Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Derek Roy, Take Your Penalty Lap

I'll admit, I'm not a huge Olympics person.  Left to my own devices I probably wouldn't watch much beyond hockey, but friends Schnookie and Pookie were in town this past weekend and we all more or less crashed at Kate's house.  We spent roughly 48 hours in front of the TV, breaking only twice and then only for food.  That's how I came to spend much of my weekend watching the biathlon which is, quite simply, one of the greatest things I've ever seen.

The combination of skiing and shooting is hilarious to begin with.  It sounds like something a guy would make up in order to create something he'd personally be really good at.  It's amazing how hot it is to watch really handsome men swing guns on and off their backs.  I feel actual physical pain watching biathletes chug-a-lug uphill.  I appreciate how utterly exhausted they are when they cross the finish line unlike say a skier who cruised down one hill and then called it a day.  I love watching the pile-up of prone bodies getting larger and larger as more and more guys finish.  But there's one thing about the biathlon that makes it the best Winter Olympics sport.  Nay, one of the best sports anywhere ever.

Penalty laps.

PENALTY LAPS.  A quick primer for those of you who've never devoted any of your time to watching the biathlon.  (It dawns on me right at this very second that what we were watching might not have been the biathlon because there was also ski jumping involved, but one of the good things about these sports is that I won't see them again for four years so I don't really need to bother to learn the specifics.)  Anyway, these guys start out cross-country skiing and they ski and ski for what seems like forever.  And then at various points during the race, they suddenly have to stop, whip the rifle off their backs, and shoot at five very small targets.  Right next to the shooting station there's an extra loop in the track and for every target they miss they have to do a lap around the loop.  Forget what I said about some guy randomly throwing together the two activities he happens to be good at, this sport was clearly invented by a P.E. instructor.  These guys are literally running laps when they screw up!


Every sport needs to add this immediately.  Can you imagine how much fun we could have with this?  Jason Pominville misses the net?  Take a lap around the rink.  Thomas Vanek fails to shoot on a breakaway?  Take a lap.  Derek Roy gives the puck away trying to carry it through four people?  Take four laps, one for each defender.  Ryan Miller gives up a softie?  Take a lap.  In your gear.  How entertaining would it be to watch Ryan waddle around the rink as fast he can while the Sabres scramble to defend the net until he gets back?  I would be fine and dandy with the Sabres raising season ticket prices if we could get the penalty lap system up and running across the NHL.

On a side note, we had an extra long weekend at work.  For our winter break we were off Friday, Monday, and Tuesday.  (I use winter break loosely because we used to get an entire week off.)  Thursday we talked to the kids a lot about the Olympics and one of the events that came up a lot was the luge.  For days now I've been picturing my kids sitting down in front of the TV to watch luge highlights because Miss Heather said it was SO AWESOME and being traumatized for life.  We'll just chalk that up as an educational experience, I guess.  (I don't know what I was thinking anyway because the luge is horribly, horribly boring.)

ETA: I have no idea what time the stuff in the day's newspaper goes live on The Buffalo News website,  but as of right now, the only story about the first U.S. hockey game is from the AP.  I know it's early rounds, and the games might not be that exciting, but the entire season has been building up to Ryan Miller starting in net for the United States.  Seems like maybe the TBN reporter on-site should have gone to the game especially since that's where local interest lies.

ETA: D'oh!  I just realized I broke my promise to not blog about the Sabres on the FIRST DAY.  Stupid Sabres.


PKB said...

You would probably think that this ridiculous competition had been invented by grizzly men who wear flannel and drink Budweiser and they may have but honestly they would be the worst at this sport.

I've shot a few guns and one of the things you're told especially when shooting targets with a rifle is to hold your breath as your about to pull the trigger. Staying calm and keeping your heart rate as low as possible helps to steady the barrel and whatever.

I imagine cross-country skiing as fast as possible would make that pretty difficult. Penalty laps for missed shots -- that's brutal. They must be in insane shape.

dave in Rocha said...

PKB is right, the ability to go from all-out exertion to calm and poised in seconds is ridiculous. The best athletes in the games by my count.

As for its roots I would guess it comes from daily, pre-modern life in Nordic countries. You want to feed your family today? Good, ski up that mountain and shoot a yak from 100 yards away. At least that's my theory.

Lee Andrew said...

I'm not a big fan of either Olympics (now that softball is no longer an olympic sport). My main problem is there isn't enough sports that the Japanese excel at. They need to make a version of the biathlon that has throwing shuriken instead of shooting rifles.

Fun fact of the day: The literal meaning of the word "shuriken" is "sword hidden in the hand".

amy said...

The idea of Miller skating a penalty lap while his teammates cover for him has me laughing. He could elevate the sprint-waddle to an art form.

Beth said...

Did you also catch on that for the first target shot they had to shoot from the ground and then the second time around they had to shoot standing? It makes no sense at all to me but I was rooting for them to miss and have poor stability just to see them sent to the sin loop. =) When they started missing 3 towards the end I was THRILLED! It IS such a great idea.

There should be a button that Lindy can push and then the player (namely DR9) has to break away and go start skating in the penalty loop. Or maybe even give it fan control... the possibilities are endless.

Bowl of Pork said...

You nailed it with the biathlon: kick ass in every way. As a side note, the jumping/x-country event you saw is called the Nordic Combined. You earn points in your ski jump... how far back you are in those standings determines how late you start in the cross country portion. The effect is that no matter how the ski-jump went, the first skier to cross the line in the cross country is the combined winner.

I also like that it has an alternate name that describes the scoring system: the "Nordic Gundersen", invented by Gunder Gundersen. Olympic trivia is fun!

Vanek's Hair said...

"Derek Roy, Take Your Penalty Lap" is one of the funniest things I have ever read

Heather B. said...

PKB, I don't think I'd be able to lift my arms after all that skiing. Breathing slowly (or at all at that point :P) never even crossed my mind. That does sound like a very difficult thing to pull off.

You want to feed your family today? Good, ski up that mountain and shoot a yak from 100 yards away. At least that's my theory.

That makes a lot of sense, dave. You're probably right. For some reason it being a throwback like that makes me like it even more. (And thanks for the Jochen link on the last post. It *was* right up my alley.)

Lee, this is mostly off-topic but I was just complaining to someone that I don't understand how softball could get tossed out of the Olympics for lack of competition while women's hockey has stayed in. I don't want to toss all the women sports, but it doesn't make any sense at all.

Beth, if *I* had control over penalty laps? Derek Roy would never quit skating partly on merit, and partly just for entertainment purposes. :)

Bowl of Pork, I totally remember hearing "Nordic" now that you mention that. Thanks for saving me from actual research.

"Derek Roy, Take Your Penalty Lap" is one of the funniest things I have ever read.

Awww, thanks, VH.

LeeAndrew said...

I really could go on and on about what's wrong with softball being left out and the stupid "no competition" is just one point. Sports that dominated by one country but are still in the Olympics.

Archery - South Korea
Badminton - China
Men's Basketball - USA (yeah they lost at one point, but come on)
Women's Basketball - USA
Diving - China
Beach Volleyball - USA (maybe the softball players should wear bikinis)
Weightlifting - China
Athletics - USA (USA might not have won the most in the past Olympics but all-time they have 672 when the next country has 215.

It also annoys me that Golf is going to be in. I don't have a problem with golf but nobody in golf is going to care about being an Olympian when it has never been an Olympic sport before. Every softball player wants to win a gold medal. It's like swimming, gymnastics or track and field, where it is actually THE goal.