Tuesday, February 28, 2006

It sucks driving that extra mile or so to the closest grocery store that isn't Safeway but I've learned that when a woman asks for some space you either need to shower her with excessive attention or give her what she asked for. The trip to Italy was long and fantastic but I knew that when I returned and my brand new Macbook Pro had FINALLY arrived that I wouldn't mind holing up in my room for a while and staying out of sight.

Just to get this boring stuff out of the way: No I've never owned a mac but I use them almost everyday, and yes I'm bummed that Virtual PC doesn't run on the new Intel's yet and yes the chip is fast and yes it was totally worth the money and yes, all the new doodads like the built in camera and the magnetic power cord will be cool until someone else comes out with something cooler next year.

In the works: audio podcasts, a new site design (for all 10 of my visitors), the story of getting puked on for Fat Tuesday, how I convinced a girl who looks exactly like Kate from lost to go out with me tomorrow, why I don't talk to sorority girls and why they love it, the nostalgia of the printing press ink smell, the gnitty gritty.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

It's late here in Italy but I just haven't been able to get myself to bed. Today was one of my last hopes for a major win from an unknown american, but what happened even I couldn't have predicted. The snowboard parallel giant slalom course at Bardonechia is a flat one and a simple one. The soft snow has slowed down the pace of the action and everyone knew that the ruts from the racers tracks would make it a bumpy ride for the lighter riders. My darkhorse was an american girl from and italian family who knows how to feed her right. She was big, she was strong, and she could power down a soft course like this at wild speeds.

But as I sat down in the finish area and watched Safeway girl make international friends by handing out some packets of gushers fruitsnacks (I suggested she steal some from her store before we left), something amazing happened. A quiet girl from the 50th state started winning. And she didn't stop. It takes ten runs to get a medal in the snowboard PGS, and for 9 of them Rosey Fletcher, the daughter of a truckdriver with a cute smile and american flag bandana around her neck, touched perfection.

If three olympics aren't enough to say "I tried my hardest" then I don't know what is. The olympics are about living with a passion that most of us only dream about. A passion so thick here in Torino you can taste it in the air... Or maybe that's just the Fiat plant down the road.

My last hope is that young gun Ted Ligety can throw down for a gold medal sunday in the skiing slalom and stand on top of the podium looking down on Bode in secord or third.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

It's about as cold here in Torino as I'll bet it is up in the NBC Olympic production studios. They've spent months hanging the Olympics on superstars they hoped would become superheroes and look what happened. Michelle Kwan withdrawing more gracefully than any of her Olympic performances. Jeremy Bloom packing his bags for NFL scouting cap with nothing better than a sixth place. Apollo Ohno ready to shave that stupid goatee just to shave a few seconds off the time. Lindsey Kildow happy with an eighth place. And of course, Bode Miller, doing exactly what he has done all season, Disqualify only to upstaged by a 21-year-old who takes gold in a sport where only seasoned veterans are supposed to succeed?

If anyone at NBC had been to the movies in the last three years they would realize that the only superhero stories people want to hear are the underdogs. Spider-Man's just a nerdy kid. Batman's just a lost little rich boy. And Superman can't even get the girl he loves. The real stories, missed everyday, are the athletes falling through the cracks. Graham Watanabe will take the spot of Snowboardcross racer Jayson Hale after Hale blew out his ACL in training on Tuesday. Why is Watanabe in Torino? He came to help his teammates and friends wax his board for a race.
Vail's Toby Dawson was born on the streets of South Korea and traveled thousands of miles before he reached his adopted parents home in Vail. Yesterday he won a bronze. Ivica Kostelic, took silver in the combine ski event after he and his sister overcame amazing odds in Croatia to become two of the sports more fun and heartwarming athletes.

These are the stories you won't find back home. You won't hear about Tyler Jewell, who slept in tents, showered in YMCA lockerooms and ate at hospitals to eventually take the lone spot in snowboarding parallel Giant slalom away from a bronze medalist and the rest of the US team. These are the real heroes. The ones who know that it's worth it in the end. The ones who win after the planes, the trains, the cars, the bad food, the lack of sleep, the broken boots, the broken boards the broken bones and the broken hearts.

Monday, February 13, 2006

People all over the world can mock the Torino Olympics to their heart's content. They can call it a facade, a marketing tool, a blasphemous excuse for true athletic performance. They can call Bob Costas a hack and a lame duck and a utter fool. But all of them would be completely missing the point.

Being here with the Safeway girl the last three, wandering around the bottom of the halfpipe and alongside the Downhill run and in the stands above the speed skating ice, it's easy to realize what isn't coming through between the colored dots on your TV screens.

Deep down no one cares about bringing distant nations together or counting the medals or making statements. We're all here to see that glimmer in the special moment when a few lucky souls get to see their dream realized. Sure, people realize their dreams everyday but I promise there is nowhere else on earth where it is happen so quickly in such a small area with so many watching. If we could see everyone's dreams realize in a moment it would make for equally entertaining and heartfelt television, but here, now, in Torino they've managed to get them all in one place for two weeks for the first time in four years.

Eight years ago I watched something that I couldn't escape. It would change my life forever in the best ways and the hardest ways. Bring me to new friends, new failures, exotic places and the very limit of what I thought I was capable of. That's the thrill of the Olympics. Dreams, once impossible but now realized.

I tried to explain it to the Safeway girl. That feeling in my heart. "Ya, ya," she said, "that's all fine and good but will you buy me one of those Team USA berets?" And I kissed her and a skier flew down the course and in that moment I understood that the best part of realizing one dream was dreaming up another.