Over in the UK the Winter Oympics is about as popular as the world tiddlywinks championships. There’s only so much skiing, skating and sledging a viewer can take without slipping into a coma – or just switching channels and watching something more interesting instead.
Ice hockey is, however, an exception to the norm given that it’s actually a team sport, rather than most other events in the Winter Olympics which seem to be endless variations on the theme of one unheard of individual racing against the clock.
Take the skeleton bob, for example. Sure, it’s dangerous, and doubtless exciting if you’re on board, but in terms of televisual entertainment it’s right up there with the Chelsea Flower Show. “Oh look, she’s done a time of one minute and 16 seconds. That’s shaved three 100ths of a second off her…” zzzzzzz. The skeleton is the only event Britain actually won gold in and I still couldn’t bring myself to watch it.
And don’t get me started on curling. That one’s already been covered on this site but suffice it to say that any event in which a competitor can take part while six-months’ pregnant cannot possibly be deemed a sport.
Ice-hockey is refreshing because it is a team pursuit. In fact it’s refreshing because it’s a sport, full stop. And in an age in which so many sports are being constantly emasculated for safety reasons, hockey is one of the last bastions the old school. Okay, so you can’t tell where the puck is half the time but, so what, at least you get to see a good punch-up every once in a while and nobody gets banned for it. It’s one of the last remaining sports in which men – and even women, can be men.
Or so I thought. Unfortunately, even this fine sport is not immune from the interference of the authorities. After winning gold in Vancouver last week, the women’s Olympic hockey team decided to celebrate in style by coming out onto the ice to immortalize the scene of victory with a team photo. But the fact that, God forbid, the victors had a few beers and cigars on the go handed the stiffs at the Olympic committee the glorious opportunity to piss on their parade.
“We will investigate what happened,” stammered an enraged IOC executive director Gilbert Felli. I mean, beer on the rink, and women drinking and smoking – whatever next? They’ll be giving them the vote next.
Of course this sort of arcane meddling is prevalent in most sports, where celebrating has for some reason become the love that dare not speak its name. In football, for example, players who rip their shirt off in the post-coital ecstasy of scoring a goal get booked for doing so.
In NFL, they banned spiking the football after a touchdown and all manner of other celebrations as they were deemed to be unsportsmanlike. Seriously, what? Sport is about the pursuit of glory and if those who achieve it can’t enjoy the moment what’s the point of it all in the first place?