I really should love the Winter Olympics. After all, I grew up in snowy, wintery Maine where winter sports lasted longer in the year than summer sports. Remember, three seasons there – winter, mud and July.
But not so much.
I couldn’t even get into it after a Maine kid, Seth Wescott, defended his Olympic gold medal by winning the cross-snowboarding competition. I still couldn’t get into it after Hannah Kearney, Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso, Shannon Bahrke, Apolo Anton Ohno, Shani Davis, Chad Hedrick, Shaun White, Bode Miller, and more all picked up medals.
And I really don’t care about the medal count. The Cold War is over. There doesn’t seem much point in waging a Gold War.
As a kid I did frolic in the snow. I did a fair amount of tobogganing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. I even ice skated for a while as a child, but I grew tired of falling on my bum. More than once while skating at the rink near the artisan well at the south end of Portage Lake did my feet come out from under me, landing me quite squarely on my tail bone. OK, “tail bone” is not the medical name for that remnant of an ancient tail, but you know exactly what I mean. And I mostly enjoyed the tobogganing, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and, yes, even the ice skating.
There is no feeling of peace and aloneness quite like the one experienced after skiing or snowshoeing into the forest miles from civilization to stand and hear the bitterly cold wind blow through the tops of tall conifers and white birches. There you hear the heavy plop, plop, plop sound of snow being dislodged from branches and falling to the snow-covered ground below. It is so peaceful, so alone and so “quiet” by city standards that even the creatures of childhood stories, stories of boogeymen and headless woodsmen, come back to life just a tiny bit.
It was a time that I truly enjoyed the Winter Olympics. I remember rather vividly watching TV coverage of the Miracle On Ice. I recall watching the bobsled competition, the ski jumping and other winter sports, but nothing really took hold for me.
I remember in junior high school participating in winter carnival events – snowshoeing, speed skating, tobogganing – but no winter sport really took hold for me.
In the winter, I played high school basketball for the junior varsity and later varsity teams, and on the weekends I snowmobiled on or around Portage Lake or cross-country ski on some of the snowmobile trails in the forest behind my home on the hill overlooking the lake.
But nothing takes hold for me during these Winter Games in Vancouver. Granted, I watched in envy and awe at the women’s mogul competition in which two Americans and a Canadian stood to receive medals. And I watched a bit of the luge competition. The death of the competitor earlier in the week made it a morbid necessity, I suppose. And I watched a bit of Ohno racing and Vonn rocketing
I was born in Maine about as far north as you can go in this country, to be truthful, but I was born at about the summer solstice. I blame timing and the summer solstice, then, for not being a more enthusiastic cross-country skier or luger or hockey player.
As a child, I loved late spring and summer, running through the fields of wildflowers and mustard plants and into the forest, many times following the trails that had been cut for snowmobiles. All summer long I would play baseball, soccer, golf and rode a bicycle. And when I was not doing that, I was paddling a canoe, sailing a small sailboat or swimming in the cool Portage Lake. All the while, longing for the summer to last just one more day, one more week, one more month.
It doesn’t make me un-American to not care about the Winter Olympics. That might be akin to calling someone un-American for not liking baseball and failing to watch the World Series or someone not liking American football and not watching the Super Bowl.
Maybe next time I will strive to overcome my summer solstice-induced apathy toward winter sports and watch the coverage. Maybe.