This week, NBC has been beaming slope and pipe skiing into living rooms across the country, and suddenly, there’s a shift in focus. That was, ostensibly, the point of including freeskiing in the Olympics, but now people who have never thought about skiing, except for when Lil Wayne mentions it, will care. People like my mom, or your mom. Or Bob Costas. Or the bajillions of people out there who don’t troll Newschoolers every day and who think that a pretzel is just a salty snack. They will feel invested. They will start to have unbiased opinions about triples, or judging, or Bobby Brown’s attractiveness, and you will want to reach across the bar/couch/grocery store and shake them. Hard. There will be growing pains. It’s like when a band you love all of a sudden starts getting played on the radio and you find yourself whining, “No, guys, their old stuff is wayyyy better.” The good news is that you can grease the tranny by explaining things in terms they understand. I recommend using freeskiing’s closest analogous Olympic sport: figure skating. America loves that (at least once every four years) so try starting there. Here’s how to begin:
There are different kinds of skiing
There are not different kinds of ice hockey, or curling, so step one is to explain that Super G is different than slopestyle, and that the athletes don’t overlap. You will probably also have to explain that Lindsey Vonn isn’t particularly relevant to slopestyle or halfpipe, (or Sochi, for that matter), and that snowboarders compete separately from skiers. The dang liberal media hasn’t done a good job of delineating that, so you’re going to have to step in.
This is where your Tara Lipinski analogy might help. Creativity doesn’t really play a role in speed skating or cross-country skiing. In almost every other winter sport, winners are determined by time or points, they don’t take into account amplitude, or how hard a trick is, or if you actually get your grab. Explain those little details, what the judges are looking for, and why looking good is important.
Halfpipe—maybe because the pipe always looks the same, or because at-home viewers got used to watching snowboarding—is relatively simple to digest. Slope, not so much, especially in the upper half of the course. Jumps are pretty straightforward, but rails can be confusing.
Do you know what a salchow is? Yeah, me neither. In that same vein, a switch rightside double misty 1260 mute likely sounds like gibberish to someone who doesn’t speak the language. Get basic. Separate out spins and grabs. See if you can get them to spot triples. You’re also going to have to tell them they won’t see a method or a yolo flip, no matter how much Matt Lauer talks about them.
Why is this a big deal?
When, say, ski cross made it into the Olympics in 2010, it felt like more of a play for TV audience than the legitimization of a grassroots sport. This is different. Even if you think competitions are killing the soul of skiing, it’s important to acknowledge that a lot of skiers worked hard to get it on par, internationally, with fencing, or curling. Not that freeskiing needs to be legitimized at this point, but Olympic inclusion is a bit of a middle finger in the direction of people who called it reckless, or implied that skiers weren’t athletes. Figure skating, despite the social battles that some of it’s athletes have had to fight, never had to deal with that.
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