Thanks to the eighty of you who drew our attention to Bill Simmons retro Winter Olympics column, and his hankering for luge accidents. You can stop now.
Simmons is currently hammering out his 10th annual column excoriating the NBA All-Star weekend, so Page 2 ran an old column, written immediately after the 2002 Salt Lake City games.
THUMBS DOWN ... for the luge and bobsled events. What happened to the good old days, when people went careening into those scary haystacks half the time? Is there any skill to these events anymore? Is the equipment too good now? Couldn't they booby-trap the track with oil leaks, barbed wire, grenades and wild animals?
Oof. In the wake of Nodar Kumaritashvili's death, blasting a sport for its lack of crashes sounds wholly insensitive. And had Simmons made those comments in the wake of his death, it would be. But, obviously, he didn't. He wrote this eight years ago, comfortably in that window from 1964-2010 where no one died luging at the Olympics, and everybody felt this way about the sliding events.
Look, luge is boring. Every run looks identical to the untrained eye. Countries that aren't ours tend to dominate. The one thing it has going for it is incredible speed, and that's meaningless without the possibility of a crash.
Here's the very next thing Simmons wrote in that same column:
THUMBS UP ... for the ski jumping. Even if nobody falls anymore. There's always that slim chance for "Wide World of Sports" opening potential ... even if it never happens.
Know anyone who watches hockey for the fights? NASCAR for the crashes? If tomorrow NASCAR changed the courses, cars and rules and got rid of crashes altogether, can you imagine how fast ratings would fall? Sliding is no different. That illusion of danger is what makes it appealing, but the illusion is impotent without a very real possibility of an accident.
Simmons shouldn't be faulted for writing the truth, especially when he got so many other things right. He questioned if skill is required any more; Olympic officials questioned Kumaritashvili's experience. He asked if the equipment is too good; officials made track changes to lower speeds.
It's an unfortunate quote, just waiting to be mined eight years later in a very unexpected, very sad circumstance. An editor probably should have pulled that specific section from the piece on Friday. But for once, let's give Bill Simmons a break.
Thumbing through Winter Games [ESPN.com]