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Tucson Weekly Winter Wonderland

Thank goodness the games are finally over.

By Tom Danehy

MARCH 2, 1998:  IT'S TIME FOR the Nagano Winter Olympics final wrap-up, although the way CBS was tape-delaying everything, who knows? We might be getting a look at the biathlon finals some time next week.

And isn't the biathlon just the coolest event? You ski a distance equivalent to the width of Finland, then stop to shoot at stuff. After that, you ski across Denmark and then shoot again. Then you ski the length of Sweden and collapse at the finish line. How this sport hasn't caught on big here is a real mystery.

Another sport which hasn't caught on here is hockey. That might be changing, thanks to the gold-medal performance of the U.S. women's team. I really enjoyed watching them play. Hockey, it turns out, can be a very entertaining game when you take the stooges and male-insecurity rituals (fights) out of it.

In women's hockey, it's illegal to check. That's a euphemism for crashing the other dude into the wall. The women's game may not be as fast as the men's but it shows the skill, beauty, and finesse which could be in the men's game, but aren't because the guys think it's Macho on Ice.

As for the U.S. men's team, how pathetic. They started off the Olympics by not marching in the opening ceremonies. I'm sorry, maybe I'm overly idealistic here, but why go to the Olympics if you're not going to be in the Olympics? Let somebody go who really wants to be there.

They did do their part to help the faltering Japanese economy by drinking the entire Nagano region dry. And then came the games. First the U.S. got beat up by Sweden. That's not a typo. Sweden. The country that gave us ABBA and the Volvo. And why we haven't declared war on them in retaliation is anybody's guess. But if we ever do declare war, we have to make sure we don't send any of our sissy-ass hockey players to fight. We'd get whupped for sure.

The Americans came back to beat something called Belarus, which I always thought was the name of one of those giant Buicks back in the '60s. Actually, Belarus is the way we spell and pronounce Byelorussia. That means White Russia, which I guess would make it the equivalent of our Alabama.

Heady with the success of having beaten a team from a country which didn't exist 10 years ago, the Americans went on to get spanked by Canada to finish pool play at 1-2. That meant that the U.S. would have to face the tough Czech Republic in the first game of the single-elimination medal round.

The Czechs, led by the brilliant goal-tending of Dominic Hasek (Hosh-uck), beat the U.S. team badly.

The loss sent the Americans back to their hotel rooms, where they finally decided to get physical with something they could beat--defenseless furniture.

Personally, I think the U.S. hockey guys got hosed by the media on this one. According to news reports, the Americans did "$1,000 worth of damage" to their hotel rooms. With the prices in Japan, what does that mean? They broke a lightbulb?

'Course, the lightbulb was a Hasek brand, so they took 39 shots at it and hit it only once.

Canada got to play Kazakhstan in the playoffs. Canada won that game, mostly because their opponents had trouble adjusting to the size of the puck. Back home they used a goat's head.

Wait! This just in! Judges have declared ice dancer Pasha Grishuk and her unnamed partner winners of the gold medal in Ice Dancing at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Stung by criticism that the whole event is fixed, judges swear that they will insist that the two will actually have to show up in person in Utah sometime in the calendar year of 2002 in order to claim their prize.

What a horrible joke. Despite a lackluster performance in Nagano, there was never any doubt that Pasha and her paid escort would win the gold. They'd been tabbed as the best and that was that. As for Pasha herself, what a grotesque individual. Peroxided and emaciated, she thinks she's some kind of sex symbol. In fact, that's what she wants to be, just like her idol, Sharon Stone(?!). That's like some guy saying he wants to be a great actor, just like MacLean Stevenson.

They showed this bizarre segment of her purring into the camera, "Happy Burse-day to you, Happy Burse-day, Mr. President."

What the hell is a "burse-day?"

She's really, really scary.

Finally, there is the matter of the sweetheart of these Olympics, Tara Lipinski. Personally, I thought Michelle Kwan deserved the gold medal and even the announcers agreed that Kwan would have won it had she not been forced to skate first among the last group.

Lipinski did a good job, but I was insulted by her and her mother constantly harping that Tara is "just a normal teenager." Please.

I'm not one of those people who think she was forced to skate by stage-parents, nor do I think she will suffer psychological problems down the road. She seems like a happy person and good for her, but a "normal teenager?" I don't think so.

Let's see, her happily married parents live in two different parts of the country to accommodate her schedule, she skates six to eight hours every day, has tutors, and travels the world as an "amateur" skater. Then there's the matter of a 15-year-old standing 4-feet-8 and weighing 82 pounds. Industrial-strength ahem. Don't be surprised if she goes through a sudden growth spurt now that the Olympics are over and the stuff wears off.

I'm looking forward to attending the Salt Lake City Games. I've already booked a hotel room in Flagstaff.

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