So that new section at The Atlantic that I mentioned about a month ago? It’s live, and my first column is up there too. This time, I’m taking on the difficulties of doing sports commentary on the Olympics:
To take just one sport out of the 15 categories of events in this year’s Winter Olympics, commentators have to explain not only that it’s impressive that tiny girls can work up enough speed to do three spins in the air and land without falling down, but that it’s much harder to do that if you take off while going forwards as opposed to going backwards, and that you can earn more points if you launch yourself after the halfway point in your long program. And that breakdown doesn’t even get into the fact that the Russian and American men’s figure skating teams are sniping at each other over whether the only way to prove that you’re a real man is to spin yourself around in the air four times. Even if you master figure skating, it doesn’t get you very far. Knowing that American two-time men’s figure skating gold medalist Dick Button thinks that Russian 2010 silver medalist Evgeni Plushenko looks like a movie villain will not unlock the mysteries of the Flying Tomato, Lindsay Vonn’s shin injury, or the Norwegian curling team’s now-famous harlequin pants.
I hope you’ll read it, and that you’ll click through and explore the rest of the new Culture channel. My editor, the incomparable Eleanor Barkhorn, worked very hard to make it happen, and while the kinks are still being worked out I think, I think it’s wonderful that The Atlantic is making a big, aggressive investment in culture coverage.