MIKE BURKE

Allegany Radio Corporation Sports

Looking in on the Winter Olympics as we speak (on Monday night). It’s really the first time I’ve tried to watch this cycle of Games, because, truthfully, I’ve had the same interest in watching the Olympics this time around as I had to watch last Sunday’s Pro Bowl – which was none.

(And, Holy Mud! Wasn’t the Pro Bowl about as fascinating as paint peeling? It was Classic Carwreck TV — so bad you couldn’t keep your eyes off it. Provided, of course, you could keep your eyes open. But it makes money or #NFLTheTVShow wouldn’t do it.)

I tried to watch the Olympics the other night. Really tried. Didn’t move a needle for me, though, so I must be doing it wrong.

And please, don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-Olympics at all. The downhill racing, the speed skating, hockey – anything on skates or skis – is all fun stuff. The biathlon, for instance … Fascinating; in a Jean Claude Van Damme way. But you just have to watch; and I haven’t yet.

Figure skating, for instance. It’s beautiful. It’s remarkable; it’s amazing. It is the ratings makers for NBC and every other worldwide network that carries the Winter Olympics. The skaters are among the best athletes in the world. So are dancers, yet neither dance nor figure skating is a sport.

A sport must have a scoreboard, a precise physical measure or a finish line to be a sport. Figure skating is an unbelievably difficult and skilled venture. It’s just not a sport, because the results are determined by judges, and the judging in international figure skating (and gymnastics) has long been as corrupt, crooked and political (all the same thing) as anything civilization has ever seen … until recently.

Figure skaters and gymnasts are athletes. Figure skating is a competition; gymnastics is a competition. Neither one is a sport.

The Olympics, the Winter Olympics in particular, as a TV show were invented by the ultimate showman, Roone Arledge, who took a bunch of sports Americans don’t care much about and packaged them into an event at a time when there were only three channels and time difference didn’t matter because there were no cell phones or internet to give us the results before we had a chance to watch it. Hearing the radio (or Rene Poussaint) at the wrong time was usually the culprit there …

Then you add the China factor and competition from Super Bowl week and the infinite number of channels, and now streaming, and it is what it is. Just not interested yet. Of course, not losing sleep on the Super Bowl countdown either. So what the hell’s wrong with me?

Take, for instance, curling. I have never had a clue why it’s an Olympic sport, but I am utterly fascinated by it if it’s on in a public house I just happen to be frequenting. It’s hypnotizing (yeah, it’s the curling that puts me in a trance. That’s it).

When I think of curling I immediately think of legendary sportswriter Oscar Madison, the Jack Klugman version on the wonderful ABC television show “The Odd Couple” in the 1970s, when Oscar (the slob) tells Felix Unger (the clean one) he won’t be home for dinner because he is covering the curling championships.

“Curling?” Felix says. “What kind of a sport is curling?”

“You’d love it,” Oscar says. “It involves cleaning.”

Now in the day, we counted down the seconds until Olympic coverage came on television, even the Winter Games, because we were lucky if we received three to four hours of coverage on any given night.

Again, there were just three networks then and there was no on-air 24-hour news cycle to fill. It didn’t seem so great in those days when the Summer and Winter games went off the air on any given night because it didn’t seem to us as though we had gotten enough, even though we had absorbed every move, every feat, every word, every roar of the crowd and every note of every national anthem and every sound of glorious Olympics anthems piped into our homes by the network.

The most lasting Olympics memory for a lot of us came in the 1972 Munich Summer Games – not for Mark Spitz’s record seven gold medals in swimming, as remarkable as that remains, but for the tragic Munich Massacre.

Following that would be the 1980 U.S. “Do you believe in miracles?” hockey triumph.

Everything affects everything, as Earl Weaver used to say, and that includes so-called progress. Now we have 24/7 coverage of the Olympics; then, we didn’t feel as though we had enough.

Yet, a lot of us remember more about then than we care to even bother to learn about now, because the now is now too readily available.

Not a very good reflection if you ask me.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Radio and Pikewood Digital. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT