Vanc-over: Bidding the Winter Games Adieu

The Canadian women's hockey team celebrated their gold medal win by fulfilling every stereotype imaginable short of eating ketchup-flavored potato chips and using their universal health care.

Finally, the 2010 Winter Olympics are over!

No more 21-year-old athletes dying because a course was made too unsafe and organizers were too arrogant to acknowledge the danger in the first place.

No more American skier Lindsey Vonn, winning one gold medal, then promptly crashing or getting DQ’ed in every other race, but still feeling entitled to rip her teammate and suggest she appear on Saturday Night Live for a spoof on Tiger Woods’ apology.

No more Apolo Ohno, whose gaudy soul patch makes me want to wax my whole life.

No more Polyanna essays by Bob Costas, Jimmy Roberts or Tom Brokaw declaring sport is the most important thing in the world and Canada is the greatest country on the planet and nothing matters more to national morale than your country’s performance at the Olympics.

No more bunk-ass Olympic medals that look like they were made by Pam Halpert. (Furthermore, no more postponing The Office for three weeks in favor of the luge on seven-hour tape delay.)

Luckily, American athletes were given the proper apparel to look like a bunch of pretentious, Ivy League stiffs at the closing ceremonies.

No more gratuitous branding opportunities, like Ralph Lauren Polo logos the size of an actual polo player on the American apparel for last night’s closing ceremonies.

No more cross-country skiing races that go 50 kilometers. We’ve got snowmobiles for that kind of trip.

No more “most important hockey game ever” B.S. after Canada defeated the U.S. 3-2 in overtime yesterday on a goal by Sidney Crosby. It’s still an awful sport to watch on TV and always will be.

No more acting like those stupid red mittens with the maple leaf were anything more than stupid red mittens with a maple leaf. Quit acting like every fashion show in Milan was abuzz.

No more acting like curling is going to catch on. The kind of person who would watch curling and think Now that’s a sport I could enjoy! probably has no desire to lug around a 50-pound block of granite in the name of leisure.

No more tape-delayed sports. In the era of social media and 24-hour news, it was insulting to Olympics devotees to think they could avoid hearing scores and medalists until events were broadcast in primetime. If you’re going to pay bookoo bucks to air the Olympics, NBC, push all-in and show it in real-time, 24/7, especially when the time zone makes it possible.

No more Sarah McLachlan. Ever.

No more sports where costumes are involved. (Yeah, I’m talking about you, figure skating and ice dancing.)

No more pretending the Winter Olympics feature the best athletes in the world. For that, we must wait until 2012 when the real best athletes in the world compete in the Summer Olympics in London.

No more withholding credit to British Columbia for being one of the largest marijuana importers to America. Now that’s a feature I’d love to hear from Tom Brokaw.

No more acting like the Winter Olympics carry on the tradition established in Greece thousands of years ago when it’s plainly obvious the winter-version was formed as a commercial opportunity that attempted to bank on the success of the real Olympics.

No more highlights of the 1980 U.S. vs. Soviets game. It was one of the greatest games in American sporting history, but a reminder that it’s the only real Winter Olympics moment any American gives a damn about.

No more waiting for March. It’s time to start thinking about Selection Sunday folks, because in just a few weeks, we’ll be frantically filling out brackets for March Madness office pools and becoming overnight fans of Cinderella schools like Sienna or Northern Iowa. The most overrated sporting event in the world gives way to the best sporting event in the world this month.

It’s about time for some real sports action.

Too Dumb for TV

NOTHING. DUMBER. ON. TELEVISION.

There was no traffic report growing up in Sioux Falls, SD. However, we did have prices from the farmer exchange. The corn trade was a more pressing matter than the rush hour traffic on I-29.

The traffic report is a source of pride for each of the local news networks. In fact, they have entire teams of reporters designated to the beat. As I speak, there’s a man named Eric Kirchner from the KGW 8 traffic team diligently reporting the traffic flow hundreds of feet above the 405 in a helicopter.

It’s just an average Wednesday morning commute for thousands of Oregonians, and here’s Mr. Kirchner, confirming that yes, traffic is indeed heavy because it’s a rush hour. Just like yesterday morning at this time was. And the day before that. Tomorrow, at this time, will also see heavy traffic.

Never once, as you were growing up, did you hear a classmate say, “I want to be a traffic reporter when I grow up!” It’s the only on-air job where there are no legends or icons. I imagine traffic reporters are former meteorologists who couldn’t hack it. That’s saying something, because meteorologists are given a lot of leeway considering weather’s unpredictable nature. You can suck really, really bad at giving the forecast and still find work in Des Moines.

For those who truly can’t hack it, there’s traffic.

It’s always a little awkward when there’s a major accident during a rush-hour commute. Traffic gets stymied to one lane as vehicles pass by the wreckage like red-blood cells through a capillary. Police stand around, looking concerned. Emergency responders are yanking bodies from twisted metal, piling the wounded in ambulances.

The traffic reporter says, “Yeah, um, minor accident on 205. You’re going to want to take a detour this morning, folks.”

Looking on, you just know someone’s discovering their husband or father has been hurt in a car accident, yet here’s this dolt more concerned on making sure potential tragedy doesn’t inconvenience anyone.

Are traffic reports useful? Yeah, I’m sure. To some. But it’s like the 10-day forecast: You can tell me it’s going to be 54 degrees and rainy on Mar. 5, but I’ll worry about it when we get there.

If I’m sitting here at 7:08 a.m. watching the traffic report, none of the information I’m receiving matters if I’m not on the road at that moment. Simple logic, folks. It doesn’t take an ex-meteorologist in a chopper to solve that one.

Why I Appreciate Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney won’t be around much longer, and that makes me incredibly sad.

The legendary commentator is 91, and he’s been doing his bit on 60 Minutes for just about 32 years now. What I do on this blog every day isn’t much different than what Rooney’s been doing for decades. The key difference, however, is Rooney’s been able to comment all these years about the subtleties and nuances of life without ever straying to a polarized stance.

Think about it: Most of us either love or hate something. That’s most apparent in the media, where debates and roundtables will feature guests with completely polarized views — the neo-conservative debates the bleeding-heart liberal; the pro-choice advocate debates the priest; the anti-war activist debates the general. The problem is our brain doesn’t necessarily operate within absolutes. Not always, anyway.

Rooney? His mind never does.

Sharp as an arrow after all these years, I try to catch Rooney’s segment every Sunday evening because he reminds me it’s OK, if not healthier, to just like or dislike something. Rarely will you hear Rooney say he loves or hates something. He operates within that 25-75 percent window from which most of us are outliers. His standard of deviation never strays far from lukewarm, and that’s probably why he’s going strong at 91.

Rooney’s taught me it’s important to appreciate small things, and certainly no waste of time to call attention to them. He realizes those who don’t like his commentary can certainly tune out or turn him off, and I suppose the same goes for my blog.

I was thinking about Rooney when a friend of mine invited me to an upcoming discussion between Frank Black and Carl Wilson. Black is a musician best known as lead singer of alternative rock outfit the Pixies. Wilson is an editor and critic for the Globe and Mail (of Toronto) who wrote a book called Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, which discusses how Dion is one of the most polarizing recording artists ever. (People either love or hate her music.)  According to the Facebook invite I received:

They’ll have a dynamic, irreverent discussion about the changing meanings of “alternative” and “underground,” the relationship of indie to mainstream, emotion in music, and how what we like defines, creates and possibly distorts who we are.

Now, given my limited knowledge of these individuals, both should have the predilection to use words like “love” and “hate” quite a bit. (Given the nature of the discussion, I would imagine we’ll more likely hear “fucking love” or “fucking hate,” actually.)

Could this discussion take place were Rooney a part of it? Yes. However, it might not be as lively to the audience, because we’re hoping these two great minds butt heads a few times or harmoniously praise or revile the same things. Rooney wouldn’t take the bait. He would say, “I don’t see why you’re getting so worked up about things. Celine’s music is perfectly fine, but you won’t find her work in my record collection.”

It’s not my style to operate within Rooney’s range of contentment. There’s no way I could go on writing about things with such harnessed feelings. Unfortunately, my feelings (and so my writing) runs hot and cold, rarely in between. What I will take from Rooney now and remember long after he passes is its OK to muse over the way you like your coffee every morning or grumble at the way jeans fit so tightly after just being washed. Those are the little things that make up the brunt of our lives, anyway. They’re frequent, but still infinitesimal and not worth getting too worked up over.

I hope when Rooney passes the producers of 60 Minutes are tactful when thinking his replacement. They should settle on someone full of like and dislike who everyone can love or hate, just like Rooney.

Google Knocks Tiger in Super Bowl Ad

No one’s going to see this ad and think, “Google? What’s Google?”

The ad is completely unnecessary. Google is the most popular Internet search engine in the world.

But, how awesome is it that they scrapped together a few bucks to air this thing during the Super Bowl? Apparently, we’re to the stage where Tiger’s extracurriculars are just good material.

This is really all I have to offer today for TMT. I don’t give a damn who wins the Super Bowl, but I’m watching it. I’ve been watching the pregame show for the past two hours and there’s still two hours to go. It’s a sad day for football fans, as this is the last consequential football game for a good eight months. My Minnesota Vikings should be playing today. This should be one of the most memorable days of my life as a sports fan.

Bloody hell.

My prediction: Colts 34, Saints 23. Manning should change his name from “Peyton” to “Patton.” He’s the best quarterback in the NFL, and while he’s the blandest, most vanilla star athlete in pro sports, you have to admire the fact he’s really, really good at what he does because he puts in the work.

Jesus, listen to me. I sound like Jim Nance.

Shaffer, Wilson Are Celebrity Sound-a-Likes

OK, I know there’s some obvious differences between actors Atticus Shaffer (“Brick” from The Middle) and Luke Wilson (“Chubby Guy Who Really Loves AT&T’s 3G Network” in AT&T commercials). One is 11 years old with Brittle Bone Disease. The other is 38 with Brittle Career Disorder. But there’s one uncanny similarity.

They speak the exact same way.  

Listen to the inflections and nasally tone in each’s voice. Listen to how they draw out words and their pacing. I swear I’m not alone on this one:

I’m telling you, get Luke Wilson on helium and he can probably knock out one hell of a Brick impersonation.

BEST. SONG. EVER.

My friend Jeremiah Graves isn’t much a fan of the new McDonald’s commercial for the filet-o-fish sandwich. He blogged about it today. You haven’t seen it? Have a gander before I go on:

Sometimes, an ad campaign can be stupid and brilliant all at once. I appreciate this commercial because every Lent season, we’re bombarded with fish-related ads out of nowhere from the normal burger big-whigs. The subtext is simple: It’s Lent, Catholics. You’ll love our sandwich on Fridays.

Burger King chose to go a different route a few years ago:

The thesis to this one? Burger King fish sandwichs are OK in the hood. And it’ll help you land a girl, too. Of course, BK was vying for the same Catholic contingency, but their marketing scheme was even more ridiculous. I want to be at the board meeting where a group of well-dressed, well-educated, industry experts battle over ways to get a fish sandwich street cred.

Ad campaigns are best when they abide the old acronym K.I.S.S., or, Keep It Simple, Stupid. Well done, McDonald’s.