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Apparently, some random, strange viral infection that looks like the flu but isn't the flu (a distinction without a difference) and strep throat aren't enough. There's another condition sweeping the country -- Olympic Fever.

All the above will have you sitting on your sofa in a bathrobe for extended periods of time. One of them you'll actually enjoy. Hint: It's not the flu. Next hint: It's not that viral deal or strep, either.

The challenge, of course, is that this latest version of our obsession is the Winter Olympics. Which, to those of us of a Southern persuasion, is akin to watching French movies with no subtitles. We think this is really cool-looking. We just have no idea what's going on.

Not that really understanding the rules or the actual strategies of an athletic event are a requirement for most of us. I mean, we've all had the difference between a block and a charge "explained" to us by row-mates at a Razorback basketball game. (Apparently the definition is "whatever the Hog did is legal.")

But odds are better that the shirtless guy from Tonga is going to medal in cross-country skiing than very many folks in this neck of the woods will know a half-pipe from a stovepipe hat (hey, pretty close to Lincoln's birthday here).

However, it's the Olympics! Which means we have an opportunity to show the ultimate rightness of our political system, our heritage and our very way of life by crushing all who would stand against us in feats of strength, cunning and daring. Like curling. Maybe not curling.

And not Russia. At least not since a massive doping scandal resulted in their team officially being banned from the games. Now, they're participating as O.A.R., the Olympic Athletes of Russia. Again, distinction, difference ... meh.

So, while we watch them compete, we should probably make ourselves a Sandwich of Cheese that is Grilled. And perhaps their figure skaters will perform to the music of the Band of the Dead Who are None The Less Grateful.

Regardless of who they are, exactly what they're doing is no small matter of conjecture for most of us. It's been said that the Olympics are like presidential elections. Once every four years we get all excited about them, and then quit thinking about them right after. OK, so, perhaps not the best strategy every time, but ...

The issue is that, for those of us who don't live in Upstate New York or Colorado, just about everything in the Winter Olympics falls in one of three categories: Is that a sport? Why would anyone want to do that? And hockey.

Take, for instance, cross-country skiing. It's kind of the race walking of winter sports in that it's really hard to watch the whole thing, looks a lot goofier that it's faster-moving cousins and seems like it takes a whole lot of work to accomplish.

If the medal count is any indication, the U.S.A. and the rest of the world get absolutely hammered in cross-country skiing by Norway. Which is fair, because in our country, cross country skiing is an interesting activity practiced by a small number of fanatics. To the Norwegians, cross-country skiing is how everyone gets to the mailbox.

Which illustrates the dichotomy of the Winter Olympics. We're very, very happy to be succeeding at things we really, really don't understand all that well, and, frankly, aren't that interested in understanding.

So unlike the Summer Olympics where we bag a bunch of medals doing things most of us get ("turn left and get back first"), we spend the Winter Olympics bagging a bunch of medals doing stuff most of us can't fathom but are pretty sure are against the laws of nature or good sense.

On the other hand, it's kind of hard to resist being thrilled and proud when Red Gerard, a 17-year-old kid who looks like he's about 12, beats a bunch of seasoned pros to win a gold medal.

Or when Mirai Nagasu, a skater who didn't even make the team four years ago, does something that's never been done before to help her team get on the podium.

So, yeah, maybe we don't necessarily understand the events or the scoring or how calling yourself the Olympic Athletes of Russia doesn't make you the Russian team. But watching Shaun White break down in tears as he finishes his Olympic career with another gold medal, well, that we understand.

And as fevers go, the Olympic Fever isn't so bad.

Commentary on 02/16/2018

Print Headline: Feeling the fever

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