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It's 2 in the morning on Sunday as I type this. The Olympics are keeping me company on the TV.

I'm bummed out because the US curling team has just lost. Earlier, a skier was doing flips in the air and I had to stop and watch. I'm planning to stay up late enough to watch Codie Bascue's first bobsled run.

Which begs the question, what is it that we find interesting about these events? These are sports that generally aren't a part of our lives, outside of the Winter Olympics. 

Think about that for a moment.

Summer Olympics is stuff we do. Almost everyone plays basketball. Volleyball, wrestling and soccer are standard high school sports. Most of us have rowed a boat or swum in a pool. Your kids may be in gymnastics. If you didn't run track, you've run, in some manner. 

(Yes, skeptics, there's team handball and equestrian, but with 40-some sports, something's going to be outside the box. So cut me some slack here.)

How many of us can say we've hurtled down an Olympic-sized ski jump, to be launched into the air on a 300-foot flight? What percentage of you have even sat in a bobsled or a luge sled? How many of you spin circles on ice skates, except when you've accidentally crashed into somebody on Crandall Pond?

The uniqueness of the events is surely one of the attractions, along with a certain amount of envy for those who have the stones to do some of this stuff. Or are crazy enough. Because driving a bobsled down an icy path at 90 mph is kinda dangerous.

Whenever I watch bobsled I have flashbacks, and not necessarily for the right reasons. I was a food service worker at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, selling tickets for food from a cold, lonely, phone booth-sized shack at the foot of the bobsled track. 


The writer's credential from the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

The final leg of the course was behind me, and it wasn't hard to tell when the four-man bobs were coming to the finish. The earth shook.

On some days the sound and feel of those bobsleds was the only thing that broke up the monotony. It wasn't what I had in mind when I signed up to work at the Olympics (the day they took us up to the ski jumps to hawk hot dogs made up for it ... that was a blast).

A few years later I paid something like $35 for a ride on the old bobsled track from the halfway point. They had three paying customers sit between the driver and the brakeman. It was pretty slow at first, meandering through the first couple of curves, seemingly a waste of money.

It all changed very quickly as we picked up speed and began rushing toward the finish line. The 1980 bobsled run finished with a steep curve in front of a lodge, and I remember it looked like we were heading into a wall of ice. I also remember having this fleeting thought: What if the driver is having a bad day? What if his wife threw him out of the house last night, and he just doesn't have his mind on the job?

I can't tell you what it looks like to go through that final turn. My head was down, looking at the bottom of the sled.

But back to the storyline about unique sports.

You may have noticed that I've sidestepped skiing here, because many of you are skiers, and I can't make the case that it's an uncommon sport. Hockey, too.

I will counter with biathlon and any of the forms of skiing or snowboarding that involve twisting in the air. The vast majority of us have never attempted that.

I don't know how to classify curling. It's just people sliding stones down the ice, yet I will watch it for hours on end. I guess it's the strategic side of it, or whatever. 

If you buy into the common perception that "it looks like something any of us could do," I suggest you give it a try. I have. It's not so easy, and you'll be sore the next morning.

The point is, it's something very few of us have ever done, but somehow it seems palatable in the context of the Olympics.

Anyway, I'm going to stop thinking about this, sit back and enjoy the action for the rest of this week. The view is better  than it was at the bobsled run in 1980.

Contact Sports Editor Greg Brownell via email at



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