If poker, bowling can be on TV …
We’re halfway through this valley’s premiere international sporting event as I write. Hopefully, the U.S. team and home crowd are lighting each other up. Daron Rahlves set a course record last year, and Bode Miller is not only the most exciting skier in the world to watch, but at this moment also the best. It took awhile for his equipment and experience to catch up to his skills, but now. …Much is made of the cliched “free” American style, as opposed to the regimented, robotic Euros. Film footage of the best skiers suggests this is more a media creation than reality. The top guys all look remarkably similar with the best holding a tighter line on a little higher edge. When racers are superimposed it resembles a very good and fast supercross event. What is surprising when watching montage footage is how much racers seesaw back and forth as first one blows a turn but then later nails a tighter line. Easier to see how those rare but large 1-2 second winning margins can happen if a competitor gets it right all the way down.TV cameras and imaging can give unsurpassed views and insights into the finer points of tactics and technique, but these details come at a price, as the sport is sealed into a box. You can’t see the forest for the trees. Being up close and personal at any sporting event has a visceral impact on the senses that a TV can never transmit. The deafening roar and smell of a Formula 1 start, the quickness of professional soccer, the shock of NFL tackles and brutal exhaustion of a boxing match all cannot be caught in the confines of a television set.This is true for a lot more than sports. Wildlife documentaries show the life of a bear in astonishing closeness, but a brief actual encounter on a hike is a whole hyperventilating other deal. There’s also the spine-tingling energy of a large crowd that is uniquely empowering, exciting and scary all at the same time.To witness the energizing effects of a mob, look no farther than the NBA fan venturing on court to go head to head with a much larger man who spends most of his free time moving heavy lumps of metal around. Slumped in a couch with a pizza is pleasant and comfortable, but tame.TV tends to diminish the athleticism of athletes. Nothing looks that hard. Everything’s all smooth and easy. “My mother could’ve scored from there!” is a product of the TV, not real life. Perching precariously on the tilted ice rink of a downhill course while watching another racer hurtle past at 80 mph, a boiling hiss of cold air struggling to part out of the way puts mother out of the minds of even the most sadistic son-in-law.Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey is one of the toughest. Swinging its way downhill over 70 degree drop-offs, sinuous rolls and sweeping curves. Watching the world’s best here is a jaw-dropping and head-shaking experience similar to watching pronghorns run or gibbons swing and tumble through a forest canopy. They’re impressive in ways mere mortals are not mentally or physically equipped to do.Unfortunately, watching ski racing live is about your only option in the U.S. Despite having some of the best skiers in the world, it gets less coverage here than dodgeball. Your best chance of seeing a ski racer compete on national TV is on Superstars where incidentally they usually beat all comers.It makes no sense. If bowling, darts and NASCAR’s roundabout racing can be marketed, then skiing can. With ice hockey gone there has to be a slot somewhere. Skiing has the skills and the human interest stories that give sports commentators plenty of opportunity to create legends (Hermann Maier), rivalries and on-going soap operas.Freeskiing icon Tanner Hall’s recent dissing of downhill racing and Daron Rahlves responding challenge of “come ski Kitzbuhel then” is a made-for-TV event where all parties would come away with greater respect for the skills of the other. Tanner Hall used to race, and Daron Rahlves goes airborne on anything that gets off the ground.Whatever it takes to get decent skiing coverage on TV again. Absorbing it live, then analyzing it on TV is the best of both worlds.Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily.
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