Today, the television network NBC will begin its $200 million-losing broadcast of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. We’re going to see world-class athletes compete in the luge, alpine skiing, bobsled, ski jumping, and hockey. So why don’t we care all that much?
Partly because the Winter Games are never as enticing as the Summer Games (the drama of gymnastics! the bouncing bulges of track!). And partly because, in most of these sports, we can’t even see the faces of the athletes. Really, think about it: Skiing has those big goggles; they’re wearing helmets on the the luge and bobsled and hockey; and curling, while they may not be wearing anything over their faces, is just freakin’ boring. Much of our interest in what these folks are doing on-screen, and having been training to do for the past four years, ebbs and flows with the sweat dripping down their faces, the solemn looks in their eyes, and the expressions of despair when they fuck up majorly.
Which basically leaves figure skating as the only Winter Games sport that can include all of the things we need for our ADD to go offline for a few hours: Fierce competition, camera zooms on quivering lips, and triple salchows into triple loops. And that’s where Johnny Weir comes in.
From his pre-Games fur-wearing controversy to his foul-mouthed interviews to his revealing docu-series, Weir is the only athlete — gay or straight — who’s been able to build up anticipation for the masses. Unless you’re a self-professed fan of any of these sports, can you name five people competing this year?
Weir is to the Winter Games what Michael Phelps was to the Summer Games: Seen and heard everywhere for weeks leading up to the Games. Phelps, of course, was NBC’s mascot, and the network had Matt Lauer profiling him after every commercial break; Weir ramped us his public image more organically. Which is what you’d expect from a Lady Gaga-loving skater.
Moreover, this is going to be a battle of the
sexes sexual orientations. In the red corner: Weir, a flaming homosexual whom you either love or hate. In the blue corner: Lysacek, a rabid heterosexual who is pretty but as butch as this sport can tolerate. (Oh, and then there’s their international competition.) It’s these two, and their battle against each other for gold, and the pride of America, that will have us tuning in.
So could someone do us a favor and find out when they’re skating, so we can set our DVR? OKTHXBI.