"Are they insane?" is my running commentary to the Olympics, and it doesn't matter if it's winter or summer. It's the same reaction I always have to (what seem to me as) lethal combinations of height, speed, distance and chance, plus routinely thumbing one's nose at the law of gravity.
I can watch the figure skaters, because I can look past the obvious lunacy of a ¼" blade that constitutes the difference between their vertical and painful horizontal orientation. They're dancers, albeit dancers on a very narrow edge, but dancers nonetheless. I am in the same kind of awe when I watch dancers on a stage, whether it's classical ballet, tap, or an all-out Broadway-jazzy number. Each element of their bodies employs strength, balance, endurance and pure artistry. I get that.
Yes, I know you can say that about snowboarders and those guys who blend skiing with being upside down, and I see that in gymnasts, too. Fantastic body awareness, attention to presentation and all. But luge? I just don't see it. Speed skating? Balance, to be sure. Strength and endurance, of course. But the wipe-out potential is huge. And why on earth would you willingly hurdle yourself down an icy tube at 80 miles an hour? Face down. Or even face up, barely seeing what's at your toes? Eighty miles an hour? I don't even like to drive that fast. Why would you intentionally fly 20 feet in the air, turning over and over, losing all sense of perspective and gravity, landing somehow on a thin board that's attached to your feet….and then do it again?! Seriously, why would you do that?
By the way, this isn't an age thing. I never liked going fast. It's too easy to crash. Too easy to get hurt. Too easy to do serious damage to my one functional body, and given my state of dexterity and balance (or lack thereof), serious damage is always on the horizon. You can imagine how I felt about my daughter going into gymnastics, but at least they landed on solid ground often enough. A series of her painful sprained ankles confirmed my wariness of that sport. Swimming? Yes, swimming - a lot harder to get hurt.
So there's the basic difference between me and those Olympians. (Insert obvious comments here). You can pick up on my personality: I do not have the need for speed. I don't like going downhill, either literally or figuratively, and certainly not at high speeds. Years ago, I realized that I don't like the feeling of being out of control, and that's exactly the appeal of these of downhill, airborne, speed-dependent folks. I can appreciate the determination and practice that it takes to get good at these sports, but I can't imagine what it is that got them interested in the first place. I appreciate challenges, but not the ones that can cause such physical harm.
And there you have it. There are risk-takers, speed-demons, danger-courters, control-defyers. And then there's me, who likes to bike, dance, walk, even run, at a controlled, sustainable pace. Sigh. I sound pretty boring, I know. But someone has to sit on the couch and watch these people while obeying the laws of gravity.