlers--since the touch and strategy needed to succeed comes only with experience. Curling is the second most popular sport in Canada--meaning Vancouver will provide great support for the tournament--and that should transfer through on the telecast as well.
So what do you say NBC? Dump the tired cliche of the "beauty and grace" of figure skating and give us the best events of the Games....for a change.