The Rant 

The Winter Olympics, Bob Costas' eyes, Vladimir Putin, and the high cost of going downhill fast.

Enough with the commie Olympics already. It's difficult to

take a winter sports festival seriously when the snow in Charleston, South Carolina, is deeper than it is at the site of the games. There was more ice in

Atlanta than there is in Sochi. Seriously, one afternoon in the city chosen to host the quadrennial ice capades, the temperature soared to 60 degrees, transforming a powdery overcoat of machine-enhanced snow into a layer of sno-cone ice that lacked the bubblegum flavor that some of the hapless skiers might have preferred.

I mean, who skis when it's 60 degrees? In the South, that's considered warm enough to swim. By the way, if snow skiing is considered a sport in the winter Olympics, then why is water skiing not a sport in the summer Olympics? And this biathlon business is not a sport. The combination of cross-country skiing while pausing to target shoot with a scoped-rifle is basic training for the Swiss army.

The problem with the winter Olympics is that they're just not American. Every year, people all over the United States are breaking legs attempting to ski, because skiing just isn't an American sport. It's an Alpine sport that began when Heidi needed a doctor and the fastest way for grandpa to get down the mountain was on a couple of old bed slats. Now, the men's downhill tests technology as much as the skier.

If you want to go skiing in the U.S., you have to either be part of the fortunate one percent who can afford a ski lodge, or else you have to go to a ski resort. In either case, it screams of elitism. Anybody can learn to swim or run, but skiing is a rich man's sport. You first have to book a flight to a mountain resort and reserve a room well before snow season. If there is no snow when you get there, that's your problem. If it's snowing, there are other arrangements to make: ski lessons, time on the slopes, doctor's appointments. But before you do anything, there's all that gear you need to buy. I suppose that you can rent skis, but no self-respecting resort attendee would consider wearing any protective garments previously worn by another. That's too much like renting bowling shoes. Each ski student must have the weather protective, one-piece garment that they used to call a leisure suit back in the day. Then there's the helmet, goggles, and gloves, and the derigueur insulated, Michelin Man-looking overcoat. Not to mention the plaster casts for sprains and breaks. Personally, I don't care to participate in any sport where a St. Bernard is involved.

The only race as exciting as men's speed skating was watching Bob Costas' pink-eye race from his left eye to his right. He remained in his post like a trouper before his malady began to frighten and disgust viewers, then he was properly relieved to receive treatment. There's a sort of sports poetry in Costas ending his iron man streak of Olympic broadcasts and Derek Jeter announcing his retirement from baseball in the same week. 

Back to the men's speed skating, which is a more accessible sport to the ordinary human than skiing, since everyone remembers that ankle pain when first attempting to step on the ice. Speed skating is an exciting sport, but the skaters' suits have become so aero-dynamic and skin tight that they may as well skate naked just like the ancient Greeks. I understand it's necessary to keep a tight package for wind resistance sake, but if everyone skated naked, it would be the only sport that rewarded the man with the small penis. Also, if they would like to make skating even more thrilling, make them skate on dry ice. That would add an incentive to remain upright. One more X Games-themed idea: They should ban ski poles on the mountains and make them gut it out like surfers and ski jumpers.

During Vladimir's Olympics, Putin himself made appearances at some of the more macho events. It's good that he passed on the men's figure skating and the teams ice-dancing, or his head would have exploded. He might have admired U.S. figure skater Jeremy Abbott's reaction to his critics after crashing and burning in the men's short program. Abbott exploded during an interview and told his detractors to go fuck themselves. Some of Abbott's competitors' costumes were so outlandish, I was afraid Putin would order the Russian police to arrest them on the spot.

Putin's glassy stare and mirthless smile conjure up images of those old KGB agents who would stab someone with the tip of a poisoned walking stick. In fact, that's who Putin is. When I heard that the U.S. hockey team beat the Russians in a shootout, I thought that meant the squad had to escape under the cover of CIA sniper fire.

The greatest anticipation remaining is whether the return of Costas will yield yet another infection of some sort, and whether the yellow tap water is responsible. CNBC reports that the 2014 Olympic Games is costing an estimated $51 billion, making it the most expensive games in history. Even Mitt Romney criticized Putin, calling the games an "unsavory" vanity project. If only this country could spend that kind of money on roads and bridges. Putin's Winter Olympics at Sochi do prove one thing: If you build it, they will come.

Randy Haspel writes the "Born-Again Hippies Blog," where a version of this column first appeared.

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