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Winter Olympics, Torino 2006

For Those Suffering a Superbowl Hangover…

While curling, bobsledding, and figure skating may not contain the same sort of visceral thrill as the bone rattling sack of an unsuspecting quarterback, there is little question that the Winter Olympics in Torino will contain more storylines, more drama, and more intrigue than the relatively pedestrian conclusion to the NFL season that was Superbowl XL (Is that supposed to stand for "40" or "Extra Lackluster"?).

Starting Friday, and running through Sunday the 26th, NBC commences its coverage of the Winter Olympics with the obligatory lighting of the Olympic cauldron and segues into a deluge of 418 hours of ice, snow, blood, sweat, and tears. While there is little question that ALL 418 hours will be requisite viewing, for those of you who can't seem to find a spare 418 hours, here are a few candidates for Tivo:

Figure Skating

While there is no U.S. storyline rivaling the Kerrigan/Harding absurdity of 1994, an interesting storyline is evolving between the nascent Sasha Cohen and Michelle Kwan. The former has been the perennial bridesmaid, never having quite found a way to transcend the figure skating juggernaut that is Michelle Kwan.

Controversy has swirled around Kwan's "free pass" onto the U.S. team. Having fought through numerous injuries this season, Kwan will have to step it up to validate her selection to the team. While Cohen managed to capture first place at the 2006 U.S. nationals, it was with Kwan sidelined. Cohen clearly wants it bad, the question is will she need a hitman to do it?

Alpine Skiing

Bode. The word conjures up all kinds of adjectives. Immensely talented, brash, drunk, foolish, irreverent and quintessentially American are but a few that could be hurled in describing Bode Miller. Despite his hard partying tendencies and erratic training in the latter months of 2005, there's little question Bode is an athlete few are expecting to walk away from Torino empty handed. If Bode saves his partying for after the competition, he may have much more to celebrate.

Speed Skating

Short track U.S. speed skating wunderkind Apolo Anton Ohno returns after claiming a silver and a gold in 2002. Not surprisingly, Ohno is favored to medal in the 500M, 1000M, and 1500M. Ohno? Oh Yes!

Not to be outdone on the long track is Casey FitzRandolph. The wily 31-year old veteran overcame a broken kneecap, sternum, and torn shoulder and knee ligaments to pull down a gold medal in the 500M in 2002. Just imagine what Casey can swing sans injuries. If the speed and potential for tumbles doesn't turn you on, there's always curling.

Curling

OK, it's a legitimate Olympic sport. But, really...if curling is going to be considered an Olympic sport, why not broomball, snow angel making, or snowball distance throwing. Any of the aforementioned would likely provide more entertainment and thrills. Instead, we have curling, a sport in which someone pushes a large stone towards a target. Said stone is preceded by individuals frantically sweeping the ice in front of the stone. I'm a fan of the absurd, but this transcends absurd.

Hockey

Given the addition of NHL players to the field, the chances of the U.S. netting a medal are not exactly miraculous. This is not to say the U.S. team is stacked. While they have three NHL quality goalkeepers, their collective playoff experience pales in comparison to that of their opponents from the Czech Republic, Canada, and well…just about everybody. However, with 10 NHL All Stars on the roster, it may not matter.


Snowboarding

Is there any sport sexier that Snowboarding in the Olympics? With seven boarders carrying X Games champion credentials, the U.S. looks primed to shred in just about every event. Of particular interest is Shaun White who is favored to score a gold in the Halfpipe competition. White narrowly missed making the 2002 team at age 15 and certainly has something to prove this time around. If you'd like a preview of White's skills, check out First Descent, the recently released snowboarding documentary.

The Mascots

No, they aren't competing. But, there was an INTERNATIONAL competition that took place to decide the best mascots to represent the Torino 2006 Games. The lucky mascots are Neve and Gliz. Apparently, creator Pedro of Albuquerque of Portugal designed said mascots thinking they would represent two cornerstones of the winter games, Snow and Ice, respectively.

Upon further inspection, the two mascots appear to be little more than bastardized amalgams of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (of Ghostbusters' fame) and the Pillsbury doughboy. If you're not into any of the aforementioned events, ponder what illicit substances Pedro was consuming when he came up with the idea of Neve and Gliz.

For Olympic Coverage details: http://www.nbcolympics.com