Bobsleigh Silver

Well, now I’m compromised. I hate it when Canadians win at sports I don’t respect much. (See: Sydney Olympics, synchronized diving. Sheesh.) The bobsled competition reminds me of what Larry Walker said when the Rockies outfielder wasn’t Canada’s top male athlete after a National League MVP season: “I got beat by a car.” (The nominal winner was Jacques Villeneuve, whose career went south when he no longer drove that car.) It’s not quite the same situation, except that when the equipment is as important as the athletes, I just can’t get too excited. I’m irritated, too, when success looks far less interesting to the TV audience than failure does. (Take a memo, snowboard cross.) The morbid allure of catastrophe can’t be a criterion for a good and worthy sports event.

Unless they’re Canadians named Pierre Lueders and Lascelles Brown and they’re winning a silver medal. (And refusing to talk, afterwards, and to their credit, about their suspicions on the mysterious but widely alleged modifications to the gold medal German sled. Digression complete. Well, except for noting the ironic timing of the similar grumbling after the Daytona 500 was won by a car – yes, I said a car, and not Rusty or Jimmy or whoever it was at the wheel – whose chief mechanic was suspended for illegal monkeying. But I digressed again.) Lueders is a tough and competitive guy. Brown seems a pleasant fellow, too, and his story of getting his Canuck citizenship in the nick so that he could compete was a sweet one. So was Lueders’s reaction to it as he hearkened back to understand why his own immigrant parents had come to Canada and how lucky he felt as a result. Go, Canada! Go, Citizenship and Immigration Canada!

But come on. The sport is fast, it has deep roots, but when the brakeperson can make the Olympics a few months after their first run, as was the case with a couple of Canadian sleds and presumably some others, it’s somewhat discredited in my mind. Find a not-quite-good-enough track athlete or football player, and teach him or her how to push a souped-up toboggan for 5 seconds, jump in and pray. Olympia! Sorry, Pierre, and you, too, Lascelles, but bobsled doesn’t make the Howdy Olympics. If pressed to pick a sliding sport for the Big Owe, I’m surprised to be leaning toward skeleton, the crazy, X-games-ish, new kid on the adrenalin-rush block. Tradition isn’t my only criterion, apparently.