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The Winter Olympic Games could be better if…

Steve Blog I always try to be helpful in words and actions. Often this fails because of the incompetence of the other persons. I just wanted to make that clear.

My latest contribution to betterment of society is how NBC can improve its coverage of the Winter Olympic Games.

Let’s take curling for example. I’ve watched several hours and I can tell you NBC is not explaining the competition well. The point of the game is to push a 42-pound circular stone that has a handle on top down a 150-foot path of pebbled ice (pebbles are important and more on that later) that is 16.5 feet wide. The odd foot width measurement is based on 5 meters. But the length of the playing surface is a precise 150 feet (45.7 meters). Go figure.

At each end of the playing surface is a series of 4 concentric circles. This is called the house. The inner circle (smallest) is a tee. I could give you the dimensions but I won’t.

The players push off from what is called a hack and looks like the starting blocks in track. The players must release their grip on the handle before the front edge of the stone  touches the hog line. This is just a boundary so you don’t cross it and make an illegal release. I prefer foul line but no one is asking me.

There are other details about the play but we only give a damn about scoring, right?

But it’s complicated. Instead of points you are awarded victories based on a shooting percentage. This of course involves math.  Which is one reason why it’s not as popular in America where public school students annually rank far below their peers in Europe and Asia in anything having to do with numbers.

Think of shooting percentage as similar to a professional quarterback’s rating. That’s a number, too. It’s a complicated formula that football fans cite when evaluating players in fantasy football competition but have no idea what the number means. Seriously, admit it. You really don’t!

Sweeping. This is the oddest aspect about curling. But it does have a scientific legitimacy. Apparently rapid sweeping of the ice in front of the stone increases the temperature of the ice, causing it to melt and thus allowing the stone to travel a little bit farther but not faster.

I said I would mention the pebbled ice but since I started writing this yesterday and am finishing it today, I’ve changed my mine. Just take my word for it. The ice is pebbled not smooth.

Biathlon This may have its origins in historical Norwegian countries when persons who were confined to rural regions and prolonged periods of snow-covered tundra had to take to their skis with rifles to hunt game. Well, at least it’s the story I’m sticking with.

The Olympic competitors ski a designated circular route twice then shoot at small targets. The first time the skiers grab their rifles they plop to the ground (prone position) and fire five times at a target the size of CDs. Are people still using CDs any more? Would young viewers even know what they are?

The skiers jump up and circle the route again. They return to the target area and this time–while standing–they shoot five more times at the same targets then race to the finish line.

Here’s the complaint: If you miss a target, you have to ski a penalty lap. That seems appropriate.  People should be held responsibility for their mistakes. According to the NBC commentators this detour takes about 20 seconds. Who knows? We never see the competitors actually do this. We don’t know where this alleged penalty lap is or if it truly exists.

Why? Because before the biathlon competition or any other long distance ski competition begins we see an aerial shot of the route. But unlike the network’s coverage of the Summer Olympic Games, we don’t actually see what path the competitors race.

A nice colored arrow tracing the precise path—including the penalty lap if there actually is one—would be nice. We saw that magic arrow prior to the Rio Olympic marathon competition and it helped. Where is that arrow now! NBC must have left it on Copacabana Beach.

I could write more but instead I’m going to refill my coffee, get two more cookies and salvage something before enduring the next TV chapter of the Winter Olympic Games.


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