The two and a half week celebration of culture, sport, and – apparently in Sochi – outdoor plumbing, is set to begin on Thursday.
Where should your attention be throughout? How do they stack up with one another? We’ve got all the events ranked from least to most watchable.
17. Ice Dancing: Without a doubt, ice dancing is the worst event of the Winter Olympics. It’s everything you hate about figure skating, with none of the jumping/falling excitement that makes the latter dramatic. I didn’t watch Bill Nye the Science Guy mambo on hardwood, why would I watch someone who didn’t teach me chemistry do it on ice – in a leotard.
16. Ski Jumping: Ramp, glide, land in pretty much the same area as the last guy. Ramp, glide, land in pretty much the same area as the last guy. Repeat until curling comes on. I know it’s more complicated and infinitely more dangerous than that, but it’s a terrible watch.
15. Cross Country Skiing: Even though they’re fast, they’re slow. Watching cross country skiing is like watching a NASCAR race with all the cars in second gear. Yeah, they’re going faster than you do through your neighborhood, but they’re not going fast enough to make it interesting.
14. Nordic Combined: Ski jumping + cross country = snooze-ville.
13. Luge: In general, I’m a big fan of all the sledding events. I can’t lie, though, two-man luge kind of freaks me out. I know it shouldn’t, but it just looks…I don’t know…Don’t judge me.
12. Speed Skating: A quintessential winter Olympics event, of this there is no doubt. Too often, though, I feel like I need a nap to make it through a race. And too often, I have time to take one.
11. Biathlon: There is one universal truth in America, guns make everything better. Cross country skiing? Meh. Cross country skiing with gunplay? I’m in.
10. Free Style Skiing/Snowboarding: I don’t have any idea how these events are scored. I doubt that even the contestants understand the scoring system, but you have to respect that they can jump that high and spin and flip that many times without suffering major injury…or maybe suffering major injury…maybe that’s why I watch…it’s not…but it might be…but it’s not…but it might be…
9. Skeleton: I get so confused watching skeleton. Should I be excited by the incredible speed and strength on display? Or should I be worried about imminent death? I can’t decide.
8. Half-pipe: You may not know what a corkscrew, or an aloe burn, or a switch 1080 backside grab is. You may not even know which one of those I made up, but you know you need to watch Shaun White do his thing.
7. Bobsled: Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, watch four – or two – dudes climb into an oversized metal bullet and careen down an ice track at 90 miles per hour.
6. Hockey: I love hockey. It’s my favorite sport, and it’s great on the international level. But it doesn’t really feel like an Olympic sport. I was watching it two months before the game, and I’ll watch it again over the next four years. To feel that Olympic spirit, I need to be able to completely forget about the sport as soon as the torch is extinguished.
5. Ski/Snowboard Cross: Without a doubt, ski/snowboard cross is the most underrated Olympic event. What’s not to love about a full-contact, no-holds-barred, frenetic race down a mountain while nailed to a plank of wood? Nothing. Nothing is not to love. Love it all, watch it all.
4. Downhill Skiing: The only thing that makes less academic sense than climbing into or atop an aluminum sled and hurtling down an ice run at over 80 miles an hour is doing it on a pair of two-by-fours without the benefit of the aluminum sled – which is what makes downhill skiing an incredible watch. All that speed and agility. All the impending doom that comes with them.
3. Short Track Speed Skating: 50% foot race, 50% wrestling match, 100% awesome.
2. Figure Skating: Yeah. Figure skating. I’ll state this simply: put all the macho bravado aside, if you don’t like Olympic figure skating, then you don’t like high stakes sporting drama with outcomes decided, quite literally, by a razor’s edge. Let me paint a picture:
One skater left, she’s decidedly trailing in points. Everyone in the building knows she has to throw down a perfect run to claim the gold. The music starts, she gathers speed and momentum, and with one flick of the leg she’s up in the air, hanging and spinning three, four, five, twelve, fifteen feet above the ice. When she comes back down, she has to land perfectly on that eighth of an inch piece of steel. A fall – hell, a bobble, will cost her the crown.
If you’re not holding your breath then you don’t have breath to hold. High drama on the highest stage. It’s all we want from sports. Get over the tight pants.
1. Curling: I try to avoid saying that something cannot be explained. It’s a cop out, especially for someone whose job it is to explain things. The power and draw of curling, though, truly cannot be explained. You happen across the end of a match between the U.S. and Italy. There’s nothing else on, so you figure you’ll just watch until the end. When it’s over, you have every intention of getting up and continuing your day, but then NBC teases Canada-Austria. So you watch, and though you know you should just go to bed when its over, Germany and Poland are up next. Rivalry match. You’re not going anywhere. And the next thing you know you’ve watched curling for twelve hours – and loved every second of it.
I can’t tell you why, there’s nothing overly exciting or dangerous about it, but I can’t not watch. It’s incredible television. It’s like the siren’s song. It lures you in; you’re powerless to fight against its will. But instead of dying a sad, awful death, you get countless hours of sporting glory you don’t fully understand. Does the broom help slow down or speed up the stone? Why is it called a stone? Why do I not have these answers? It’s all unclear. But hopefully I’ll find out while watching
Author: Joseph White
Joe Bianchino is a writer, producer, and radio host located in upstate New York. He is a life-long New York sport fan, Chelsea supporter, and Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter @JoeBNTS. Email him at Joe@noticketsports.com.