Let’s be honest: a lot of the Olympic sports being contested up at Whistler are not exactly spectator friendly. People in Vancouver get big-time hockey and a close-up view of skiers performing approximately 28 body rotations off the freestyle ramp. We get to watch various international specks fly off distant ski jumps, and glimpse cross-country skiers for whole seconds at a time before they disappear into the woods.
And then there are the sliding sports, which are all high-speed flash on TV but in person are like buying a ticket to watch a sneeze.
Which got the scientist in me to wondering: Would drinking six beers make the skeleton more interesting to watch in person? (FYI, the scientist in me is an alcoholic.)
In the name of advancing human knowledge, I conducted my selfless experiment.
Purpose: To see if drinking six beers would make the skeleton interesting.
Method: Drink six beers. Watch the Olympic men’s skeleton live at the Whistler Sliding Centre.
Materials: Media pass to enter Sliding Centre. Six 355 ml beers purchased over 109 minutes at the official Olympic concession stand (Brand: Molson Canadian. Total cost: $39). One warm pretzel (Cost: $5). One human bladder.
After one beer: The designers of the sliding track created near the finish line a spectators’ plaza, which is meant to be the primary gathering point for fans (although you can walk the length of the steep track and watch from anywhere, if you don’t mind your calf muscles divorcing you the next day). From the plaza, you can view a skeleton competitor take a series of final turns. If you’re capable of moving your eyes and turning your neck very quickly, you might be able to glimpse an athlete for upwards of 0.7 seconds. [Pause.] I’m going to need another beer.
After two beers: Whoosh. Nope.
After three beers: I fall in a group of fellows and we bond over the fact there’s an American skeleton racer named John Daly. We imagine what the race would be like if the John Daly on the American skeleton team was in fact John Daly the fat, drunk golfer. We laugh and we laugh and we laugh. Then John Daly races and we realize, nope, just another skinny skeleton guy that just whooshed past. Nuts.
After four beers: The lady at the concession says the sliding track is definitely the most beer-fueled of all the Whistler venues. “We sell a lot of beer,” she tells me. Clearly, many fellow scientists are in attendance tonight. As I’m finishing up Beer 4, I get to chatting with Rick, an American. His jacket says, “Rick.” He’s kind of making fun of skeleton but then a sled wooshes by – we’re standing quite near the track; the sound is loud – and Rick reacts as though he’s just been hit in the head by Megan Fox’s thong. “Whoooooaaaaaaa!” he screams. “That was unbelievable.” I’m getting kinda tipsy but I think he’s being serious. “It’s like a space-age thing, like going through space in a rocket!” Rick and his wife and friends were getting ready to leave but now Rick wants to stay for a couple more riders. His wife keeps walking, but Rick doesn’t seem to care. Women. Am I right, Rick? Damn right I am, buddy. Sorry I just spilled beer on you.
After five beers: The mood is good because Canadian athlete Jon Montgomery is in second place after the first run. Everyone is psyched. Some guy in a Canadian goalie mask just came at me and I said, Dude, if you’re the Canadian Jason, you should chase your victims not by walking at a steady pace but by tobogganing. Some people nearby laugh like it’s the funniest thing ever but then I realize they’re way drunker than me. The Whistler Sliding Centre: it’s like a great pub, but with sliding. I think I had more to say about how I felt after five beers but I can’t read what I wrote in my notebook. Could that scribble say “Lub terriers.” Probably not.
Finale: I finish my sixth beer just as Jon Montgomery launches from the top. I am into it now. People are yelling “Wooooo!” I am one of those people. But we’re not yelling “Woooooo!” nearly as loudly as we’ll be yelling it a few moments later, when Montgomery’s Latvian rival falls just short and Canada wins gold. Our first medal to be won in Whistler! And we saw it in person! Very briefly!
Conclusions: Drinking six beers definitely helped make the skeleton interesting. But it’s possible that part of the interestingness came not from the beer but from the presence of a Canadian racing for gold. I’m going to have to declare my findings to be inconclusive, and begin filling out the paperwork to get funding for a second experiment: to the bobsleigh!