By Phil Hecken
As the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi begin to wind down, I’m sure we’re all a feeling a bit of Olympic-fatigue, but I’d say all-in-all, this was a pretty good set of games (and much better than all the doom-predictors and nay-sayers were expecting). Yeah, there were still a bunch of problems, (and controversies), but for the most part, it’s gone swimmingly…er, skatingly. Or something.
You know I’m a big fan of curling, which I basically only get to watch for two weeks every four years, and there are some other Winter Games’ sports I enjoy, but one that we almost never discuss on UW is ski jumping. While it’s not my favorite sport, I do enjoy it — hell, anyone who’s old enough to remember this classic ABC sports opening, probably could tell you the “Agony of Defeat” part was a ski jumper failing. Badly.
In 1988, I fell in love with a British dude known affectionately as Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards — I watched most of those games with my fraternity brothers, who fell in love with him (and concurrently, ski jumping) as well. But I don’t follow the sport that closely, and never really got into it. But it is a great sport.
Fortunately, the one and only Jim “I’d Wear That” Vilk is into ski jumping — very. And he’s agreed to pen this nice story you’re about to read. So, without further ado, I’ll just turn the rest over to Jimmer, as he brings you…
Ski Jumping at the Olympics
By Jim Vilk
Since the first games in 1924, ski jumping has been featured at the Winter Olympics. I have enjoyed this event on television for more than forty years, and for the past twenty years I’ve videotaped as much of it as I can. Fortunately, someone else was taping it before that. The first three minutes of this video (presented by none other than Keith Jackson!) are a concise yet informative look at the changing styles of the sport up to 1984.
Mr. Jackson was spot-on when he said jumpers would come up with new techniques. Ten years later, everyone was using the V style of jumping. It’s still in use today, and its arrival has improved distances so much that they’ve had to make the hills longer. Things sure have come a long way from the arm-flailing, diving and helmet-less days of yesteryear.
The new technique, unfortunately, brought new concerns. Jumpers began to focus less on powerful takeoffs and more on losing weight. The sport’s governing body stepped in ten years ago to discourage extreme weight loss, tying ski length to body mass. In other words, weigh too little and you have to use shorter skis, which are less aerodynamic. There are other regulations, which cover all parts of the equipment and uniform…right down to the underwear. Baggy, air-resistant clothing is not allowed, even underneath the ski suit.
To the casual observer, though, it would appear little has changed since helmets were made mandatory in 1980 (that’s Canada’s Steve Collins, who briefly had success with an inverted-V style – it didn’t catch on, though). Four years later, the numbered bibs went from looking like actual bibs to something resembling a sleeveless shirt (that’s Germany’s Jens Weissflog, one of the few jumpers to have success with both the old parallel-ski style and the new V-style).
The bibs started to become more decorative after that, and the last five Olympics in particular have featured some very nice designs. Here they are in chronological order: 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 (my favorite) and 2014.
Of course, one of the biggest changes ever to this event was featured in that last photo. That’s Germany’s Carina Vogt, winner of the very first women’s competition. Congratulations to her, and to all the participants! And thanks for giving me even more ski jumping to watch in the future.
Thanks, Jim. I’m always sad when the Olympics pack it in and we have to wait another four (or two, if you’re counting both Summer and Winter games) years. But it was great to watch ski jumping again, and I thank you for the nice writeup!
Paul’s Latest ESPN Column
In case you missed it, yesterday Paul had a new ESPN column on video game company EA Sports, which is inviting gamers to submit uniform and logo designs for inclusion in the “Madden NFL” game.
It’s a great piece, so make sure you give it a read!
U.W.F.F.L. Week 25
By Rob Holecko
Well after a one week delay due to weather-related issues, the excruciatingly long UWFFL schedule is finally coming to and end. Our final (official) game of the year (not counting a few more weeks of international play which will culminate in the World Bowl) is this week’s UWFFL BCS National Championship Game presented by Vicks NyQuil in Pasadena, California which will pit the #1 Florida Geckos from the Eastern Association, who finished the season 14-2 overall, against the #2 Anchorage Orcas, who went 17-2-1 out of the Pacific Coast Conference.
The winner of this game will receive the final promotion into the UWFFL’s top tier this fall.
Both teams have stayed remarkably true to their uniform concepts during their seasons – and why wouldn’t you when you’ve had the success they’ve had. The Geckos had added a patch to their uniforms with their team initials, “FG” which was an alternate patch for their franchise in the 1960s and 1970s, but which only gets worn in postseason and Championship Games nowadays, and both teams are wearing the National Championship game patch.
Good luck to both teams and we’ll see you in a few weeks for the World Bowl, plus who knows what UWFFL-related shenanigans may be in store for us during the off-season!
Uni Watch News Ticker:
Another small amount of ticker submissions yesterday, so old school ticker today:
Chris LaHaye saw a Harrisonburg High School in Harrisonburg, LA, player wearing a skirt Thursday night. “I’m guessing it was for religious reasons,” he says. “It looked like a modified pair of team shorts. It even had a swoosh.” … Check out these USA World Cup Jersey Official Photos. Says submitter Ryan Mackman, “I got a hookup from a friend who let me have one of the jerseys early. These are photos I took myself.” … Shockingly, the CEO of UnderArmour feels his company is being “unfairly beaten up over speedskating suits” (from Tommy Turner). … That Oklahoma football team who has requested design submissions from the public has received another (via Justin C. Cliburn). … MLS is having a “Jersey Week” again this year. It’ll take place in March and all but two teams are releasing new kits. The league did this last year for the first time and have expanded it to in 17/19 teams (from Danny Wittels). … Jim Harbaugh has tried Google Glass; will the rest of the 49ers be following suit? (thanks, Brinke). … MLS purchased Chivas USA and there will be new branding/logo after the 2014 season (from Tony Bruno). … USA Goalie Jonathan Quick has a mask with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as a back plate. … Tom Mulgrew sends a photo of Russell Wilson in a Texas Rangers jersey, while holding another with his NOB, from CBSSports.com. “He said he’ll attend Spring Training, at least on March 3,” adds Tom. … NC State set up a display to honor Russell Wilson’s success in the NFL and the display has a copy of his Super Bowl jersey…and a copy of the scuba blue helmet Wilson never wore. Says submitter Kyle Hanks, “The Seahawks have worn their newer “college navy” helmet since Wilson has been in the league.” … Reader Hugh McBride Thought Paul (and perhaps a few other Uni Watchers) would appreciate the Cleveland Clinic’s stance on urine of a particularly-unacceptable-to-some color. … Despite the debacles, the US Speedskating team will be sticking with Under Armour (from Cynthia Faulkner). … The Madison Mallards (a member of a finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League) have been working with Madison Area Middle School students in hopes to find an artistic design for the 2014 alternate jersey. They received over 175 submissions from 14 different schools throughout the Madison area, and here’s the winning submission, created by Zachary Counts (from Tyler Isham). … Here are some cool overhead views of all 30 NBA arenas (thanks to Robert Silverman). … The mask that likely inspired Seahawks logo was likely discovered in Maine. … Northeastern Huskies have joined the Pinkuary brigade. … Looks like every adidas-sponsored school that plays baseball will get a tequila sunrise-esque jersey this season. … The CSU Rams will be wearing orange hoops unis today against Wyoming. … Wow, check out the stirrups Tennessee is sporting. Hey Comrade Marshall — if you’re ever back in the biz again, I know a set you can have TCK make for us. … The Tigers will have a bunch of giveaways this year, including the 1984 road jersey (which looked like this). Wonder if the team will wear that as a throwback (that’s very similar to the 1979 throwback they wore against the Rays in 2012). … “The Mets accidentally? tweeted a photoshopped photo of David Wright with a C on his jersey,” writes David Haberman. Here’s an article with quotes from manager Terry Collins on the possibility of that happening this season. … Rich Paloma notes the Sacramento Fox Affiliate is still using old NFL logo on sports reports. … Neat: An artist created a mosaic of the Cubs’ logo for the lobby of their new spring training complex (thanks to Dave Flapan). … In honor of Jack Ramsay’s 89th Birthday, Blazers coach Stotts adopts his style (Thanks, Kenny Ocker).
That’s it for today (might have been my shortest UW piece in years)! Don’t get used to it (I kid). Big thanks to Jumpin’ Jimmer Vilk for the short history of Ski Jumping at the Games. Good stuff. Everyone enjoy the last of the Olympics today, as we begin to slide towards March Madness and Opening Day.
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“Let me get this straight: There’s an aspect of something that’s totally fucked. But it’s been totally fucked for so long that its fuckedness has become an essential aspect of the thing. You’ve heard of too big to fail? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you too fucked to fail.”
–Paul, on figure skating doesn’t belong in the Olympics