All The Sports At The Winter Olympics, Ranked By Watchability

Senior Editor
02.19.18 23 Comments

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We can all probably agree that the Winter Olympics are a pale substitute for the Summer games. And I mean literally pale. Did you know that only two nations below the equator have ever won Winter Olympics medals (Australia and New Zealand)? It’s almost like affirmative action for the richer, colder countries.

Nonetheless, it’s a useful placeholder. I admit it, I love the Olympics. I love that you can turn on the TV at any hour of the day and see the culmination of someone’s entire life. They devoted their entire childhoods to something and you can just turn on the TV and see if it was worth it, over and over and over for weeks. And obviously, it beats the hell out of baseball.

Also, say what you will about Summer Olympic sports being more exciting, the Summer Olympics has precious few sports that I’d consider legitimately death-defying, activities I wouldn’t consider for any amount of money (probably only gymnastics). The Winter Olympics, meanwhile, is made up almost entirely of them. In fact that may be the most interesting aspect of the Winter Olympics, that it has so many sports that are objectively insane, and yet oftentimes not all that watchable. Partly it’s because so many — almost all of them, in fact — winter sports aren’t contested head to head. They consist of one competitor on the track at a time, decided by a clock, some judges, or, God forbid, a combination of a clock and judges (nothing like having to bust out the calculator to figure out if a competitor did well).

With so many badass sports yet so many so strangely not that watchable, you wonder if maybe we just haven’t figured out the best way to cover them. Many of these events could be greatly improved with more creative camera coverage, a better telecast, and yes I have some additional suggestions. In any event, here they all are, ranked by watchability.

20. Cross-Country Skiing

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Cross-country skiing looks insanely hard, I know, but so is digging a big hole. Cross-country skiing is like skiing with all the good parts removed. It’s like they tried to make NASCAR out of being stuck in traffic. Yes, it’s one of the few events where the competitors are all on the course at the same time, and yet… somehow it doesn’t feel that climactic. It’s usually so cold that you don’t even get to see the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat written on the competitors’ faces, it’s just a bunch of panting crotchety guys wearing Oakleys. They always look grumpy as hell. And can you really blame them? This sport looks a punishment. They all remind me of middle-aged cycling enthusiasts, the grumpiest people on Earth.

There are crashes, occasionally, and those are fun, but they aren’t that exciting. Probably because cross-country skiing accidents almost always take place at very low speeds. It’s like watching two guys in very high heels try to pass each other in a hallway and fall down. Frankly, that would be a more interesting sport.

19. Curling

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It’s basically hack to rip on curling at this point, and the closest thing to a hot take I could come up with in this piece was to only rank it second to last. Yes, yes, thank you, I am a very independent thinker.

Okay, I don’t think curling is quite as dull as everyone says. I mean, I try to like it. Shuffle puck is my favorite bar game and I’ve even played in a cornhole league, and curling is nothing if not an insanely elaborate ice version of shuffle puck or cornhole.

Therefore I always think it can’t possibly be that bad. There’s some drama involved in trying to make a precision lag while knocking your opponent’s stones off the board. The part I always forget is the 90 seconds of planning before every shot, where the four curlers confer with their coach about the right play. Kill me now. There’s no way this involves more planning and geometry than a basic game of pool, but if you did this much conferring in a pool hall you’d get beaten senseless inside of 20 minutes. The most interesting that happened in curling was when the cute Russian girl fell down.

Suggestions to improve it:

Mixed curling has two players. Make all the matches two players only, no coaches, and a 24-second clock for picking your line.

18. Slalom Snowboard

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I get the same feeling watching slalom snowboarding as I do watching pick-up truck racing. Like … the thing wasn’t really built for that, you know? Snowboards were obviously made for doing sweet tricks and going off of sick jumps. Slalom snowboarding is like someone said “Yeah, but what if we judged it based on how efficient a mode of conveyance!”

No, man.

17. Ice Dancing

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Isn’t this just figure skating without the sweet jumps? Hard pass.

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