The Olympic games began in a relatively primitive time as a chance for primitive people to showcase superiority in primitive skills. Running, swimming, throwing heavy things, lifting heavy things, it was pretty basic. Today, the Summer Olympics carry on a bit of that same primitive tradition, and they’re fun to watch. The Winter Olympics, on the other hand, are a bit too obscure to catch on. Most events consist of human beings putting themselves in obscure situations and trying not to die. Think about it, put you or me in a bobsled or, heaven forbid, on a luge sled going 80 down the most sinister waterslide known to the Arctic circle, dead.
It’s a shame, because there are certainly heroes within the ranks of winter Olympians. The US Women’s Hockey Team, doing everyone a favor and shutting up Canada on the ice, is a solid set of role models for young girls everywhere. Guys like Apolo Ohno keep a clean personal life while dominating their sport, but they’re hidden in the frigid ranks of obscure sports we only see every 4 years.
TV ratings for these Olympics are slightly up over the Sochi games, but they’re still low compared to how the games have been perceived and hyped in society over the last few decades. What has changed? Society has more access to technology and streaming media than ever, so the time change isn’t an excuse. It’s simply that with how widely televised sports are nowadays, the average American has the choice to watch either Golden State play basketball, or watch Nathan Chen in a glittery shirt on ice skates. When someone has the chance to see Kevin Durant play the two-man game with Georgian boxer-faced center Zaza Pachulia or watch a small American man (very talented, don’t get me wrong), Zaza wins every time.
Curling is, perhaps, the only exception. The average American WILL take time away from Zaza to watch Matt Hamilton (aka Baby Ron Swanson) and his mustache scrape the hell out of that ice to knock the Swedes’ big gray rocks out of that target area thing. That’s pride.
Americans want familiar entertainment. We’re used to being the absolute best at the sports we play. Watching a red, white, and blue sled fly down a run only to have the pilot act angry when he gets out is not only confusing, it’s a blow to American confidence. Hamilton’s mustache and curling proficiency is the exception.
It’s not the Olympics’ fault, it’s simply the state of American sports media. We are so inundated with excellent sports entertainment that reinforces the belief that we are indeed #1 that the Winter Olympics and their weird “try not to die” events just don’t appeal anymore.