February 27, 2010

Sliding sports on TV

Is there any way to make Winter Olympic sled sports, such as the bobsled, luge, and skeleton, more gripping on TV? As far back as I can remember, the 1984 Winter Olympics, the networks have televised the sliding sports using much the same camera work as Philip Kaufman used in 1983's The Right Stuff to show us that test pilot Chuck Yeager was going really fast when he broke the sound barrier: Zoom! Zing!

It looked pretty exciting a quarter of a century ago, but, let's be honest: everybody looks alike as they're all crouched down trying not to get their heads knocked off in a crash. And, I, personally, can't tell whether they picked the right line or not. So, you just end up waiting around for the announcer to tell you when they get to the bottom whether the latest guy with a Teutonic name went 0.05% faster or slower than the previous guy.

Maybe what they should do is show it tape delayed a few minutes on TV (yeah, you could go look up on the Internet who won just before you saw it on TV, but do you really care enough to get off the couch?) and show in split screen two sledders going down the track side by side. That would give the viewer more of a sense of competition, and actually let you see why one team is faster than another. (And it would only take half as long.)

As TVs get more wide screen, split screen becomes more feasible.

They could also show two skiers at once, too. But, that would be somewhat less of an improvement. Generally speaking, precarious-looking sports where people try to stay upright up on snow or ice, like skiing, skating, and snowboarding, are more fun to watch than ones where they have the good sense to be already lying down because, hey, it's slippery out there.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Before this Winter Olympics, I thought short-track speedskating was stupid, though I hadn't really watched it. I just assumed it was, and that long-track was better. But this Winter Olympics I started to watch it and it's now definitely one of my favorite Winter Olympic sports. It's exciting because of the passing and placing involved, and the potential for wipeouts. It a real race. I tried watching long-track and I couldn't. I was bored out of my mind. Long-track is basically on a giant track with skaters racing against the clock. It's very boring and doesn't seem like a race at all. Like watching a guy jogging or something.

OhioStater said...

My formula is 60% biography, 20% commercials, 10% precision timed sliding, and 10% Costas.

Most women can't tell the difference between standard def and high def, and probably won't appreciate visual enhancements like the first down line.

But women can appreciate the difference between a hot skier and an even hotter skier. We should satisfy her inner puck bunny.

Steve Sailer said...

Short track is great. They should hold it between periods of National Hockey League games.

Anonymous said...

Good idea. But it would be better if it was shown in live time. They could replay the current fastest run in a square box in the top right hand corner of the screen as the new one goes down.

Or they could superimpose a "ghostly shadow" of the fastest run over the image of the live run to briefly show the distance between the two skiers/sledders.

The technology is there to do this stuff.

Paavo said...

Ski jumping is a sliding sport, that is terrible on tv, because it is really hard to tell if the jump is good or not. They just show a closeup of the jumper, and you have no idea how far he is going until right after he has landed.

But it's a silly sport anyway. hang gliding with skiis.

Anonymous said...

"Or they could superimpose a "ghostly shadow" of the fastest run over the image of the live run to briefly show the distance between the two skiers/sledders."

I don't know which network this is, but I was watching the Olympics (skeleton, specifically) online at this site,

http://www.eurovisionsports.tv/olympics

and during replays they superimposed the fastest sledder, so you could compare.

Jody said...

Short track is great. They should hold it between periods of National Hockey League games.

In hotdog and bratwurst costumes...

Steve Sailer said...

Same with golf on TV: hey, let's show a close-up of a golf ball flying through an empty sky. That will provide a lot of context! When you are watching in person, you can see the flying ball against the landscape, so anticipation of where it will land builds. But you can't see much of anything on TV.

SGOTI said...

I have gotten into short track as well this Olympics. Lightning quick starts, fast-paced, quick starts, "rubbin' is racin'" sort of event. Still doesn't stop me from wanting to smack that ghey soul patch off Ohno's chin though.

My real breakthrough is curling. It warms my heart to know that I could have another 10-15 years of Olympic eligibility ahead of me!

robert61 said...

I really got into the ski cross and snowboard cross events this time around for much the same reason as people are liking short-track skating. They're great TV.

Ghost images would greatly improve the race-against-the-clock events, but ghosts can't compete with real-life jockeying for position and potential crashes.

Carolyn said...

@ Ohio Stater - We have satellite and I can certainly tell the difference between the HD and non-HD channels. I much prefer HD. I also prefer Blu-ray. Maybe you have a crappy tv.

The death-track bobsled races are not only thrilling, the eye candy of buff, burly men in head to toe lycra is an extra bonus for us ladies - well, except for USA-1 driver Holcomb.

Anonymous said...

One solution to the Winter Olympics problem of being boring is to shift some of the indoor events that are traditionally presented in the summer games to the winter games.

Judo and boxing would be a good start. There is no intrinsic reason why such competitions couldn't be conducted in the winter. They would also serve as an insurance policy for the TV networks against the prospect of no snow.

You say the slopes are bare again today? Lets pick up on our coverage of the heavyweights.

The Asian of Reason said...

No Steve, there is no way to make a boring rich white people sport fun to watch, especially one that resembles two kids racing on the water slides at your local water park. It isn't exciting, because it isn't a manly sport like basketball or football.

You can use all the technology you want, but in the end, THE SLIDERS NEVER TOUCH EACH OTHER, taking all the fun out of it. I mean if there was a sport where they slid down opposite slopes and attempted to crash into each other, then that would be fun and exciting!

It's much more fun to watch big black people duke it out in basketball.

Please write a post on how the WINTER OLYMPICS are SWPL. I know you enjoy watching them, because it is one of the only arenas where you can see beautiful white people shine!

David said...

I don't find anything boring about any of it. At all.

My attention span is still where it was 25 years ago, I guess.

And what's with the snarkiness toward "Teutonic names"? It's the one time on TV when these appear without being attached to evil villains.

If you have a short attention span and bristle at the presence of blond-haired blue-eyed Teutons, then maybe you need to be watching something other than the Winter Olympics. Something "exciting" and Idiocratic. Like American Idol.

Peter A said...

As Bill Simmons pointed out, ski jumping was lot more exciting in the 1970s when spectacular wipe outs were a lot more common (think "Agony of Defeat!"). These days jumpers are just too good at what they do and only real fanatics can tell really good from great.

For all the joking, curling really is one of the better olympic tv sports. It's a real head to head competition - no judges involved. The personalities of the players come through really well, and the games are actually often suspenseful.

Dylan said...

Try as I might, I couldn't detect any racism or misogyny in this post. What the hell, Steve??

Anonymous said...

"Or they could superimpose a "ghostly shadow" of the fastest run over the image of the live run to briefly show the distance between the two skiers/sledders."

My WII MarioKart game has that option for its various race courses.

Mr. Anon said...

"Is there any way to make Winter Olympic sled sports, such as the bobsled, luge, and skeleton, more gripping on TV?"

They could let them all go at once, and give them grenades and submachineguns, like George Lazenby and Telly Savalas had in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service".

I'd tune in for that.

Whiskey said...

NBC has already done this, both with split-screen and super-imposed skiers/lugers/bobsledders etc.

FWIW, it's been estimated that 56% of the Vancouver Olympics audience are women. No surprise there.

Of course there is the class/HBD aspect of the winter games and sports. Much of it requires training, access to mountains, financial support from families. Ohno makes about $5 million a year in endorsements, Vonn about $3-4 million in endorsements and race winnings. But lower level women/men like the married US female skier who lives in Austria to save money/training costs generally require support from their families.

All this makes the sport very White/Upper-class. Note BTW how Tonya Harding lookalike Rachel Flatt is at pains to tell everyone she's admitted to Stanford and her parents are Chemical Engineers and Molecular Biologists respectively. While her team-mate Marai Nagasuki is not ashamed that her parents run a restaurant not "smart" occupations. Nagasuki's (sp?) slender, princess like physique will not entail many "Harding" like "trailer-trash" comparisons while Flatt when you see her is like a doppelganger for a young Tonya Harding.

I found that interesting, in that she was desperate to avoid the comparisons.

Anonymous said...

Like one of the Anons said above, they do this for some sports already, though maybe not with full video of the 'ghost'.

Nintendo's Mario Kart has ghosts of old races; it's a great way to play and test yourself against old races you or others did. Maybe that means kids would take to it on real sports even more than adults.

But really these type of one-at-a-time sports will never match head-to-head thrills. I'd guess that Snowboard cross and ski cross and short-track skating will be more popular than the traditional ski and skate events soon.

Gammeri said...

You should pitch this idea to NBC and get paid.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of bobsled, whatever happened to the idea of putting world class black American sprinters into this event? The Jamaicans did it and we attempted it around 1990 with Herschel Walker, Willie Gault and Edwin Moses as part of a 4 man crew.

It seems like a good idea. Why haven't we seen it put to practice?

Anonymous said...

Is there any way to make Winter Olympic sled sports, such as the bobsled, luge, and skeleton, more gripping on TV?



The skiing scenes in the Jmaes Bond movies are usually exciting. So what we need is for bobsleders to shoot at each other and dodge snowmobiles and missle-armed helicopters as they try to reach the finish line.


Seriously, watching people run is rather boring too.

Geoff Matthews said...

Or, they could determine that 'sports' where the equipment is more important than athleticism shouldn't be Olympic sports.
Same with anything that requires scored judging.

Anonymous said...

I much prefer the Winter Games to the Summer Olympics. Perhaps because I did ski when I was younger, I appreciate many of the events. Also, like Carolyn, as a woman I appreciate the nice physiques of the sledding, skating, and ski event participants.

Track athletes have great bodies, but they always seem so narcissistic. I suppose a lot of that perception is the result of their scant clothing and close-ups of faces not obscured by helmets.

Give me the Winter Games any day.

Anonymous said...

Short track speed skating is garbage. It should be renamed "short Asian guys bump each other while skating in a circle."

Ohno is a tool, what is with his effin doo rag? That weasel and Justin Timberlake are very similar. Famous for very little, both epitomize twenty first century American men. Very metro.

We need a modern version of Chuck Bednarik. Wait, we had him, he got killed by his fellow Rangers in A-stan.

Short track speed skating will help lead us into the future "Idiocracy." Short attention span bullshit.

Although Sailer's NHL intermission idea is great. Hockey fans are morons, they revel in their stupidity.

Christopher Paul said...

Anonymous said...

One solution to the Winter Olympics problem of being boring is to shift some of the indoor events that are traditionally presented in the summer games to the winter games.

Judo and boxing would be a good start. There is no intrinsic reason why such competitions couldn't be conducted in the winter. They would also serve as an insurance policy for the TV networks against the prospect of no snow.


The Olympic Charter limits the Winter Games to "sports which are practised on snow or ice."

RobertHume said...

"Speaking of bobsled, whatever happened to the idea of putting world class black American sprinters into this event? The Jamaicans did it and we attempted it around 1990 with Herschel Walker, Willie Gault and Edwin Moses as part of a 4 man crew."

Perhaps it is also important that the individuals be heavy so as to maximize momentum, not just speed. Perhaps linebackers or tight ends are the ideal type.

Anonymous said...

If you can't appreciate a sport like four man bobsled which is an equal part combination of technology, technique and power (take a look at the builds on the crew), you must be only pretending to be white.

Anonymous said...

"You can use all the technology you want, but in the end, THE SLIDERS NEVER TOUCH EACH OTHER, taking all the fun out of it. I mean if there was a sport where they slid down opposite slopes and attempted to crash into each other, then that would be fun and exciting!

It's much more fun to watch big black people duke it out in basketball. "

You are aware that basketball is supposed to be a non-contact sport right? Even with the quite permissive interpretation of the rules in the NBA nobody is duking it out with anyone.

"Speaking of bobsled, whatever happened to the idea of putting world class black American sprinters into this event? The Jamaicans did it and we attempted it around 1990 with Herschel Walker, Willie Gault and Edwin Moses as part of a 4 man crew."

Ummmm... You are aware that Cool Runnings was inspired by a true story rather than being a true story right? The film deviated about as far from fact as U-571 did. The Jamaican national bobsled team was not recruited from the cast-offs of Jamaica's sprinting team, but from the Jamaican Defence Force. The film portrays a team of stereotypical Jamaicans who were quite unlike the actual team (two officers, a private soldier, and a railway engineer).

rob said...

Speaking of bobsled, whatever happened to the idea of putting world class black American sprinters...It seems like a good idea. Why haven't we seen it put to practice?

Just a guess, because it's bobsledding and no one cares enough about bobsledding for 3 years, 11 months and ~25 days between Olympics to try.

Anonymous said...

Why not set up like 3 or 4 parallel tracks so they can all compete together?

Reg C├Žsar said...

Short track is great. They should hold it between periods of National Hockey League games.
--Steve

Then when would they hold the Zamboni races? Come to think of it, speedskating would defeat the purpose of the Zamboni, wouldn't it?

BTW, the fellow who wrote "I Wanna Ride the Zamboni" has spent the last few years living in Mexico. Royalties go further there, I guess.

Anonymous said...

The Asian of Reason:

You can use all the technology you want, but in the end, THE SLIDERS NEVER TOUCH EACH OTHER, taking all the fun out of it.

Didn't Freud say that sliding (and piano playing) are symbols for masturbation?

Reactionary said...

My formula is 60% biography,...

Dear God, no.

TV really is becoming a female ghetto.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

Didn't Freud say that sliding (and piano playing) are symbols for masturbation?"

Whereas psychoanalysis is not a symbol for masturbation, it is masturbation.

Adam said...

I think it would be interesting to see sledding sports with a ghosted leader run. Then you could see the lines, passing, etc instantly. Plus it doesn't require as much of a delay (after the first run, there will always be a current leader).