“I got a rock.”
“Charlie Brown is the one person I identify with. C.B. is such a loser. He wasn’t even the star of his own Halloween special”
It was Sunday night, the sofa was soft, the down comforter warm, and the sun was shining on Downton Abbey–it’s always shining on the glacially slow BBC soap opera, you might have noticed, despite what I’ve heard about England, yet it was brighter still inside the ice arena in Sochi, Russia where the world’s finest ice dancers were doing their thing in the short program–see how I’m talking in cool skater jargon?–and lighting things up. We tuned out of England and headed for the East.
I don’t know what the hell I’m looking at, of course–I know basketball and football (American Football, the best kind 😉 )–but all I know about skating is that skaters have to fit “swizzles” into their programs. Otherwise, I’m judging what looks good, what looks fluid and graceful and, well, (sorry, gentlemen) what looks pretty. Last night, they all looked pretty, and it doesn’t help that I’m a guy who, despite feminist leanings, can’t help noticing how beautiful some of these women are–muscles, smiles, short skirts–it’s better than art on a wall. I’m generally too beguiled by the beauty and the unfamiliar sport to be any kind of judge, unless one of them teeters visibly or falls down.
The top couples last night all stayed upright. We caught Canadians Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue early on and decided they were unbeatable, even if the young lady didn’t have the most perfect figure skater name ever. Tessa Virtue. A name like that doesn’t even need a publicist–at least not in theory.
A short while later, we enjoyed watching a young Russian pair, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, and you know what? Yep, they looked unbeatable, though I thought–or, more appropriately, felt something that made me wonder if the Canadians were not just a little bit better. At it turned out, it was close, but I was right.
The next skaters were noticed were a French pair, Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, who I think I liked best of all, up to that point, and guess what: I thought they looked unbeatable. It doesn’t hurt that Ms. Pechalat wore the most beautiful, most exuberant smile on her already beautiful face throughout their program–I wanted them to do well on spirit alone, and they did, landing briefly in third place behind Ilinykh/Katsalapov and Virtue/Moir.
They had to know it would be short-lived. Even though another young Canadian pair–Kaitlyn Weaver, Andrew Poje--came out and gave a great showing–not quite unbeatable, but fluid and spirited, and Ms. Weaver’s brilliant blue dress was the hands-down scene stealer of the evening, the night belonged to the last couple to skate.
It seemed like NBC packed an especically dense set of commercials into the space before Meryl Davis and Charlie White took the ice, and why shouldn’t they? This all-American couple of student-athletes has been anointed as the face of the American Olympic team this year, and for all intents and purposes they were a very good choice: smart, upbeat, and wholesome–some of my favorite images of this Olympics have been of White and Davis off the ice, cheering for their team-mates and consoling them when things haven’t turned for the best. You have to like that.
Of course, they’re also the best skaters in the world right now, and while I can’t quantify why, it was clear the moment they hit the ice–even to a neophyte like myself. I could not see, so much as I felt the difference–the skill and the surety of their performance, the confidence in every movement. It is their moment, they knew it, and their world record finish pretty much cemented the fact–while simultaneously burying all but the most emphatic–and nationalistic–rumors of score fixing that had been swirling around. Meanwhile, back and Downton Abbey, absolutely nothing had happened.
We got home and rushed to the television last night as quickly as we could after my daughters’ swimming meet–which they crushed, again, thank you very much–kicking the dog out of the way and stepping on both cats in a fervor to get the old set warmed up for…Team Ice Dancing. Hell, yeah.
That fervor was tempered somewhat as the first athlete we saw, an American from Michigan–I won’t increase his shame by actaully naming him, spent an inordinate proportion of his performance skittering sideways across the ice on his ass. Now, I’m only an ice skating fan for three weeks out of every four years, and I know this Team Ice Dancing thing is new, but I’m pretty confident that ass-skating is not an official, sanctioned event. Sigh. It’s hard to be an ugly, jaded American.
That’s the kind of jerk I am. To be honest, I started out being snarky, but it takes a cold soul indeed to watch these kids–and the things they can do with a couple of butter knives duct-taped to their boots–on the ice: Sow Cows (surprisingly, not a Pig-Cattle hybrid, but just think of the possibilties! Monsanto?) and Sopwith Camels–normal sized guys throwing muscular tiny women around like they’re rag dolls–and catching them. Most of the time. I immediately began cheering for the Americans and hoping the other teams would fall and sprain something, a horrific realization undoubtably rooted in my Cold War Youth–you damned kids with your damned walkmans and Ugg boots can’t imagine what it was like, waking up every morning and wondering if today was the day the Russians were going to nuke us into oblivion, our only hope for salvation resting in the hands of Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson, and a bunch of cheese-eating high school kids from Colorado.
At that point, skating is the WORST thing in the world–except out comes some 70 pound Japanese boy–literally, 70 pounds, this kid absolutely has worms–and pulls off an amazing performance like something from X-Men. The dude can fly. As my dad used to say: I shit you not. Flying. Without a jet pack. . Yuzuru Hanyu is his name; breaking the surly bonds of Earth is apparently his game, and 97.98 was his score. I don’t know what the hell that means, but it was a lot. And oh, yes, he’s about 12 years old. Amazing.
The couples came on a little later–we didn’t see the Americans skate, which is too bad because I’m absolutely certain that the top American skater is an Alien. She may be wearing American skin, but underneath is some sort of Avian Space Creature sent here either to protect us or prepare us for our future as a food crop for invaders from the planet Aeriexopeia. She seems really nice–one of the networks ran a TV special Wednesday night on how awesome Olympic athletes are because their parents are so incredibly awesome–and her mom seems nice too, so I’m guessing she’ll lead the fight to save us from the evil, aquatic Humidorians. I’m not the only one who thinks this. I’m a little disappointed by that, but…I didn’t say she looks bad, just different and, frankly, the longer I look the cuter she looks. I hear she doesn’t so much jump but levitate, lingering in the air for seconds at a time because her birth planet has a gravity that is 1.2 of Earth’s–but when she touches down, she skates like an angel.
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