Archive for the ‘winter olympics’ Category

Was doing some Internet pleasure surfing Wednesday and came across video of Winter Olympics gold medal winner Kaitlyn Farrington returning to her stomping grounds in Idaho earlier this week.

Unless you slept through the month of February, you probably learned about Farrington’s existence on the planet because she won the women’s half pipe final in Sochi. But had you ever heard of her say way, way back in January of 2014?

kaitlyn.farrington.gold.medal.winnerAs someone who has covered sports for a living for two decades, I had never heard of the young woman until after she won gold. In fact, I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. Boise time to see the taped-delay version of her winning gold and that is when I became enlightened.

NBC told us about her background and the fact that her parents sold cows to fund her trips as she became more advanced in the snowboarding world. Then you saw her happy-go-lucky attitude, her smile and just genuine impressive nature and you couldn’t help but be impressed.

I took to Twitter to tell Wheaties that Farrington should be one of the Olympians who lands a Wheaties box cover. Her story from farm girl in small-town Idaho to Olympic gold medalist is the type of story journalists live to tell.

Except there was nobody interested in telling it way, way back in January of 2014.

That point was drummed in by Farrington herself at a press conference in the Sun Valley area and I watched the clip multiple times. Her words really resonated with the journalist inside me and her point is more than valid.

“It’s been amazing to tell my story because nobody cared until now,” Farrington said with a smile and a hearty laugh. “So I get to walk around pretty much doing interviews and tell people how awesome I am. And it’s been really fun because nobody did care and now everyone is caring. It’s crazy because you can come from nothing and be at the top.”

Certainly, winning a gold medal catapults the amount of attention an athlete will receive. And obviously reporters are going to ask the pertinent background questions and paint the picture and tell the tale afterward because, well, now the story is a pretty easy one to write.

Even if an athlete simply makes an Olympic team, his or her story is well worth telling. I can remember covering the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Long Beach in 2004 and every single person from our coverage area who was in the event received the awesome opportunity to speak with me (heavy sarcasm font needed).

Heck, I even attended a swimming practice of a 13-year-old named Jessica Schmitt two weeks before the event. She had qualified in the 200 breaststroke and was in the same event as past Olympic medal winners like Amanda Beard and Staci Stitts.

Basically, the youngster had no realistic chance of making the Olympic team but just reaching an unheard of level for someone heading into eighth grade was a quite a feat and a story well worth telling.

Yet move forward nearly a decade later and newspapers are no longer a force. The industry decline was brutal and thousands of excellent journalists are now in other lines of work. Things like storytelling and enterprise reporting are a lost art.

So what happens is the niche sports suffer. Very little attention is paid to them in the first place and when staffs are cut and coverage standards drop, fewer of the hard-to-find stories are discovered.

Stories about people like Kaitlyn Farrington – a snowboarder – are still there to be found. It’s just that nobody is looking to find them.

The cool thing is we all know Kaitlyn Farrington now – I see her wearing a Cheez-It jacket so I know she has at least one sponsor – and she surely won’t sneak up on us when the 2018 Winter Games roll around.

There will be plenty of people lined up to interview her in January of 2018. Her rags-to-riches tale will still be a good one and the overwhelming storyline will be whether or not she can repeat as a gold medal winner.

Farrington is definitely enjoying the attention she is currently receiving and is certainly soaking in the moment. Sifting through her Twitter timeline, you can see she did a round of interviews in New York and attended the Daytona 500.

You know, stuff that wouldn’t have come her way back in the olden days of January, 2014.

The attention will die down over the coming months and Farrington’s life will regain some form of normalcy.

But you know, I’d actually be interested in hearing what Farrington’s life is like six months from now. But I fear there will be nobody poking around to tell us.

Then again, I’m probably due to make a drive from Boise to Sun Valley. So Kaitlyn, hit me up in July or August on Twitter @MrSportsBlog. We can do this storytelling thing right – and do it right here on this website.

I had tears welling in my eyes a few times Thursday night because I decided to read some stories about a person I never met and barely heard of until last week.

Canadian skier Sarah Burke died on Thursday nine days after a horrific crash during a practice run. She was all of 29 years old and considered a pioneer in her sport.

It struck me as such a shame that most of us are just learning about her extraordinary qualities because of her accident – here is the AP video report of her death http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rj7jGDgJ2wA.

Obviously, fans of the Winter X Games – she was a four-time champion – were already very familiar with Burke. She was one of those successful athletes that excelled outside of the mainstream and even won an ESPY in 2007 as the top female action sports athlete.

Her sport wasn’t part of the Winter Olympics so she didn’t have name recognition with most of us. But that was supposed to change in 2014.

You see, Burke had led the movement to get her specialty sport – superpipe skiing – added to the 2014 Games in Russia. She would have been considered the favorite to win a gold medal.

You know how Winter Olympics heroes seem to come out of nowhere and grab everybody’s attention? Sounds like Burke would have been one of those with that type of ability in 2014.

So instead, we are learning about Burke’s class and style after she is gone. The injuries she suffered in the crash sounded brutal and there is an accompanying diagram that explains them in this well-done story by the National Post – http://sports.nationalpost.com/2012/01/19/canadian-skier-sarah-burke-dead-one-week-after-crash/

She was genuinely liked by her competitors and had signed up to be an organ donator so somebody, somewhere will get a second chance at life due to her misfortune.

I noticed Burke had broken a vertebra in her back in 2009 and played the injury off a year later as being part of the deal when you sign on to participate in an extreme sport. She said she would do the same thing again.

And of course she would have. That’s what top-flight athletes do. The competitive juices don’t disappear due to a serious injury.

Burke died while doing what she loved. She knew the risk involved with her sport and undoubtedly was hoping to retire on her own terms somewhere down the line.

The ironic thing – and a heartbreakingly sad truth – is that more people will be touched by Burke’s tragic passing than if she had won a gold medal in 2014 and then lived 40 more years.

I think that’s why I kept having those tears welling in my eyes. It’s hard to think we all missed an opportunity to know more about a terrific young woman while she was alive. (click here for picture http://www.inquisitr.com/wp-content/2012/01/600_sarah_burke_ap_120111.jpeg)

Any chance of Sidney Crosby retiring soon? What’s left to prove after winning a Stanley Cup and a Winter Olympics gold medal by age 22?

Life has to be all downhill from there.

The Pittsburgh Penguins star is already a legend in his homeland of Canada but he notched up the idolization factor another 10 levels or so on Sunday after scoring the decisive overtime goal that lifted Canada to a 3-2 victory over the United States in hockey’s scintillating gold-medal game.

Crosby beat USA goaltender Ryan Miller on a quick wrist shot after teammate Jarome Iginla did some nice corner work and threaded a sweet pass to Crosby, who was streaking toward the net.

Scoring the winning goal to get your country the gold medal on home soil in Vancouver has got to be hard to top, eh?

“It’s a pretty unbelievable thing,” Crosby told reporters afterwards. “You know what? Every kid dreams of that opportunity. Being in Canada, that’s the opportunity of a lifetime. You dream of that a thousand times growing up. For it to come true is amazing.”

Crosby’s game-winning goal came 7 minutes, 40 seconds into overtime and crushed the dreams of the United States, which settled for the silver medal despite a stirring run through the Olympics.

That there even was an overtime was a testament to the Americans’ refusal to give up — with help from Canada goalie Roberto Luongo, who displayed that he’s no Roberto Clemente or Roberto Alomar when it comes to using a glove.

The United States had pulled Miller for the extra attacker while trailing in the final minute and Luongo failed to glove the puck, keeping a U.S. possession alive. About 10 seconds later, Patrick Kane’s shot on goal hit teammate Jamie Langenbrunner and Zach Parise was there to slap the puck past Luongo to tie the game with 24.4 seconds remaining.

I’m sure many Americans were thinking “Miracle on Ice Part II” with the late-game reprieve but it wasn’t to be despite another impressive goaltending performance by Miller, who was named tournament MVP in defeat.

Regardless of the outcome, it was a terrific hockey game to watch and a boost to the sport in the United States. Americans seldom plan their Sunday afternoons (or any other morning, afternoon or evening) around watching hockey and a large majority of them couldn’t have told you what NHL team Miller plays on – the Buffalo Sabres – when the month of February began.

It will be interesting to see if the NHL gets a spike of interest after the fine performance by Team USA. Miller’s Sabres visit Crosby’s Penguins on Tuesday night but the game isn’t on national television. The Sabres host reigning NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Wednesday but that game is on Versus and those of you with DirecTV know all too well the frustration of wanting to watch a sporting event on Versus and being unable to due to the bitter dispute between DirecTV and Comcast (which owns Versus) over rights’ fees.

One last thought – how spoiled are the hockey fans of Buffalo when it comes to goalies? Dominik Hasek for all those years and now Ryan Miller? That’s living the good life.

About the only guy living better is Crosby. He’s already got nothing left to prove at age 22.

I discovered something Friday night that totally shocked me – the United States has won more Olympic men’s hockey goal medals than Canada over the last 50-plus years.

Since I’ve always heard that hockey is the premier religion in Canada and know firsthand that the majority of Americans only care about the sport once every four years, I was stunned to learn that Canada has won just one goal medal since 1952. That victory came in 2002 when they beat the United States in the goal-medal game at Salt Lake City.

Meanwhile, the United States won gold in both 1960 at Squaw Valley and 1980 at Lake Placid, the latter occasion being the famous Miracle on Ice squad led by captain Mike Eruzione and goaltender Jim Craig.

The two countries meet in Sunday’s gold-medal contest on Canadian soil in Vancouver in what ranks as an eagerly anticipated rematch after the United States dispatched of Canada last Sunday.

Tickets to the game are a hot item as thousands of die-hard Canadian hockey fans can’t fathom not being there should the homeland team win Olympic gold on home ice. Losing to the United States for the second time in a week would be a monumental disappointment.

No pressure on the Canadian team, eh?

Obviously, there will be much more pressure on Canada than the United States, which advanced to the gold-medal contest by crushing Finland 6-1 during Friday’s semifinals. Canada advanced later that day by edging Slovakia 3-2.

Goaltender Ryan Miller has been superb in goal and he’ll likely need to have another stellar performance for the United States to take the gold.

Oh no, Ohno!

Speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno won his eighth career medal Friday night as part of the United States relay team that won the bronze medal during the 5,000 relay race.

But Ohno came up short in the 500 meters, being disqualified after his subtle nudge to the hip of Francois-Louis Tremblay in the final turn sent the Canadian into the padded well.

During an NBC interview, Ohno pointedly implied that the Canadian judge on Canadian soil looking out for a Canadian skater was the real reason for the disqualification. I don’t know enough about the inner politics of speed skating to give an informed opinion, but I do know this: People would have gone crazy if it had been Tremblay’s hand on Ohno’s hip that sent Ohno spinning to the ice on the final turn.

I also know this – Ohno has been incredibly good for the sport and he will be missed if this was his last Winter Olympics competition. He makes speed skating fun to watch.

Superb figure skating

Got to say the women’s figure skating long program sessions on Thursday night were fabulous to watch, particularly the performance of gold medal winner Kim Yu-Na and bronze medalist Joannie Rochette.

Yu-Na, only 19 years old, already is the biggest celebrity in Korea and her stock is just going to skyrocket after her record performances in both Tuesday’s short program and Thursday’s long program. It’s easy to see why skating analysts are already touting her as one of the top women skaters of all-time.

Rochette, of Canada, gave a second stellar performance under the incredibly sad circumstances of her mother dying unexpectedly last Sunday. Her courageous performances will become the thing of legend. Impressive in every way and she seemed like a wonderful, grounded person during an in-studio NBC interview on Friday.

The amazing showings by the gold and bronze winners relegated silver medalist Mao Asada of Japan to secondary status. Meanwhile, young Americans Mirai Nagasu (age 16) and U.S. champion Rachael Flatt (age 17) showed promise for the 2014 Games by finishing fourth and seventh, respectively.

Most of the Winter Olympics hype revolved around snowboarding superstar Shaun White or skiers Lindsey Vonn and Bode Miller with the occasional references to speedskaters like Apolo Anton Ohno or Shani Davis. And, of course, the United States men’s hockey team has now thrust itself into the mainstream discussions too.

But there are plenty of other American Olympians worth some attention as they search for that gold-medal moment before they fade back into oblivion and far outside the limelight. One of those athletes with a compelling background is freestyle aerialist Jeret “Speedy” Peterson.

The 28-year-old Peterson competes in Thursday’s finals and is expected to attempt something he calls the “Hurricane,” a maneuver that includes three flips and five twists in the air before he lands on the slopes.

Legend has it he’s the only person on the planet to ever successfully perform the jump, which means millions of Americans will tune it to see if he’ll crash so they can satisfy their destructive MMA-type cravings. Hitting the Hurricane will undoubtedly vault Peterson to the medal stand.

This is Peterson’s third Winter Olympics and he’s yet to earn a medal. He’s best known for being booted out of Italy during the 2006 Games in Turin after a drinking/fighting incident. According to this in-depth story by Yahoo! Sports, Peterson’s demons run long and deep and he came close to committing suicide in 2007:  http://sports.yahoo.com/olympics/vancouver/freestyle_skiing/news;_ylt=AuvWLErizopKiZmp4od7djd9sbV_?slug=jp-speedy022410&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

Peterson quit drinking and sought treatment for depression as he dealt with his own personal “Hurricane.” He can reach new heights Thursday night if he hits his one-of-a-kind jump.

Miller Time, Part I

No hockey player in the Olympics has seen their profile rise higher than United States goalkeeper Ryan Miller.

Miller is in his fifth season as a starting NHL goaltender but your average American couldn’t have told you which team he played for when these Olympics began. But his superb Olympics performance – particularly in the upset win over Canada – has turned the Buffalo Sabres player into a household name.

The United States plays Finland on Friday afternoon and Miller’s net play will again be on display. If he continues to play at a high level, the Americans really could reach the gold medal game.

Miller Time, Part II

Bode Miller has scored well in his redemption Olympics with three skiing medals, including the first gold of his career.

He also seems to have learned a lesson from his 2006 Winter Games flameout when he was more interested in partying than skiing and basically acted like a buffoon. He deserved all the criticism his actions prompted.

The guess here is sometime over the past four years, he realized that the Vancouver Olympics were his last chance to win a gold (he’s 32 years old). He certainly has added to his legacy with his 2010 performance.

Skiing catfight?

Last week, NBC conducted a joint post-competition interview with star skiers Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso after the event in which Vonn won gold and Mancuso took silver and you could sense the two Americans were acting a bit frosty toward one another.

Turns out that really is the case. Mancuso expressed frustration over how everything regarding the women’s ski team revolves around Vonn, and had her shot at a third medal in these games circumvented when her giant slalom run was halted because Vonn, the skier before her, had crashed on the course.

Mancuso tried to reverse course on Thursday, probably because she realized her limited endorsement opportunities would probably become even more limited if she continued to diss Vonn, the United States’ golden girl in these Olympics. On her Facebook page, Mancuso said everybody else is more concerned about their relationship than the two skiers are and she had some words of advice for everyone.

“We are all out there to ski fast and have fun. So save the drama for your mama!”

Nice. But so far, actions have spoken a lot more loudly than words.

If you tuned into the Winter Olympics on Tuesday night, you saw a figure skating performance for the ages.

I’m not talking about the amazing performance of Korea’s Kim Yu-Na or the terrific skate by Japan’s Mao Asada, I’m referring to the person who is in the third place after the conclusion of the women’s short program.

Canada’s Joannie Rochette was unreal in an emotional performance just two days after her mother tragically died of a heart attack.

If you watched Rochette’s near-flawless performance and the way she broke into tears afterwards and didn’t have tears of your own streaming down your cheeks, then I don’t know what to say other than your tear ducts aren’t working properly. It was a tear-jerker on the highest emotional scale.

Rochette scored a personal-best 71.36 during her skate at a time when everybody would have understood if she had bombed. The pro-Canada crowd in Vancouver gave her raucous ovations before and after her performance and you could see the deep appreciation Rochette was feeling over the support.

Rochette’s mother, Therese, was just 55 years old. Rochette’s mother had made the usual high number of sacrifices that go along with having an Olympics-caliber son or daughter and the following two sentences on Rochette’s Web site (http://joannierochette.ca/en/biography) sum up how much she appreciated her mother:

“Therese is the most faithful and most committed supporter of the accomplishments Joannie has had and will continue to have. For Joannie, her mother remains her most critical source to date, pushing her to her full potential!”

So imagine the devastating feeling that rocked through Rochette’s body when she found out about her mother’s death. Top-notch athletes are incredibly focused – that’s a big reason why they reach the levels they do as other talented athletes get weeded out – but this went beyond the call of duty.

Skating on a world stage like the Olympics at a time you should be grieving? Having all that hard mental and physical work for four years going to waste if you pull out of the competition? Figuring out how to possibly focus on the skating routine at a time your body is shaken to the core with the most devastating news of your 24 years on earth?

Somehow, Rochette persevered through the anguish and put forth one of those epic performances that will be recalled forever. And now her long program skate on NBC on Thursday night will be eagerly anticipated must-watch television.

Her odds of winning the gold medal aren’t strong – not after the world-record short program performance by Yu-Na, currently the top female skater in the world. It also might be too tough a task to chase down Asada and get the silver.

But Rochette already has faced her toughest task of these Winter Olympics – giving a rousing performance at a time when she was facing the worst adversity of her life.

She definitely realized her “full potential” on Tuesday night with a courageous performance while all eyes were upon her. No doubt her mother would be extremely proud.

It’s not often that I plan my evening around watching a hockey game. Blue moons reportedly happen just as often.

All it does is complicate life. I have to figure out things like, “What channel is MSNBC?” and also have to remind myself that each of the three hockey periods are 20 minutes long.

Then the game begins and I have to use Google to find out things about players I’ve never heard of before. Yeah, that was me Googling Brian Rafalski only to become disappointed to learn his career high for goals in an NHL season is just 13.

But all Sunday afternoon, I was anticipating that evening’s Winter Olympics hockey showdown between the United States and Canada and it was can’t miss TV in my world. It became the first televised hockey game I watched from start to finish since the Anaheim Ducks won the 2007 Stanley Cup over the Ottawa Senators.

I didn’t see Jean Sebastien-Giguere in goal – the name itself tells me he’s Canadian but there was Martin Brodeur guarding the net for Canada – but better than that, I didn’t have to watch 10 to 15 minutes of commercials every period. You have to love those commercial-free periods to go along with a crisp, well-played game. Glad I found you MSNBC.

The United States pulled out a tremendous 5-3 victory over the powerful Canadians behind two goals from the aforementioned Rafalski and splendid goaltending by Ryan Miller. Chris Drury – now there’s someone I’ve heard of – put the U.S. ahead for good late in the second period as the Americans advanced to the quarterfinals.

Think of all the pressure on Canada’s collection of stars with the Olympics being staged in Vancouver. Canadians go nuts over hockey the way I do over pepperoni pizza and you could almost sense a pall immediately gripping our neighbors to the north similar to the way I felt when the Round Table Pizza place in the neighborhood of my youth closed.

Canada now needs to win a play-in game on Tuesday to reach the quarterfinals, a highly disappointing predicament after Sidney Crosby and Company were tabbed as the goal-medal favorites prior to the start of competition.

The United States doesn’t have such lofty expectations placed on them after failing to earn a medal four years ago. But if Miller can tend goal in the same miraculous fashion he did Sunday night – he made 42 saves, including several big ones in the final period – who is to say the U.S. team can’t crash the medal stand?

I heard some pundits comparing the victory to the famous Miracle on Ice accomplishment in 1980. Settle down — the two wins aren’t even close in comparison. The Miracle on Ice team was a bunch of college kids that somehow upset the supposedly unbeatable Soviet Union on its way to winning the gold medal, while Sunday’s win over Canada came in pool play with the U.S. loaded with NHL stars.

That’s not saying it wasn’t an impressive win. It was a very remarkable victory but the triumph isn’t on the same level as 1980.

What this victory does do is whet the appetite of the casual American sports fan who tuned in just because it was the Olympics. You know, the type of person who has to search the television to find MSNBC or Googles Jamie Langenbrunner to see if he’s still on the New Jersey Devils (yeah, I remember his name from when the Devils beat the Ducks in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals).

Hockey will now be in the forefront of the American sports world for the rest of the Olympics and that’s not all bad. Just imagine some of the things you might learn.

Just two weeks ago, I learned what team superstar Alex Ovechkin plays on. Oh no, not his Olympic squad – I already knew he played for Russia. But now I know that the MVP of the NHL the last two seasons plays for the Washington Capitals.

Who knows what else I might learn before the Winter Olympics end? I can’t wait to tune it to the Americans’ next game so consider my plans as a warning to Google’s search engine to be well-rested.

And we all know that I eagerly anticipate watching a hockey game about as often as … well, a blue moon occurs.

It’s been an interesting last two days for U.S. Olympians named Lindsey.

One overhyped Lindsey matched the sky-high expectations set for her and won the gold medal. The other Lindsey crumbled under the pressure of much-needed redemption and didn’t earn any type of medal.

It’s definitely better to be Lindsey Vonn than Lindsey Jacobellis in February, 2010 and it has nothing to do with one woman posing in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and the other having blonde frizzy hair that reminds you of 80s rocker Dee Snider (think lead singer of Twisted Sister).

Vonn cemented her status as one of the top American skiers ever – regardless of gender – by winning the gold during Wednesday’s downhill event. That she navigated the bumpy course with a painful shin injury adds to what already qualifies as an impressive accomplishment – she’s the first American woman to ever take the gold in downhill skiing.

Her post-race emotions were incredible. She began to cry during an NBC television interview and was soon sobbing uncontrollably while resting her head on the shoulders of her husband, former skier Thomas Vonn. Eventually, Thomas Vonn said, “No more crying. This is a good day.”

It was good theater after a grand performance. Vonn – participating in her third Olympics — can now compete in four other skiing events without Jupiter-sized expectations now that she finally has won her first career gold medal.

Jacobellis wasn’t so fortunate. This Lindsey is infamous for throwing away the gold medal in 2006 by showboating near the end of the snowboardcross race. Her attempt at a one-handed board maneuver failed miserably and she lost control and fell to the snow.

The failed stunt allowed Switzerland’s Tanja Frieden to pass her to win the gold. Jacobellis got the silver medal but it might as well have been soaked in bitter lemon juice. She was roundly ridiculed for her epic gaffe.

Four years later, she didn’t even medal in the event that she dominates when the pressure isn’t on. Jacobellis was disqualified from contention during Tuesday’s semifinals when she didn’t nail a jump, lost her balance and veered off the course.

Immediately, she regained her place among sports figures best known for untimely failure – think along the lines of golfers Greg Norman (1996 Masters) and Jean Van de Velde (2006 British Open) or baseball’s Mitch Williams (1993 World Series) or football kicker Scott Norwood (Super Bowl XXV following the 1990 season).

One person on Twitter didn’t waste characters: “lindsey jacobellis u just failed the usa.”

Actually, Jacobellis failed herself more than anything. One of her comments following Tuesday’s disappointing showing displays another difference between her and Vonn.

“It’s unfortunate the rest of the world only sees this race, or four years ago,” Jacobellis said. “So I guess I don’t have a great track record for the general public.”

One Lindsey persevered under the pressure and understood the enormity of the stage after dominating her sport in obscurity; the other didn’t even after her Olympic failure from four years ago.

For Lindsey Jacobellis’ legacy, let’s hope she figures it out sometime between now and the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Since the Super Bowl ended with Drew Brees celebrating and Peyton Manning rushing toward the exits, I’ve heard several people bemoan that it will be a long seven months waiting for the 2010 NFL season to commence.

At first, that sounds silly. There’s a lot of stuff that will happen in the sports world between now and September. You would think there would be something that would interest them, wouldn’t you?

To fully drum that in, just think of the Sunday sports schedule. It includes one of the biggest auto races of the year in the Daytona 500, the NBA All-Star Game in that ridiculously big Cowboys Stadium and the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

That’s a pretty good Sunday of events – the Pro Bowl would have been in the mix too if the NFL hadn’t moved the date of the game up two weeks – to where you’d think there would be something worth watching.

But guess what, I realized Saturday night that I’m not all that interested in watching any of the three events, either. Of course, I’ll be working most of the afternoon and have a deadline to meet – if you want to count the easy-to-me task of writing as work – but I’m still not all that intrigued.

I recognize and truly respect that NASCAR’s Daytona 500 is a major sporting event but cars driving around in circles have never resonated with me. Of course, I’ve never spent a single day of my life in the state of Alabama so I’ve never had to worry about some NASCAR fanatic hijacking me and forcing me to spend a day watching the good ol’ boys and singing Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” or Lynard Skynard’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Again, I respect how popular NASCAR is – especially in the South – but even one of the two biggest auto races of the year (the Indianapolis 500 being the other) isn’t must-watch TV for me. No Danica Patrick crash possibility, no interest to me.

The NBA All-Star Game used to be something I never missed – at one time, it was the best of the pro sports All-Star games – but it hasn’t carried the same luster it used to over the past several years. Even the Twitterverse outrage over David Lee originally being passed over for the All-Star team – he’s since been named to the East squad as an injury replacement for undeserving Allen Iverson – hasn’t swayed me to become interested.

I watched part of Texas playing North Carolina in Cowboys Stadium recently so I don’t even have the curiosity factor of wondering what a basketball game in the mammoth stadium looks like. Here’s a hint – the video scoreboard that hangs high above the floor is longer than the 94-foot basketball floor.

As for Sunday’s Winter Olympics schedule, I’ll peruse the schedule and see what’s on tap. I’m sure I’ll watch a portion of NBC’s coverage but I’m not planning my day wondering how the United States fared against China in the biathlon or who performed well in moguls skiing.

Ever thought about how the only time we ever hear the word “moguls” is during the Winter Olympics?

So I suppose I really do understand a little bit why there are some people who won’t get excited over the March Madness of the NCAA basketball tournament or April’s start of the major-league baseball season or June’s NBA Finals or tennis at Wimbledon. Those folks think the sports world will be in hibernation until the next NFL regular season kicks off.

I disagree, of course, but my viewing habits on Sunday won’t separate me from those who think a September Sunday night football game between the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans is must-see TV.

When I think NASCAR, NBA All-Star Game and Winter Olympics on February, 14, 2010, there is only one thing that rattles my mind and it isn’t which lucky lady to go grab Valentine’s dinner with. Here’s where my heart is: How did we get to the point that Kevin Garnett is the elder statesmen in terms of which current NBA All-Star participant has played in the most NBA All-Star Games?

Garnett is playing in his 13th All-Star contest on Sunday. If that doesn’t stop you in your tracks, then you’re not into the NBA (fully understand that) or you are already dead (sorry I didn’t send flowers).

So, OK, I get it – those folks who think only the NFL matters? Cool. But what happens if there’s an NFL work stoppage when September of 2011 arrives?

Suddenly, those meaningless late-season baseball games between the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates will keep me in suspense. Even the San Diego Padres – you know they will be at least 20 games out when September arrives – will have to entertain me.

The more I think about it; perhaps I should catch some of Sunday’s Daytona 500. Seeing who grabs the checkered flag has got to be more entertaining than figuring out which NHL team Alex Ovechkin plays for.

Hey, is Richard Petty part of the Daytona 500 field?

Spent some time Friday pondering how much of the Winter Olympics I would watch. (Yeah, the rough, grueling decisions that keep me occupied.)

Obviously, the premier figure skating events and the hockey medal games are in the latter part of the schedule. Skiing has risen up the priority list with the Lindsey Vonn hype machine overflowing at NASCAR-type speeds.

Really didn’t have much interest in tuning into the Opening Ceremonies – until I learned that luger Nodar Kumaritashvili had been tragically killed in a high-speed training crash earlier Friday.

While doing my due diligence the past few days researching these Olympics, I noticed there had been a lot of concern expressed over the course at the Whistler Sliding Centre, where the luge and bobsledding events take place.

Just Thursday, this quote by Australian women’s luger Hannah Campbell-Pegg in an Associated Press story really jumped out at me.

“I think they are pushing it a little too much,” Campbell-Pegg said. “To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down a track and we’re crash-test dummies? I mean, this is our lives.”

A day later, the words of Campbell-Pegg resonate even louder after the death of Kumaritashvili, a 21-year-old from the small country of Georgia.

Kumaritashvili was racing down the frozen course at nearly 90 miles per hour and ran into trouble trying to navigate a curve. He lost control of the sled, went airborne, and collided with an unpadded steel pole. Attempts to save his life were unsuccessful. (Sorry, MrSportsBlog won’t be posting the video – we’re not that desperate for page views.)

It was a bit stunning that the steel poles supporting the course weren’t padded when you factor in the inherent dangers of the event and all the fuss made over the hazards of the course. Think about it – minimal padding costs just might have been enough to save Kumaritashvili’s life.

Instead, he has become the equivalent of the crash-test dummy, as Campbell-Pegg feared could happen. If I was a luger or bobsleddeder, I would have major concerns about competing on this course. It just isn’t worth risking your life.

Kumaritashvili’s death prompted me to tune into the beginning of NBC’s coverage and I was impressed with how the network handled the tragedy.

Instead of wasting time hyping the Opening Ceremonies, Bob Costas opened the broadcast by getting right to the news and NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams had a lengthy report on the tragedy, beginning eloquently with how the Opening Ceremonies face a “tough tone to overcome tonight.”

What you received was well-done journalism instead of glossed-over television packaging that often permeates the broadcast medium. Great move by NBC.

When the Georgia team took its turn entering Vancouver’s BC Place, you could sense how rough a walk that was for the athletes, who wore black armbands to honor Kumaritashvili. There weren’t the frantic waves and happy expressions that you saw from the other nations or from superstars like American Shaun White.

The Georgia team had a lot more than a festive atmosphere on its mind – the death of a countrymate.