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Not warming up to Olympics

Is it just me or have the Olympic games - winter edition - been something less than riveting?

To be perfectly honest, I have tried to warm up to the athletes and the competition - if you'll pardon the poor pun - and there have been a couple of memorable moments. I saw one throw of the curling stone that made me look twice, but all in all, these winter games have left me rather cold.

I realize that I know very little about any of the featured sports. Believe it or not, we didn't have a ski slope or an ice hockey rink when I was growing up in Porterdale, so skiing and ice skating were somewhat foreign to me.

But we did have television, and I was as familiar with the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat as most Southerners, and I always looked forward to watching the winter games when they came around.

I remember the same people that everyone else does. Peggy Fleming, for instance. I sat glued to the television set when she skated to Olympic gold back in 1968, and I didn't know much about the finer points of figure skating at the time. But I was 16 and rapidly becoming an expert on the finer points of beautiful women. I knew enough to know that Peggy Fleming was one of the most beautiful, elegant, talented and graceful women I had ever seen on the small screen.

I saw Peggy Fleming perform live at the Atlanta Civic Center in 1977 or 1978, and she was one of the most beautiful, elegant, talented and graceful women I had ever seen in person. But the point is, a person could get excited about staying up late to watch her skate in the Olympics. And then a couple of Olympiads later we had Dorothy Hamill with all that bouncy hair and that incredible spin move - what was it? Hamill's Camel?

The '80s gave us Katarina Witt. The most amazing thing about her was that the ice didn't melt right out from under her. In fact, I think she was the reason East Germany withdrew from the Cold War.

And when the '90s rolled around we had the soap opera on ice created by Tonya "Hit Girl" Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, who always looked like she was auditioning for a toothpaste ad. Even Salt Lake City gave us the thrill of seeing an unspoiled Sarah Hughes upset the Russian favorite to win the gold medal.

What did we get this year? Michelle Kwan pretending she was well long enough to march in the opening ceremonies and then a succession of would-be ice queens falling on their respective rumps while the Japanese girl won by process of elimination.

Of course there is more to the Olympics than beautiful women skating around in short skirts, but think of all the other special moments in comparison to what we have seen this year.

Think of the great Jean-Claude Killy tearing down the French Alps at Grenoble in 1968, or Franz Klammer's incredible downhill run at Innsbruck, Austria, in 1976.

What did we get this year? Bode Miller bragging about skiing while bombed, and then bombing completely in his efforts to win gold in Italy.

I always liked to watch ski jumping on television when I was growing up. I thought those guys must be the bravest people in the world and it looked like they were soaring a hundred feet above the ground.

Remember Eddie the Eagle, the British skier who stumbled onto the scene in Calgary? It was worth watching television on the nights he jumped just to see if he would survive the evening. Who brought that type of excitement to the scene this year?

To make matters worse, I heard one commentator claim that the ski jumpers were never more than 12 feet above the ground. If that's true, the Easter Bunny probably isn't real either.

Remember 1980? Remember Al Michaels? "Do you believe in miracles?"

I was living in exile in Meigs during those winter games and watched almost every minute of coverage in self-defense. Thank goodness I didn't need to rely on this year's coverage to relieve my boredom or I would have been in big trouble.

Bobsledding wasn't particularly invigorating this time. There was no Jamaican "Cool Runnings" type story to capture the fancy of the general public, and although Herschel was there, it was just to escort Laura Bush around town so I didn't get to watch the Big Dog push.

And there were a lot of so-called sports that I had never seen before, and the competitors looked for the most part like skate-boarders that had been run out of the parking lots at their local malls.

All that was missing was the graffiti on the half-pipes - which, I believe, is what they called one of their events.

Oh well, at least I learned all about Italian wine and Italian chocolate - and the next time around the winter games will be in Vancouver. I wonder if it's too early to order tickets for the curling finals.

Darrell Huckaby is a Newton County native and the author of six books. He lives in Rockdale County, where he teaches high school history. Visit his Web site at www.darrell.huckaby.net.