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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • Jeff Vrabel: Go, Slovakia!

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  • I thought I’d write about the Olympics this week, because if we’re low on anything around here, it’s people in the media offering written commentary on sports. Ooh, I wonder if this will end up on the Internet! I’m hearing the Internet is nearly out of people who write on the Internet about people who play sports not on the Internet.
    Anyway, as regular readers of this column know (and hello again, SEO crawlers from Bing who think I sell health insurance for some reason), my family hails from Slovakia, or as most people call it, “Slovenia.” Slovakia of course is a cold land, a flinty land, a land that my great-grandfather Andras left in 1906, traveling to America in steerage on a future World War I destroyer so his great-grandson could make fun of former countrymen while drinking flavored coffee that has whipped cream in it. (Thanks, Grandpa, this mocha is just delightful.)
    And that means that every four years (or, as we Slovaks call it, “a fortnight”) I exhibit brief but extremely lively interest in Slovak Olympic sports. I do this because as a Slovak there aren’t many other times you can exhibit an awful lot of national pride, especially now that they seem to have canceled that national pierogi competition and we don’t have anyone in the running for the Oscars this year. (It turned out, after considerable research, that Tom Hanks is not Slovak. Neither is anyone in “The Butler,” apparently.)
    (While I’m on the subject, how did Slovenia get the SLO abbreviation from NBC while we got SVK? Who do we have to ply with potato dishes and goat meat to get an abbreviation that makes sense?)
    But unlike previous years, where the Slovak bandwagon was an unstoppable domination machine that thrived equally in hockey, skating and that one where people go skiing and then shoot things, the Slovak Olympic run has been a little spotty in Sochi. (This is despite our owning the Olympics’ finest hockey jerseys, as decided by the apparently not-insignificant percentage of people online who evaluate and rank Olympic hockey jerseys. The comments section there is legitimately insane.)
    Oh sure, we’re still establishing a dynasty in the women’s biathlon, where Anastasiya Kuzmina, who won a silver in Vancouver in 2010, took home gold by shooting a 10 out of 10 and skiing, according to multiple news reports, “flawlessly.” I have to go with multiple news reports on this one, because for some reason the women’s biathlon is not aired on NBC, which is opting instead for 38 nightly hours of figure skating coverage and a lot of people flying off ramps on skis and twisting around in the air for a couple of minutes. I’m all for watching airborne crazy people do a lot of spinning, and I understand that people like watching figure skating because of the prospect of sequined elves sustaining injuries, but come on, I could really use a little variety here and there. (I’m also unable to stream these events online because of how I canceled cable, which means I can’t access NBC’s live streams, unless of course some generous reader wants to I don’t know donate a password or something? Ha! Just kidding, that would be illegal, and me and 35 other people certainly aren’t doing that with a friend’s HBO password or anything.)
    Page 2 of 2 - But biathlon aside, Slovakia is having a bit of a rough spell in hockey, where we usually do pretty well, for a country that people still often think is some sort of spelling error. Slovakia first lost to the United States 7-1, in a game that didn’t get nearly as much Facebook traction as that “U.S. vs. Russia” matchup for some reason, and this past weekend Slovakia lost to Russia 1-0 in a game that ended in a shootout.
    But as long as the Olympics are on, I remain hopeful. I’m currently wearing a Slovakia t-shirt, which I obtained at last year’s Pierogi Festival, which is getting me all sorts of shifty looks from people at the coffee shop who think I’m being un-American. I will probably be deported. Luckily, I’m sure I’ll be welcomed back to my Slovak heartland, with a potato dish, goat meat and a fresh new hockey jersey.
    Jeff Vrabel is starting a petition about this Slovenia thing, for real. He can be reached at http://jeffvrabel.com and followed at http://twitter.com/jeffvrabel.
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