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Kudos to the warriors of Winter Games

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POSTED February 17, 2010 2:06 a.m.
While many were watching self-absorbed professional basketball players wrapped in ego and tattoos, I was admiring athletes wrapping themselves in their country colors.

Humans can learn a lot from the Olympics, not just from the controlled psychosis behind the desire to see who can land the furthest from the jump halfway up a mountain, but the passion behind these ordinary mortgage-paying people with extraordinary who compete knowing they will largely be ignored or forgotten once the Olympic flame dies.

After dinner Saturday I watched short-track speed skating and almost got dizzy enough from watching to throw up. Sunday, I clapped as the Americans shook a Red Sox-esque curse in Nordic events — 86 years without a medal.

How can you not root for that?

What about the guy that could have died from an accidental thigh slicing, and hadn’t raced since September, but won a bronze medal for the Stars and Stripes? I even loved the crowd going nuts when Canada won its first ever home gold medal courtesy of a mogulist who dedicated it to his country and brother who has cerebral palsy.

Poignant stories aside, biathlon is my favorite Olympic event (curling and snowboard cross tie for the silver) because of its use of tangible punishment in addition to its natural marriage of an archaic mode of outdoor transportation and weapons.

Contestants cross country ski, stopping every so often (depending on the length of the event) to fire five rounds from a specialized rifle at targets 50 meters way. If they miss, there are consequences other than missing out on medals.

In the snowboard cross if you aren’t fast enough, you simply don’t win. Don’t score enough goals, jump far enough, or stick the Iron Lotus, you lose and fade quietly into the crowd.

With biathlon, you are sent to a penalty track where you must think about what you’ve done while physically exerting yourself as others ski by thinking, “Didn’t your parents buy you Duck Hunt?”

Lungs bursting in the cold, there is still a chance, albeit slim, that the Olympians can get back into the race, but the misses constantly haunt, and confidence erodes with each extra push of the ski. Once the penalty laps are navigated, it’s back to the course.

These rules are certainly unique, and would not translate to other sports.

Three down-and-backs while the other guy shoots his free throws because you hacked him on a layup? Maybe in practice.

Perhaps what I love most is the break from chest-pounding, jersey-tugging selfishness that plagues our annual sports.

I’d take one round of dudes sliding 52-pound chunks of granite over the bore of NBA dunk contests or defenseless All-star games played by tatted-up businessmen in tank-tops any day, but I only get to once every four years.

That’s probably why I am such a fan of the Games.

And when the end of February brings the end of the Olympics, I will come down off my sports high and again might check the box scores of our leagues and not be as critical of the multi-millionaires.

Because they can do whatever they want with their money, and we can wish from our couches that there was money left over to pay for silly things like education, then wait almost a half decade for those ordinary people to once again wrap themselves in Old Glory on snowy hills and bring home medals for the country to which we pledge our allegiance.

To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail aklund21@gmail.com.

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