Monday, February 01, 2010

Dave's Official Olympic Snowboarding Preview and Greasetruck's Official Olympic Theme Song (for Snowboarders)

I feel especially qualified to write this Winter Olympic Snowboarding Preview, because I am an avid snowboarder. I have "snurfed"-- the original term for snowboarding-- mountains from the West Coast to the Middle East. I have dropped into the back bowls of Winter Park, hiked to the back-country at Copper, carved the Sierra cement in Nevada, stormed through the deep powder gullies of Faraya, wrecked on the ice at Stowe, glided through the glades of Vail, and gotten really drunk with Whitney in Aspen (what they say about the altitude is true, and riding a funicular with a hangover is awful). Aside from that, though, I know next to nothing about the sport. I don't really know what countries are favored to win medals, although I'm sure Chad and Trinidad will struggle, and I'm not very familiar with the events: there's something involving a half-pipe and some sort of Chinese fire drill race. And this is how it should be; snowboarding is not about competition, it is the antithesis of competition. It was a reaction to the spandex clad skiers and their gates and poles and big clocks.

Snowboarding, when I began, was something of a novelty. Many mountains didn't allow it, though it had been around since the seventies. My friends and I actually got filmed in the Poconos for an MTV video detailing the ongoing feud between skiers and snowboarders. A ski bunny in the video remarked that snowboarders often "urinated on the side of the trail." This is true. We do. So take Frank Zappa's advice.

When we started, no one was sure exactly what snowboarding was. My friend's older brother's board had a string attached to the front. What was that for? And what were you supposed to do with the board? You were facing a weird direction and had no poles. And it was hard to get on and off the ski-lifts. And you had to hop around all the time on the cat-walks. Our first thought was this: jump things! Then: go really fast! Then: get into deep powder! On a good day, you could do all three.

Eventually, people began to specialize. Packs of skater types would assemble and build jumps. They would run the jump in front of their friends, do tricks, then unstrap and climb back up to do it again. This novel use of the mountain eventually led to the terrain park, which made the skiers happy because it segregated the snowboarders in their own ghetto. I missed the boat on this-- I wasn't a skater growing up-- and I am now too old for the terrain park.

Some people got hard boots and slender racing boards and carved their way down the mountain faster than any skier could (one edge and more surface area is faster than two edges, but of course, you have less control). And some people rode big heavy boards that tired your legs and feet out, but could essentially knock down any sort of icy or choppy conditions and float over powder. This is what I did, and I fondly remember my Burton Asymmer board (it was asymmetrical) which was reviewed as the "Cadillac" of snowboards-- big, heavy, smooth, and indestructible. I rode it until it went soft. Sorry for waxing nostalgic, but the memories that are most vivid from that hazy irresponsible period just after college are riding on the mountain with my friends; which is why we just put our kids onto skis this year (Alex is five and Ian is four).

Why introduce them to an expensive, difficult, dangerous, weather contingent sport that you have to travel a long distance to do? For selfish reasons, of course. I want to continue snowboarding. But as far as the Olympics, I'm ambivalent. I'd like to see some gnarly riding, but standing on a podium, waiting for some stiff to drape a medal around your neck . . . so NOT snowboarding. But still, I will do my best to give a preview, and, as a special bonus, Greasetruck recorded a snowboarder version of the Olympic theme song. Click below to hear. Try to make it to the end, there's actually an elegant finish after the noise (totally by accident).


The U.S. Olympic snowboarding team begins and ends, of course, with Shaun White. It begins with him because he's the most famous half-pipe artist on the team. It ends with him because he is the terminus of my knowledge of the team. He is also known as "the flying tomato," because of his shock of red hair, but you should be warned that he is no longer fond of this nick-name. Perhaps he saw what happened to the other famous red-head with a vegetable in his name.

Here are the important things you need to know about Shaun White: he rides regular (not goofy foot) at twelve and negative three degrees, he was the first person to ever land back to back double corks, he was the first skater to land a Cab & Melon grab, and he is the ONLY skater that has ever landed a body varial frontside 540. Because of these feats, the Olympic committee has granted him an exclusive privilege: he is allowed to walk up to any hot blond boarder chick or ski bunny on the mountain, say "Superpipe," and then tongue kiss her.

Go here to check out some of the cute chicks on the U.S. Olympic team that you and Carrot Top will never get to play in the half-pipe with.

On to more important things. Snowboarding was once supposed to be about counter-culture and rebellion . . . an urban answer to the apres-ski set. And so NOT participating in the Olympics is much more in tune with snowboarding than actually participating. International Norwegian snowboarder Terje Haakonsen, who is thirty five and so still has roots in this old school attitude, competes in many events around the world, but NOT the X Games or the Olympics. In a recent interview, he explained his stance: "The Olympics' most amazing achievement is creating the most-exposed snowboard event in the world without having any effect on snowboarding culture or its finances. Twelve years after snowboarding first appeared in the Olympics, videos, magazines and independent snowboard contests are still the main driver of our culture."
He then cryptically continues: "All humans, snowboarders or not, should think twice about what they buy, eat, drink or consume. We can't continue plundering the Earth." Making statements like this and not participating in the Olympics by choice is very gnarly. I give him a big thumbs up.

Here are a couple of American riders who are also NOT going to be at the Olympics, for even gnarlier reasons than not wanting to sell out. Danny Davis, who was a lock for the Olympic Team-- he won the Winter Dew Tour half-pipe contest at Snowbasin-- fractured his spine in an ATV accident and will be unable to participate. THAT is very snowboarding; it's your chance to perform in front of the world, and how do you prepare? Riding fast and hard on a rocket powered go-cart. We here at Gheorghe hope he recovers from spinal surgery and gets right back into the half-pipe.

Kevin Pearce, who has actually beaten Shaun White in head to head competition, will also not be participating, because of a head injury he sustained in December. According to Mark Jankowski, U.S. Team Coach, he "over rotated" during a double cork. He was wearing a helmet (NOT very snowboarding) but he did end up in critical condition (VERY snowboarding) although he is expected to make a full recovery (NOT very snowboarding) there is a chance he will have some brain damage (VERY snowboarding). Again, the folks here at Gheorghe wish him a full recovery, with perhaps just enough brain damage to inspire him to achieve the next level of insanity in the half-pipe.



A word on helmets: I snowboarded for most of my life without a helmet, and I certainly hit my head a few times, but never thought twice about it. It was one of the risks of the sport. Then, a few years ago, everyone started wearing a helmet. My wife told me: buy a helmet. My friends told me: buy a helmet, it keeps your head warm and protects your brain. I bought a helmet. Why did I ride all those years without a helmet? Why was everyone riding without a helmet? And then why did the idea of wearing a helmet "tip," as Malcolm Gladwell would say? I will leave this question for another post.

Finally, I will end with some silliness and an interview. The silliness is the U.S. Snowboarding "uniform." In accordance with the snowboarding attitude, the snowboarding "uniform" is an anti-uniform, but if everyone wears it, it is still a uniform, right? It's quite a paradox, and Creative Director Greg Dasychyn explains his solution: "There's nothing more American than blue jeans and this time around we wanted something that spoke more to snowboarding, a look that speaks more to the sport's individualism and character, and a look that is popular in the sport right now This is snowboarding. It's never been a uniform sport, so we wanted to create a look that would reflect those unique qualities of our sport, but still capture a classic American feel."
I admire the effort, but it's an imperfect solution to an intractable problem.

And now for the interview. I caught a lucky break and ran into someone with a bit more insight into the sport than I have.

Dave: So what kind of action can we expect this year in the pipe?

Snowboarder Dave: Hindu Kush. White Widow. Northern Lights. Most of the competitors here have endorsement deals and so they don't really need to smoke swag any longer.

Dave: Any favorite tricks you'd like to explain.

Snowboarder Dave: I do have this one signature move where I go into the deep powder in the glades, lean way back on my right foot so the nose of my board is sticking up, then I crouch into a deep carve, smash my hip on a tree trunk, collapse into the snow, get my board stuck in the aforementioned snow, struggle to find my bindings in the powder and then black out for a moment because of the high altitude. I think I performed that one at Winter Park in 1994.

Dave: What do you do with the snot.

Snowboarder Dave: There's not much you can do. It's cold, and it's coming. I just try to work a rotation: right sleeve, left sleeve, right glove, left glove. That way there's not too much build-up on any one piece of fabric.

Dave: Have you ever gotten any action on the ski-lift.

Snowboarder Dave: Not yet, but you never know when you're going to get stuck on a broken ski lift for three hours with a beautiful Icelandic ski bunny. You have to have sex to avoid frostbite. Or that's what you tell her. It can happen. I've heard stories.


49 comments:

TJ said...

Our very own Dennis will be saying a few words...

Purcellville (Feb. 1, 2010) - Loudoun Valley High School Proudly announces the induction of William and Mary Football Coach Jimmye Laycock into the Viking Athletic Hall of Fame. The induction will take place on Feb 9 during halftime of the Loudoun Valley vs. Stonewall Jackson Girls Basketball game.

cgormley said...

I googled Laycock, girls and basketball and I landed here?!?!

Dave if you are looking for a great snowboard get a Never Summer board. Local Colorado company, very anti-establishment. Best board I've ever owned.

zoltan said...

I think tomatoes are fruits, not vegetables, but this was an otherwise informative post. Like the skinny on the Trinidadian snowboard team, for example.

When I was a kid the only kid who wore a helmet when he rode a bicycle was the epileptic kid who had brain surgury and therefore had a fragile skull. He was mocked mercilessly. Today all kids wear helmets. It might even be a law. And it makes so much sense. What took so long? I eagerly await a sentence, or even a paragraph, from Dave on the helmet tipping point. So long as it involves no images of the tip of one's helmet.

rob said...

more on this in twiw perhaps, but david schneider is 2 of his last 19 from the floor, including 0 for his last 10 threes. the tribe shot 26.1% from the floor and 13.3% from deep against drexel. and won. they scored 28 of their 54 points from the free throw line. ugly gets it done. yooge game at odu on wednesday. whit, we expect you there.

Dave said...

that "tomato" comment was actually a trap, zoltan. a trap for annoying people who like to point out that the tomato is a fruit, despite the fact that no one cares. you fell into that trap.

Dave said...

i wonder if there's any correlation between the increase in helmet wearing and condom usage. i will do some research . . .

Whitney said...

Rob, I will not be there Wednesday night. I will be in Manchester, New Hampshire, presumably putting some of Dave's snowboarding logic to the test.

zoltan said...

For reasons that I cannot explain, the W&M biology department had a perverse fascination with taxonomy. Which is, of course, completely useless if you want to work in science. Unless you want to be a park ranger or something like that and take kids on nature tours and tell them the Latin names for all the plants and trees around them. Hence my knee-jerk reaction to the "tomato as a vegetable" reference. I blame W&M, as I do for the shortcomings of my intellect and personality.

Dave said...

i blame william and mary for my inability to talk to good looking women. i just couldn't get any practice there.

zoltan said...

Goes without saying.

Jerry said...

One area where I credit snowboarding is the gear. Their jackets and pants look fashionably cool in a youthful way that none of us could pull off, except maybe Rob. Even the board is so much cooler to carry than skis and poles.

rob said...

sports by brooks is reporting that a source at espn claims the 96-team ncaa hoops tournament is 'a done deal'. this, if true, is a fucking outrage.

TR said...

We already have a 7th round, that dumb-ass play-in game b/w the two worst teams. I have no idea why they can't boot one more at-large and return the field to 64 teams. Makes no sense. The 96 team field would put a bullet in the head of the NIT (probably a good thing), but would add so many shit sandwich schools that following the tourney would be very dull in that first round.

Aren't there enough schools to do a 256 team bracket?

rob said...

there are 340 divison 1 schools. we're one more set of dumb decisions away from an all-comers tournament.

TJ said...

Jesus, we already have the NIT and the even worse CBI tourney at the end of the year...what more crap do we need?

rob said...

i'm trying to figure out how they'll do this logistically. 64 down to 32 in the first weekend moving on to play 32 with byes? anything else creates unwieldy numbers of games.

TR said...

Rob - Here's how it should go:

12 teams get byes. The other 84 teams play 2 rounds to get down to 21. The worst 2 of those 21 play a play-in game, leaving us with 20 to go against the 12 that got byes.

This leaves us with 32 teams. It is clearly the best way to go.

rob said...

that shit's brilliant right there.

Jerry said...

They'll probably just extend the 1st week. Tuesday play-in game will become Tues/Wed play-in rounds. This is bad. There are clearly not an additional 32 teams that deserve the chance to win a championship.

rob said...

the only bright spot (like a piece of corn) in this shitburger is the fact that the caa should now be a 2-3 bid league. of course, the acc will be a 10-bid league.

Jerry said...

The other upside is that there would be some competition in the regular season to avoid the play-in round. Being part of the top 32 would actually be meaningful in the 96-team tournament. As it stands now, pretty much everything from a 6 seed to an 11 seed is roughly the same.

Jerry said...

The unintended downside is that the first week would be watered down so much that it might hurt interest levels in current rounds 1 and 2.

rob said...

you'd get better crowds in the new round one, which i assume would be played at the home arena of the higher seed. but on-site crowds in the new round of 64 could be even smaller than they are now. not that the ncaa cares - this is entirely a teevee play.

Jerry said...

Would it be home court? That would actually be cool. I was assuming the play-in would just be an extension of the current round 1/2 sites.

rob said...

yeah, on second thought, you're probably right. sandwich just got shittier.

rob said...

fyi, bracketbusters matchups announced this evening. our inside sources telling us the tribe *will* get a televised game.

Dennis said...

This is fitting...Tribe will finally get in the tourney and we'll have a f**ing asterisk.

Dan said...

the flying tomato was on 60 minutes last night. he does pretty well for himself. seems like a pretty good kid too.
assuming this ncaa tourney re-do is initiated in a couple of years or more, w&m fans should not have to worry then either about getting in...sub-mediocrity will return shortly i'm sure.

rob said...

allegedly, it could happen as soon as next year

Dan said...

that's a shame. it's maybe the most perfect thing in sports.

Mark said...

Indeed. It's going to ruin the majesty of that first weekend , specifically Thursday and Friday. At least we still have the St. Patrick's Day on Wednesday leading directly into the first two days of the tourney this year.

zoltan said...

I reacted to a 96-team field in the same way I did when I first learned of HDTV: did anyone express or even perceive a need for this development? But now everyone seems really happy with extra pixels, so maybe extra basketball games will make people happy too.

Marlin said...

The idiots on this blog, including myself, will watch these games no matter what. God knows, I have been know to watch and NIT game or two in my time and not just because I might have a financial interest in it.

However, I think the growth in popularity of the tourney over the last 15 years has been due in large part to the bracket culture that grown in workplaces. Everybody has an interest in these games whether they give a crap about college baskeball or not. A 96 team tourney will make the office pool a lot less fun and potentially unmanageable.

I think the NCAA fails to realize how much this small time "gambling" contributes to the tournament's popularity and that messing with the current format too much would hurt viewership.

rob said...

tribe @ iona at 9:00 on 2/19. little bit of a meh matchup, but it's on one of the espn networks.

zoltan said...

Meh?! Are you kidding? I love the Gaels.

rob said...

meh only in that the gaels and their 85 rpi don't help the tribe's infinitessimal at-large hopes. should be a fun game - iona's won 7 straight in the maac.

Kevin M. Brady said...

boy, did Dav's shit get hijacked...

rob said...

pretty much standard operating procedure around here

TR said...

I concussed myself in Vail 3 yrs ago. My helmet shattered and I thought I was in Utah for 5 minutes. The lesson learned is that one should start scaling back in their 30's, not scaling up, even if they got a late start to snowboarding.

Smash-up writing job, David.

Esoderic said...

Wow! He couldn't get through the post without a Malcolm Gladwell comment.

Dave said...

i concur on your concussing advice.

i turn FORTY this march. perhaps i should buy a snow-mobile.

my friend eric hates malcolm gladwell (only because i mention him all the time).

mayhugh said...

I took a personal day yesterday and am catching up. A few comments:

-The Tomato is a Fruit - so says a Supreme Court Ruling from the late 1800's

-The pumpkin is also a fruit.

-The eggplant is a berry.

-Gretchen Bleiler - yes, please.

zoltan said...

I believe anything with seeds is presumptively a fruit. As is anyone in a Miata, presumptively.

Dan said...

i went to bfas this morning at a diner i frequent 1-2 times per week...christian laettner ate at the table next to me.
he was wearing a notre dame hat, which i thought odd

Marlin said...

I would like to move that "bfas" is not an acceptable abbreviation for "breakfast". Thoughts?

However, C-Late in the N-Da hat is really odd.

cgormley said...

SI has W&M as a potential 12th seed in this early early early bracket. Can the Tribe actually hang on and make the tourny?

http://tinyurl.com/y8wox5b

bfas is ridiculi.

Dennis said...

I would like to move my bowels.

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