published Friday, February 7th, 2014

Greeson: Some events at the Winter Olympics in Sochi do intrigue us

Slovenia's Peter Prevc makes an attempt from the normal hill during the men's ski jumping training at the 2014 Winter Olympics on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Slovenia's Peter Prevc makes an attempt from the normal hill during the men's ski jumping training at the 2014 Winter Olympics on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    Russia's Alexey Sobolev takes a jump during men's snowboard slopestyle qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Thursday was the first day of activity in Sochi for the Winter Olympics.

There may not be a bigger sporting event that we in the South know less about.

Ask a majority of us who the third-string tailback at Alabama is or whether Butch Jones recruited a quarterback, and we know. Ask us about the halfpipe, and well, we may want to know what happened to the other half.

So let's find talking points together.

OK, we're officially out on all sports that have to be scored by judges. If you can't explain the fundamental rules of winning to a 6-year-old, well, that's too much effort. Either score more points, get somewhere faster, jump higher -- there needs to be a one-sentence, fundamental baseline of victory that does not include "subtract the lowest and highest score and multiply by a degree of difficulty while factoring the undeniable bias of the Russian judge." We have enough bias -- real or perceived or really perceived -- in society today that we'd like to leave that out of our sports as often as possible and certainly when it comes to deciding winners at an event like the Olympics.

Does it matter that the best U.S. hopes for a medal in the supremely popular women's figure skating is named Gracie Gold? Well, maybe a little, but we're still going to pass even if Gracie Gold is akin to Tommy Touchdown or Glen Grandslam in the world of awesome sports names.

So sorry, Gracie and figure skating, save your sequins for someone else. We'll pass -- unless Katrina Witt or Will Farrell make an appearance. If figure skating or interpretative snow dancing or rhythmic pairs ice boarding is your thing -- and we may or may not have made that last one up -- knock yourselves icy. We're out.

But we're in on the Olympics because you never know when the U.S. hockey magic could happen. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Here are our five things that have us intrigued:

• Curling: We're monster fans of any sport in which drinking your beverage of choice during the event is not only possible but seems somewhat mandatory. And how would a young curler practice his craft in the summer, sweeping floors?

• Bandy: This a new sport this year that is soccer and field hockey on ice, and since "ice hockey" was already used and :ice soccer" sounds dumb, they decided to go with "bandy." Not sure what other names were bandied about or if they hope this will start a bandy wagon or if this will stick in the Olympics or bounce around like a ball of rubber bandies. Sorry. There are some elements of soccer, like throw-ins and free strokes, and players can't intentionally touch the ball with their heads, arms or hands with the exception of the goalkeeper, who does not have a stick. It's new, it's different, and it has to be way better than the half-pipe, for crying out loud.

• The Jamaican bobsled team: C'mon, you have to have a soft spot for these guys, right? How many other Olympic squads took to KickStarter and passing the hat to get a chance at the gold. Plus, any time a Disney movie has a real-life sequel before an actual movie sequel, well, we're in. And if you need one more reason to follow the Jamaican bobsled guys, well, think about the cast of that movie, which included John Candy, who died far too young. C'mon guys, let's do it for Caretaker. Let's do it for Candy.

• Any of the speed events: For crying out loud, we Southerners of all people must recognize how devastating ice and snow is, right? It caused the biggest headache in Atlanta since Sherman left town. It's some nasty stuff. Heck, could you imagine how abominable a massive, nasty snowman could be? Scary. (And yes, that was sarcasm, and the overwhelming hand-wringing in our hometown of Atlanta like they were hit by a tsumani became quite tired.) Still, there will be some world-class folks approaching world-class speeds on a variety of icy surfaces, and unlike the timed-to-music-snuggle-fest that is ice dancing and that ilk, the skiing, speed skating and sled stuff is pretty awesome. Side question: Is there a sporting event in the world in which personal hygiene is more important that the four-man bobsled? Derek Dooley could reuse that shower-shoe speech to the U.S. team for sure.

• The juxtaposition of men's hockey: Thirty-four years ago the U.S. hockey guys captured the nation's attention and spirit on home soil with a magical run. This year's Russian hockey team faces more pressure than that bunch. After dominating the first 40 years of the Olympics -- eight golds in 10 Games, and the only two times they did not win the Games were in America -- the Russians have not won gold in the last five OIympics. Where's Kurt Russell? Miracle indeed.

Enjoy. And remember, spring football practice starts in six weeks, weather be danged.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and follow him on Twitter @jgreesontfp. You can listen to Jay and TFP sports writer David Paschall on "Press Row" every Monday-Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. on ESPN 105.1 FM or at timesfreepress.com.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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