Fixing the curling calendar

What was the big curling event of the past weekend?

Was it the third leg of the Curling World Cup? How about the provincial qualifiers for the Scotties and the Brier? Maybe the made-for-TV Skins Game?

If you’re curling in Canada, the Scotties and the Brier take top priority. To explain this to an American audience — this is the equivalent of the U.S. Open Cup or FA Cup in the sense that it’s a national championship in which unheralded entries can beat the big names. Qualification for the national event, which is broadcast on TSN (and therefore to a U.S. audience on ESPN), is a tournament in each of Canada’s provinces. Qualifying for those events tends to be based on subregional qualifiers and the handy Canadian Team Ranking System — basically, the year-to-date Order of Merit.

This looks like one of those shorts Mystery Science Theater 3000 plays before a feature.

It’s really wonderful. Check out the ESPN3 streams starting Feb. 16.

So the Skins Game proceeded this past weekend without any of the teams that were occupied with various qualifiers. Top-ranked Kevin Koe doesn’t have his Alberta qualifier until this week, so he was able to play in the Skins. Brad Jacobs, ranked second, had to take care of Brier business in Northern Ontario. Three top-eight teams were busy in Ontario, so No. 9 Reid Carruthers got the call. The women’s competition had four of the top six in Canada but not top-ranked Rachel Homan.

The World Cup? Canada sent seventh-ranked Matt Dunstone, who beat Sweden’s Niklas Edin to win the men’s event, and eighth-ranked Darcy Robertson, who duly lost all six of her games.

The Curling News is full of suggestions to revamp the calendar as well as the Scotties and the Brier. The jewels of Canadian curling have expanded to 16 teams each, incorporating all three of the sparsely populated northern provinces as well as a “wildcard” entry.

Sure, but after a few more years of climate change, Nunavut might have to build a wall to keep the rest of us out.

It’s a bit controversial because, as vast as those territories are, they’re rather sparsely populated. One survey of the population of Nunavut reports of population density of 0.0 per square kilometer.

The reason is pretty obvious. It’s cold. Really cold. Permanent polar vortex cold. From Nunavut Tourism: “The average temperature in Kugluktuk is the warmest in Nunavut, sometimes rising to 30°C in the summer and ranging from -15°C to -40°C in the winter.” The high end of that winter range is 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The low end, oddly enough, is -40 Fahrenheit. It’s the point at which they converge. It’s not better one province over. The average high temperature in January in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, is -6 degrees. Yes, Fahrenheit. The average low is -23. Regina, Saskatchewan, is downright tropical by comparison.

So this open national championship, along with its requisite qualifiers, is competing for space on the crowded curling calendar. The Scotties and Brier are part of the “Season of Champions” umbrella along with the “North America vs. the World” Continental Cup and the Canada Cup, for which the teams are determined entirely by rankings.

AND we have the Grand Slam of Curling, which has seven events of its own — one per month from September to January, then a Players’ Championship and Champions Cup right after the World Championships.

AND now we have the World Cup, a complicated four-event series in which teams represent their countries, sort of.

Naturally, I’ll have to add my own pet solution on top of the suggestions The Curling News and the Rocks Across the Pond podcast have made. I promise I’ll get to the power ranking update after that.

WORLD TEAMS

World Cup: Every four years. Obviously not the same year as the Olympics. Make it a Davis Cup/Ryder Cup/World Team Tennis sort of thing — country vs. country matchups in which men, women and mixed doubles teams face off.

Continental Cup: Odd years only. This already has a Ryder Cup vibe to it — North America vs. Europe.

CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS

It’s good to be inclusive, and part of the charm here is seeing teams repping their provinces. It’s less good to spend the first five days watching Rachel Homan, Kevin Koe, Jennifer Jones and company routing Nunavut.

For a couple of years, the Scotties and Brier had a play-in round for the lowest-ranked provinces based on previous years’ results. Bring it back. And cut back the number of teams by doing away with the Ontario/Northern Ontario split and the wildcard team.

(Alternate idea: Have one representative from the northern provinces and two from the Maritimes/Newfoundland and Labrador. Add in the defending champions and the six other provinces, and you’ve got 10 teams.)

THIS YEAR’S EVENTS

The Scotties’ field is powerful. The seven top teams in the rankings are going, though two of them (No. 2 Kerri Einarson and No. 5 Casey Scheidegger) will face off in the wildcard game. The top-ranked teams won in Ontario (Rachel Homan), Alberta (Chelsea Carey), Saskatchewan (Robyn Silvernagle), Northern Ontario (Krista McCarville), Prince Edward Island (Suzanne Birt) and Northwest Territories (Kerry Galusha). Manitoba had a minor upset, with No. 6 Tracy Fleury beating Einarson. The second-ranked team also won in British Columbia (Sarah Wark), New Brunswick (Andrea Crawford) and Newfoundland/Labrador (Kelli Turpin). No one from Nunavut or Yukon is ranked.

The only mild surprises were in Nova Scotia, where Scotties veteran Jill Brothers turned back the clock a few minutes, and Quebec, where Gabrielle Lavois was the best of a low-ranked field.

The men’s qualifiers aren’t done yet, with the brutally competitive Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan provinces playing down this week. Perennial Northern Ontario representative Brad Jacobs is back, but Ontario had a bit of a surprise with Scott McDonald getting past the usually dominant John Epping and Glenn Howard teams. Brier veteran Jim Cotter beat two higher-ranked teams to win in British Columbia. Stuart Thompson edged similarly ranked Jamie Murphy in Nova Scotia. Martin Crete sprang a mild upset in Quebec. In Newfoundland and Labrador, Andrew Symonds won the battle of teams not skipped by Brad Gushue, who has the automatic bid as defending champion.

Power rankings

WOMEN

  1. Rachel Homan (CAN) – won Ontario provincials (up 1)
  2. Anna Hasselborg (SWE) – lost World Cup Jonkoping final to South Korea’s Min Ji Kim. (down 1)
  3. Jennifer Jones (CAN) – won the Skins Game, beating Fleury in the final (up 1)
  4. Chelsea Carey (CAN) – won Alberta provincials (up 3)
  5. Tracy Fleury (CAN) – won Manitoba final and reached Skins Game final (up 5)
  6. Silvana Tirinzoni (SUI) – idle (down 1)
  7. Satsuki Fujisawa (JPN) – idle (down 1)
  8. Kerri Einarson (CAN) – lost to Fleury in Manitoba final and Skins Game semi (down 5)
  9. Casey Scheidegger (CAN) – lost Skins Game semi to Jones (down 1)
  10. Sayaka Yoshimura (JPN) – idle (no change)
  11. Robyn Silvernagle (CAN) – won Saskatchewan provincials (new to top 12)
  12. Darcy Robertson (CAN) – third in Manitoba (down 1)

Dropping out: Anna Sidorova (RUS) – missed final four in Glynhill Ladies Invitational, second in group in World Cup Jonkoping

One U.S. women’s team in action — Cory Christensen was second to Kim in her World Cup group.

MEN

  1. Brad Jacobs (CAN) – won Northern Ontario provincials (no change)
  2. Niklas Edin (SWE) – lost to Matt Dunstone in World Cup Jonkoping final (no change)
  3. Kevin Koe (CAN) – runner-up to Bottcher in the Skins Game (no change)
  4. Brendan Bottcher (CAN) – Skins Game winner (up 3)
  5. Bruce Mouat (SCO) – idle (down 1)
  6. John Epping (CAN) – runner-up to McDonald in Ontario (down 1)
  7. Ross Paterson (SCO) – third behind Dunstone and Edin in Jonkoping (down 1)
  8. Brad Gushue (CAN) – lost to Bottcher in Skins Game semi (no change)
  9. Peter de Cruz (SUI) – idle (no change)
  10. Reid Carruthers (CAN) – won Ed Werenich Golden Wrench Classic in Arizona, lost to Koe in Skins Game semi (up 2)
  11. Matt Dunstone (CAN) – beat Edin to win in Jonkoping (new to top 12)
  12. Scott McDonald (CAN) – won handily in Ontario (new to top 12)

Dropped out: Glenn Howard (CAN) was third in Ontario. John Shuster (USA) has been idle for a while.

A few U.S. teams played in the Werenich Wrench Classic (not sure people call it that, but they should). Rich Ruohonen lost to Carruthers in the semis. Pete Fenson, the 2006 Olympic medalist who doesn’t play much any more, put together a young team — Mark Fenner and two more Fensons — and reached the quarterfinals. Todd Birr was 1-3 in group play. And Jared Allen’s NFL team was 0-4.

Fenner went back to skipping the next week in Jonkoping, finishing fifth.

This week, the big-time Canadian men’s provincials run through the weekend, and the U.S. Championships start Saturday.

Review: “Last Days of Knight” is flawed but essential

Cross-posting at mostlymodernmedia.com 

ESPN is gambling these days.

The new “30 for 30” documentary, Last Days of Knight, gambles on three levels:

  1. It’s being shown exclusively on ESPN+, the company’s new pay service, a good way to draw attention to it but not the best way to get this film the wide audience that many previous 30 for 30 entries have found.
  2. It tells the story of a journalist, CNN’s Robert Abbott, who pursued the story for months. As an Awful Announcing review says, the film attempts to tell Abbott’s story and Knight’s, and it sometimes falls between the two stools.
  3. A lot of people still maintain loyalty to Bobby Knight after all these years.

Others can debate No. 1. The questions here are No. 2 and No. 3, and the disappointment of Last Days of Knight is that we get too much of No. 2 and not enough exploration of No. 3.

Like all 30 for 30 films, LDON is a slick presentation. And the story is compelling, even with the unusual focus on Abbott. CNN’s reporting became part of the story itself, for better or for worse, and you don’t have to be a journalism junkie to appreciate the insights on how everyone involved interacted with the media — Knight as one of several bullies, players and staffers afraid to speak, administrators being weasels, etc. Abbott’s reflections and the nitty-gritty at CNN, including some clumsy threats by people working on Knight’s behalf, provide a new angle to an old story.

But that story bogs down with an extended, guilt-ridden take on the post-scandal life and death of Neil Reed, the player Knight assaulted in a video that hastened his downfall. It’s a sad and yet sweet story of someone who reclaimed his own life and was clearly loved before his untimely death from a heart attack, but its placement in this film is odd, as if it’s suggesting Reed’s death was somehow collateral damage from Knight’s antics and/or the media coverage. Abbott regrets making Reed uncomfortable in his pursuit of the story, but it seems a bit much for him to interpose himself in the family’s mourning process.

And we’re left wanting something more. Abbott and some of his colleagues are seeing the old story in a new light. Anyone else?

Perhaps it’s me — I wrote about irrational mobs in my review of Jesus Christ Superstar — but I really wanted to see some reflection from the people who defended Knight when he was quite clearly indefensible. Knight, predictably, wasn’t interested in participating. But what about the students? Former players? Now that the heat has died down, what would they do differently?

But even if we don’t see such reflection on camera, we have to hope it’s happening elsewhere. It’s not happening in this dismissive review from The Daily Hoosier.

The value of a story like Knight’s is that it holds up a mirror to us. How much are we willing to excuse if a guy wins some basketball games? Can a man impart military-style discipline and behavioral values if he doesn’t live up to it himself or hold himself accountable?

We see hints of these questions in Last Days of Knight. Just not quite enough.

 

Ultimate boycott for gender equity

Want to go a step farther than Title IX? How about this: Title 9 3/4. And a boycott by players — mostly male — until each team in your league either plays mixed-gender games or fields an equivalent women’s team?

That’s the story I wrote for The Guardian today.

 

U.S. men win curling gold — how it happened

If you’re a little tired of curling coverage that tries way too hard to explain the sport without telling you anything that’s actually happening on the ice, this post is for you.

This is what happened. If you don’t know the terminology, figure it out. It’s not that hard. Also, my local curling club has a good glossary.

The teams in order of when they deliver their rocks:

Sweden: Christoffer Sundgren, Rasmus Wranaa, Oskar Eriksson, Niklas Edin.

USA: John Landsteiner, Matt Hamilton, Tyler George, John Shuster.

I’m also going to refer to the shot-by-shot diagrams on the results page, which includes grades for each shot (100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, 0%). Not that they’re accurate. When in doubt, trust NBC analyst Kevin Martin, a Canadian who took silver in 2002 and gold on home ice in 2010.

1st end: Sweden has the hammer. The USA goes straight into the house with its first rocks, setting up a routine string of takeouts. The only tricky shot in such an end is the last one, where Edin needs to hit Shuster’s last rock and roll his own rock out of the house, which means he has to hit it to one side rather than on the nose. Edin does just that, meaning there’s no score and Sweden retains the hammer. Fourteen of the 16 shots are scored at 100%, but it’s all pretty routine. 0-0.

2nd end: USA opts to set up a center guard this time. Sweden sets up another guard. Landsteiner draws around his own guard into the house, and Sundgren counters with a precise shot to bump the USA’s rock to the back of the house.

Hamilton, showing he’s not just a man with a sense of humor and great mustache, follows with a terrific shot to take the Swedish rock out of the house. Then Wranaa tops that with a double takeout, clearing out the U.S. rocks.

So we have a more complicated series of takeouts because everyone has to deal with the two guards in front.

And we finally get an outright miss. After Edin draws his penultimate shot to the top of the four-foot, Shuster tries an ambitious shot that would knock his own guard into the house and take out Edin’s. He hits the guard, but it’s just a little bit off the nose, and his rock sails by Edin’s rock, leaving the top-ranked player in the world an easy draw for two. 2-0 Sweden.

One thing here showing how Shuster has changed. The stereotype of Shuster in the past is the scrunched-up face of anguish. As The Ringer’s Rodger Sherman put it:

Each time, the camera finds Shuster, whose missed stone has turned him stone-faced. His look is not “Crap, I’ve messed up.” It’s “Crap, I’ve messed up again.” He’s probably lamenting the failure, and probably remembering the aftermath of every one of his past failures, and dreading the fact he has to live through it again. Then, the tweets begin to pop up.

This time, Shuster has a wry smile, and he and Hamilton dissect what went wrong. It’s a cool, calm reaction of a man at the height of his game.

3rd end: Sundgren puts Sweden’s first rock in the top of the house. Landsteiner sets up a guard off to the side. Sweden guards its own, and Landsteiner comes around it to bump Sweden’s rock back. Wranaa swiftly removes the U.S. rock in the house to leave Sweden lying two with a guard in place, but Hamilton’s double takeout reduces that to one. Wranaa freezes a Swedish rock to his own, both on one side of the button.

The next shot shows how scoring can be inexact. Was Hamilton trying to draw around his own guard to hit the Swedish rocks? If so, he failed, and it’s 0% — as it was indeed scored. But he managed to bump his own guard out of the way, which will make it easier for George and Shuster to bring the heavy lumber. Also, his shooter has neatly rolled underneath that forgotten corner guard that Landsteiner put in place earlier.

A cool-looking hit-and-roll from Eriksson gives Sweden three clustered rocks near the center of the house. Looks good, right?

3-9

Tyler George changes that. He hits the top rock, which bangs one of the Swedish rocks out of there, and his shooter rolls just ever so slightly so it’s neatly positioned between the two Swedish rocks. Good luck getting that rock out of there, Sweden.

3-10

Again, the scoring is a little odd with the next shot. Eriksson bumps into the cluster of rocks and gets 100%, but the NBC commentators think it’s a slight miss because it leaves George a good double takeout. George responds by getting both red rocks out of there, leaving just one yellow. He gets 100% and applause from Ivanka Trump in the crowd, but he’s grimacing (as he too often does), perhaps because he thinks Edin will make a double takeout of his own. He does.

That leaves two red rocks on one side of the house, lined up for a possible double. Shuster can only get one (50%). Edin takes out the rock Shuster just threw and rolls as far as he can across the house. We’re not sure who’s second rock now, which complicates things.

3-15

Shuster can easily take out Sweden’s shot rock and score one, but maybe not two. Does he go for the double takeout to make sure he gets two?

Yes. And he hits it. It’s the best shot of the game so far, and we’re tied. 2-2

4th end: The inverse of the last end at the start. Landsteiner draws to the button. Sundgren sets up a corner guard (remember from the last end — the USA’s corner guard helped them keep a second rock in the house). Landsteiner guards his own, and Sundgren freezes to the rock on the button.

Hamilton’s draw is slightly off (75%). Wranaa also gets 75%, Hamilton gets 50% on his next one, and we have five jumbled rocks in the house. Wranaa makes it six and bumps the yellow U.S. rock off the button — scored at 100%, but the NBC crew thinks it’s heavy, and they’re right.

Shuster and George have a long conversation about the next shot to see how many of these rocks they can get out. And it’s another strange score — 100%, but no one on the U.S. team sounds pleased. Eriksson tries a difficult double takeout and gets one (though he’s also scored at 100% for some reason).

NBC says George wants to bump a Swedish red rock out of the four-foot and roll slightly onto the center line. George bumps a Swedish red rock out of the four-foot and rolls slightly onto the center line. THAT is 100%, and Sweden’s path to score two is more complicated. The chance of scoring three or more is probably out.

But when Eriksson hits and rolls off his own, everything is coming up Sweden. Shuster says no, threading the needle to bump in for shot rock ahead of the Swedes.

4-13

And Edin finally misses. He tries to get past that yellow at the top of the four-foot (pinkish red circle) but just nicks it, sliding off to the side. Shuster has a half-miss (appropriately scored 50%), hitting to the right of that jumble and knocking a red rock off the four-foot, but he leaves a potential double takeout from which Edin can score two. But he doesn’t. He’s a little off to the right. The various caroms leave that best-placed yellow rock on the edge of the four-foot, and we need a measurement to see who scores one. It’s the USA, and it’s a steal of one. 3-2 USA

5th end: The first four shots are virtually identical to those of the fourth end. Wranaa accidentally gives Sweden a rock to the side of the house, bumping into a guard and rolling off to the side. Hamilton jumbles things up a bit more, and Wranaa has a difficult shot to hit and roll into the center.

Tyler George go bang. All the red rocks are out of the eight-foot. The USA lies four. Eriksson draws into the eight-foot, but it’s wide-open.

Another long chat ensues. Lots of U.S. rocks in the house, but that also means a lot of rocks Edin can hit.

George on one option: “We’ll only be sitting three.”

Shutster: “That’s fine. I like that — only be sitting three.”

George’s shot is fine. Eriksson’s is not. He should be able to get a couple of yellow rocks out of there, but he only gets one.

5-12

Shuster guards the middle of the house. Edin manages to draw past it but just a bit heavy, going to the back of the button. (Curling 101: Front is better than back. The idea isn’t just to get there but to stay there.)

But Shuster misses badly. His rock sails through the house. Edin draws for two, and we’re roughly even at the halfway point — Sweden up one, USA with the hammer. 4-3 Sweden

6th end: A little less traffic this time. Landsteiner removes one of Sundgren’s rocks. Wranaa tries to take out both Hamilton’s guard and the lone U.S. rock in the house, but he only gets one. Hamilton gets a harsh 0% on his next rock, which leaves a Swedish rock clinging to the house but leaves the USA lying two.

Eriksson plays a perfect hit-and-roll, given Sweden shot rock under a long center guard. George, who’s on fire, makes that one go away. Eriksson, also playing very well, takes out both U.S. rocks in the house and rolls his own shooter out, leaving just the one Swedish rock in the house. George draws around the Swedish guard and sets up shot stone at the top of the house.

Edin tries one of the curling shots that boggles my mind — the long, long runback, banging a guard into the house and trying to use that to take out the rock in the house. Shuster missed this shot earlier in the game. Edin misses, too.

Shuster draws to the side of the house to give the USA two stones and leave Edin a difficult double takeout. Edin opts against that shot and tries a hit-and-roll that would give him shot stone. It rolls too far, and Shuster draws for two. 5-4 USA 

7th end: Landsteiner plays a nice draw to the top four-foot behind his own center guard. Sundgren comes around and bumps it, giving Sweden shot rock early.

Hamilton isn’t happy with his first delivery. He hits the red rock, but it jams into the yellow rock behind the button. Sweden has one at the back of the four-foot, outcounting a U.S. rock off to the side.

But Wranaa’s attempt to freeze to that U.S. rock is off-target, and Hamilton redeems his end with a perfect double takeout. That’s two U.S. rocks in the house and none for Sweden, thanks very much. The Mustache Man is pumped. And Wranaa counters with a draw that comes up very light, not even reaching the house.

George pounces. He puts a draw right on the button, and with a yellow rock immediately behind it, that’ll be difficult to dislodge. Eriksson clears some traffic. George tries to guard the center, but he leaves enough room for Eriksson to put his own red rock on the button.

7-12

Shuster plays a guard in the eight-foot. He’s content to give up one here and take hammer in the eighth in a tie game. Edin tries to pick off Shuster’s rock and misses everything. (Well, he moved the red rock about an inch when his shot glanced by.) Shuster tosses up another guard to further complicate Edin’s chances of getting two, and Edin has to hit a complex chain reaction up the middle just to get one. 5-5

8th end: And now, the deluge …

Landsteiner tries the most difficult shot a lead ever plays, the “wick” shot to bump a guard out of the way without knocking it all the way out, which isn’t allowed while the leads are playing. (The stone would be replaced.) He misses. But he plays a nice draw with his second shot. In the house: 2 U.S. rocks, 0 for Sweden.

Wranaa draws into the four-foot for shot rock. Hamilton, whose numbers in this game aren’t great, removes a guard. Wranaa replaces it, and Hamilton bumps it out of the way again. The Swedish guard only moves partway out of the way, but Hamilton’s shooter rolls (spins, in fact) to the edge of the house, which will be important later.

Eriksson puts up yet another guard. George tries to pick the red rock out of the house but isn’t really successful (a legit 50%). Eriksson draws to the four-foot but leaves it open for George, who knocks it away.

Edin’s first rock is a draw almost to the same spot as Eriksson’s. But it’s not quite buried behind all the guards.

So we have one of those complicated ends in which a lot of rocks are in play. It could be a big end for the USA or a steal for Sweden, the latter outcome possible if Edin can get a rock in there that Shuster can’t get out.

8-14

Edin calls timeout. Kevin Martin thinks Edin can hold this end to no more than two, which would certainly leave Sweden in contention.

8-15

That 75% is so deceiving. Edin left Shuster a double takeout.

After all that John Shuster has been through — all the disappointment, all the ridicule — he has this shot to virtually clinch a gold medal.

Need you even ask?

10-5 USA

9th end: This is nearly academic now. Edin has to swing for the fences and get a ton of points here just to make the 10th end worth playing.

Landsteiner tosses a shot through the house. No need to leave any traffic. Hamilton takes out a guard. Wranaa replaces it. Hamilton clears it again. Wranaa draws deep into the house, partially buried behind the lone remaining guard, but George takes it out.

Then Eriksson errs. His draw goes all the way through the house. George has a bit of a miss, too, knocking out the lone guard but leaving his own rock in play. Eriksson draws behind that.

Shuster takes out the guard. He’s willing to give up two here. Edin barely gets a draw to the top of the house. Shuster removes it, leaving Edin the whole house to draw for two. 10-7 USA 

10th end: Sweden needs to steal three. Good luck with that.

A mistake from Landsteiner as he tries to hit the “wick” — he knocks the Swedish guard all the way out, so it’s replaced. Sundgren puts up another guard. Landsteiner flings his rock through the house. Again, just trying to avoid a lot of traffic here. Completely different situation than trying to score two.

Wranaa draws behind the two guards. Wait, what two guards? Hamilton bangs them away and leaves nothing in front of the house. Big fist pump time. Sweden’s got very little to play with here.

Wranaa guards again. Only one? Hamilton gets rid of that one, finishing his lonnnnnng Olympics (about 40 hours on the ice between mixed doubles and men’s) on a high.

Eriksson guards. George removes it. Rinse, repeat.

 

Edin does a spin move on his last shot, then shakes hands. It’s over.

 

 

 

 

UPDATED — USA in Pyeongchang: How bad is it?

Updates are in italic. Things have taken an upturn.

We’re at the middle Sunday of the 2018 Olympics, and the USA has … 10 medals.

The Netherlands have 13, perhaps an advantage of picking one sport and getting really, really good at it. They only have four athletes at the Olympics who aren’t speedskaters.

Canada has 16 medals in seven different sports, and we haven’t even hit the hockey medal rounds yet.

Germany has 18. They slide, shoot and ski jump quite well.

Norway has 26. Basically, if it involves skis, the Norwegians have medaled. They’ve already equaled their total from Sochi.

The USA had 28 medals in Sochi. It’s no surprise that they do better in North America — 34 in Salt Lake City and 37 in Vancouver, compared with 25 in Torino.

Sure, the numbers were in the 20th century. In those days, 13 was a record. In 1988, Bonnie Blair and Brian Boitano were the only Americans to take gold, and Blair accounted for two of the USA’s six medals. But that was a different era. The Winter Games have grown — 38 events in Lake Placid 1980, 68 in Nagano 1998, 98 in Sochi 2014.

And the USA has gained from the X Games-ification of the Winter Olympics. Freestyle skiing officially debuted with one event (moguls) in 1992, then added aerials, then ski cross in 2010 and halfpipe and slopestyle in 2014. The USA had 21 medals in that sport coming into Pyeongchang, along with 24 in snowboarding.

But it’s not just the newfangled sports that have kept the USA near the top of the medal table. In Sochi, the USA took five medals in Alpine skiing, four in bobsled (including two in women’s, still a new-ish event), one in luge and one in ice dancing. Even with the long-track speedskating shutout, that’s not a bad showing.

The USA is actually competitive in sports that were once far beyond Americans’ grasp. I was there in 2010 to see the USA’s first Nordic combined medals. The long-overmatched bobsled and luge programs have sprung to life. Skeleton’s return to the Olympics was a boon for the USA — apparently, going head-first down a long slide suits us. And the USA took two medals in last year’s biathlon World Championships to go with a steady stream of cross-country skiing medals, two sports in which the USA has a combined total of one all-time Olympic medal.

So what’s going on in Pyeongchang, where snowboarding accounts for half of the USA’s medal haul so far and all but one of the Americans’ golds?

Two categories. First, near misses:

  • An ailing Mikaela Shiffrin, who already has the only non-snowboarding gold for the USA so far, was fourth in her best event (slalom).
  • Jessie Diggins came into South Korea with a terrific shot at winning the USA’s first women’s cross-country medal, and she has finished fifth, fifth, fifth (relay) and sixth.
  • Nathan Chen made a heroic effort to reach the podium in men’s figure skating and posted the top free skate, but he was fifth overall. (Should’ve been fourth.)
  • The luge team relay, led by surprise men’s medalist Chris Mazdzer and track record-breaker Summer Britcher, was fourth.
  • Lindsey Jacobellis and Nick Baumgartner each took fourth in snowboardcross. The USA also nearly had fourth-place finishers in men’s and women’s halfpipe, which you may have not noticed given Shaun White and Chloe Kim’s golds.
  • Brittany Bowe has nearly broken the speedskating hex, placing fourth, fifth and fifth.
  • Maggie Voisin, who was injured in a training run in Sochi and couldn’t compete, finished fourth in slopestyle skiing.
  • Casey Andringa was fifth in men’s moguls.

So the 10-medal haul could easily be 15 or more.

Second, ill-timed down years:

  • Biathlon. Lowell Bailey took gold and Susan Dunklee took silver in last year’s World Championships, but it’s just not happening this year in the World Cup or in South Korea.
  • Men’s Alpine skiing. While the women have two skiers vying for G.O.A.T. status (Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn), Ted Ligety is the only viable medal contender for the U.S. men. He was fifth in the combined.
  • Long-track speedskating. There’s really no good way to explain how a team with Bowe and Heather Bergsma has gone two Olympics without reaching the podium.
  • And the glory years are long gone for Nordic combined, women’s short-track skating and skeleton.

So what’s the path forward here? Can the USA still get into the mid-20s?

Let’s peek at the remaining medal events:

Sun/Mon, Feb. 18-19 – Day 10. 0 medals. Indeed, none

6:15 a.m.: Bobsled, two-man final two runs. No chance.
6:53 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 500 meters. Little chance.
7:30 a.m.: Ski jumping, men’s team. No chance.

Mon/Tues, Feb. 19-20 – Day 11. 1-2 medals (running total: 11-12) Got both, bronze in each case. Total of 12.

⭐8 p.m: Figure skating, ice dance free dance. Very good chance. If the Shib Sibs aren’t at their best, two more teams have a shot.
⭐8:30 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s halfpipe. Very good chance. Maddie Bowman is the defending gold medalist.
6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, mixed relay. If Dunklee, Bailey and Tim Burke have awesome legs … well, we can dream.
6:33 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s relay final. Didn’t qualify.
7:45 a.m.: Nordic combined, large hill 10k race. No chance.

Tues/Wed, Feb. 20-21 – Day 12. 1-4 medals (running total: 12-16) OK, I was wrong about the women’s team pursuit. The USA took bronze. That made up for only getting one in women’s bobsled. Vonn got her medal, and yes, so did Diggins (with Kikkan Randall). Still running on the high end of the projections — 16 medals.

⭐9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s downhill. Lindsey Freaking Vonn, folks.
⭐5 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s and women’s team sprint finals. Please, please let Jessie Diggins get her medal here.
⭐6:40 a.m.: Bobsled, women’s final two runs. Certainly one, maybe two.
7:52 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s and women’s team pursuit finals. No chance.

Wed/Thurs, Feb. 21-22 – Day 13. 2-4 medals (running total: 14-20) Not quite a sweep, but two medals in halfpipe and then gold in women’s hockey. So just one off the high end of the projection at 19 medals. Also, the Alpine combined and big air were moved ahead a day, but I’ll leave them with the next day for projection purposes.

⭐9:30 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s halfpipe. Outstanding chance. Might even sweep.
⭐11:10 p.m.: Hockey, women’s gold medal game. All-but-certain gold or silver.
11:45 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s slalom. Not likely.
5:20 a.m.: Nordic combined, team relay. Not this year.
6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 4x6k relay. I wish, but no.
6:18 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 500-meter final. Slight chance.
6:30 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s 1,000-meter final. Little chance.
7:03 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s relay final. Didn’t qualify for A final, though if a bunch of teams are disqualified …

Thurs/Fri, Feb. 22-23 – Day 14. 1-5 medals (running total: 15-25) Already got two of these a day early thanks to rescheduling. That’s probably going to be all, so they’ll still be at 21. But five medals here was always a stretch.

⭐7:30 a.m.: Snowboarding, women’s big air. Pretty good chance.
⭐8 a.m.: Figure skating, women’s free skate. Less than 50-50, but maybe?
⭐12:30 a.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s combined. Shiffrin and Vonn could contend.
12:35 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s skicross. No U.S. entries.
5 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 1,000 meters. Only if Shani Davis turns back time.
6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 4×7.5k relay. No chance.

Fri/Sat, Feb. 23-24 – Day 15. 1-4 medals (running total: 16-29) This will be at least one thanks to the men’s curlers. So the minimum stands at 22. The Torino total of 25 depends the snowboarders and speedskaters.

⭐8 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s big air. Possible.
9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, team event. Hard to say.
10 p.m.: Snowboarding, parallel giant slalom. Probably not, but you never know.
12 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s 50k mass start. No chance.
⭐1:35 a.m.: Curling, men’s gold medal game. They’re still in it, but this might be a stretch.
⭐7:30 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s mass start. Decent chance. Joey Mantia won the 2017 world title. Maybe they can finally break through.
8 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s mass start

Sat/Sun, Feb. 24-25 – Day 16. 0 medals

7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s gold medal game. Not likely.
7:30 p.m.: Bobsled, four-man final. Not likely based on two-man runs.
11:10 p.m.: Hockey, men’s gold medal. No Miracle here.
1:15 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s 30k mass start. Not Diggins’ best event.

So the chances of matching Sochi are slim. They’ll struggle to match Torino. But 20 medals wouldn’t be so bad.

 

2018 Winter Olympics: A concise viewing guide with stars, medals and flags

Each day during the Olympics, I’ll be telling you what to watch and making a few predictions. You can also find my daily previews at Bleacher Report.

Time difference and schedule/streaming options: The Pyeongchang schedule is …

  • Eight hours ahead of a lot of Europe (Eurosport)
  • Nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (BBC)
  • 14 hours ahead of Eastern Time (NBCCBC)
  • 17 hours ahead of Pacific Time (NBCCBC)

Here, all times are Eastern. So if it’s Thursday morning in South Korea, it’s Wednesday night here. If it’s Thursday night in South Korea, it’s Thursday morning here. NBC is live-streaming everything, and I’ve noted network coverage where applicable.

And yes, I’m using emoji. Stars for recommended viewing, Xs are for events of interest to X Games fans, medals for medal events, U.S. flags where the USA has a good chance of getting a medal (or a couple of events you simply have to see if you’re interested in U.S. athletes). It’s slightly selective — on busy days, I don’t list every qualifying session or curling matchup.

(Update: Bleacher Report bowed to the “Day 1” naming convention, and so have I. Also, I’ve updated some of the rescheduled events.)

Wed/Thurs, Feb. 7-8 – Day before the day before Day 1

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-“Russia.” First event of Games. Note: Each curling session throughout the Games (until tiebreakers and playoffs) will have 3-4 games at once.

OVERNIGHT

Naught (NBCSN will have more curling and some training runs.)

EARLY MORNING

6:05 a.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-Canada (NBCSN)
7:30 a.m.: Ski jumping, men’s normal hill qualification (NBCSN)

Thurs/Fri, Feb. 8-9 – Day 0

PRIME TIME

6:35 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-Switzerland
⭐8 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, men’s short program (NBC; Nathan Chen?)
8 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s moguls qualification (NBC; Jaelin Kauf)
9:45 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, pairs short program (NBC)
9:45 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s moguls qualification (NBC)

OVERNIGHT

11:35 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-South Korea (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

⭐6:00 a.m.: Opening Ceremony. (Live stream has “natural sound only.”)

Fri/Sat, Feb. 9-10 – Day 1

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-China
(8 p.m.: NBC shows fully produced Opening Ceremony on 14-hour delay)
✖8 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s slopestyle qualifying

OVERNIGHT

🥇🇺🇸2:15 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s 15k skiathlon (NBCSN; Jessie Diggins; chance for U.S. women’s first-ever Nordic medal)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Japan-Sweden

EARLY MORNING 

🇺🇸5 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, heats in multiple events (NBCSN; Maame Biney)
🥇6 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s 3,000 meters
6:05 a.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-Norway
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 7.5k sprint (Susan Dunklee)
7 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Switzerland-South Korea (USA Network)
⭐🥇🇺🇸7:28 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 1,500-meter final (NBCSN; J.R. Celski)
🥇7:35 a.m.: Ski jumping, men’s normal hill final (NBCSN)

Sat/Sun, Feb. 10-11 – Day 2

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, USA-Finland (final round-robin game)
✖🥇8 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s slopestyle final (NBCSN)
⭐8 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, ice dance short program (NBC; Shib Sibs?)
⭐🥇9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s downhill (NBC)
⭐9:45 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, women’s short program (NBC)
✖11:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s slopestyle qualifying (NBCSN)
11:40 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, pairs free skate (NBC)

OVERNIGHT

🥇1:15 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s 30k skiathlon
🥇2 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 5,000 meters (Brian Hansen)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, USA-Finland (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

🥇6 a.m.: Luge, men’s, final two runs
6:05 a.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, tiebreaker (if necessary)
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 10k sprint (NBCSN; Lowell Bailey)
🥇🇺🇸7 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s moguls final (Jaelin Kauf)
7 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Canada-“Russia” (USA Network)

Sun/Mon, Feb. 11-12 – Day 3

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles semifinal 1
✖🥇🇺🇸8 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s slopestyle final (NBCSN; Jamie Anderson)
8 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, men’s free skate (NBC; Nathan Chen)
⭐8:15 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s giant slalom, first run (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin)
9:10 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, women’s free skate (NBC)
⭐🥇🇺🇸10:20 p.m.: Figure skating, team event, free dance (NBC; Shib Sibs)
⭐✖11:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s halfpipe qualifying (Chloe Kim)
⭐🥇🇺🇸11:45 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s giant slalom, second run (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin)

OVERNIGHT

2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Switzerland-Japan (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

🥇5:10 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 10k pursuit (NBCSN; Susan Dunklee)
6:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles semifinal 2
🥇7 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 12.5k pursuit (Lowell Bailey)
🥇7 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s moguls final
⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸7:30 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s 1,500 meters (Heather Bergsma, Brittany Bowe)
🥇7:50 a.m.: Ski jumping, women’s final (Sarah Hendrickson)

Mon/Tues, Feb. 12-13 – Day 4

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, mixed doubles, bronze medal game
⭐⭐✖🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸8 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s halfpipe final (NBC; Chloe Kim)
9:30 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s combined, downhill (NBC)
✖11 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s halfpipe qualifying (NBC; Shaun White)

OVERNIGHT

🥇1 a.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s combined, slalom (NBC)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Canada-Finland (NBCSN)
3:30 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s and women’s sprint qualifying (Jessie Diggins, Kikkan Randall)

EARLY MORNING 

5 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, heats in women’s 500 meters, men’s 1,000 meters and men’s relay
🥇🇺🇸5:30 a.m.: Luge, women’s final two runs (Summer Britcher, Erin Hamlin)
6 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s and women’s sprint heats (NBCSN)
⭐🥇🇺🇸6 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 1,500 meters (Shani Davis)
🥇6:05 a.m.: Curling, mixed doubles gold medal game
🇺🇸7:10 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, USA-“Russia” (NBCSN)
🥇7:11 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s 500-meter final
⭐🥇🇺🇸7:25 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s sprint final (Diggins, Randall)
🥇7:34 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s sprint final

Tues/Wed, Feb. 13-14 – Day 5

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-South Korea (first game)
8 p.m.: Figure skating, pairs short program (NBC/NBCSN)
8:15 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s slalom, run 1 (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin)
⭐✖🥇🇺🇸8:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s halfpipe final (NBC; Shaun White)
⭐⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸11:45 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s slalom, run 2 (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin)

OVERNIGHT

🇺🇸12:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Japan (first game)
1 a.m.: Nordic combined, normal hill ski jump
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, Japan-South Korea (USA Network)
🥇3:45 a.m.: Nordic combined, normal hill 10k race (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸5 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s 1,000 meters (NBCSN; Heather Bergsma, Brittany Bowe)
🥇6:05 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 15k individual (Susan Dunklee)
🥇6:20 a.m.: Luge, doubles
⭐🇺🇸7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s, USA-Slovenia (NBCSN; debut for non-NHL team)

Wed/Thurs, Feb. 14-15 – Day 6

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Britain
🥇8:30 p.m.: Figure skating, pairs free skate (NBC/NBCSN)
🥇9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s super-G (NBC; Andrew Weibrecht)
⭐⭐🇺🇸10:10 p.m.: Hockey, women’s, USA-Canada (NBCSN)
✖11:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s snowboardcross, heats

OVERNIGHT

12:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Italy
✖🥇12:45 a.m.: Snowboarding, men’s snowboardcross, final (NBC)
🥇🇺🇸1:30 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s 10k individual (Jessie Diggins)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, one men’s and one women’s game (NBCSN/USA Network)

EARLY MORNING 

🥇6 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 20k individual (Lowell Bailey)
🥇6 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 10,000 meters (no USA)
6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Switzerland
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, two men’s games (NBCSN/USA Network)
🥇7:30 a.m.: Luge, team relay

Thurs/Fri, Feb. 15-16 – Day 7

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Sweden
🥇7:30 p.m.: Skeleton, men’s final two runs (NBC; Matt Antoine)
8 p.m.: Figure skating, men’s short program (NBC/NBCSN; Nathan Chen)
10:10 p.m.: Hockey, men’s, USA-Slovakia (CNBC)
✖🥇🇺🇸10:15 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s snowboardcross, heats and final (NBC; Lindsey Jacobellis)

OVERNIGHT

🥇1 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s 15k individual (NBCSN)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s, “Russia”-Slovenia (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

✖🥇6 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s aerials
🥇6 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s 5,000 meters
6:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Denmark
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, two men’s games (NBCSN/USA Network)

Fri/Sat, Feb. 16-17 – Day 8

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-“Russia”
🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸8 p.m.: Figure skating, men’s free skate (NBC/NBCSN; Nathan Chen)
🥇9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s super-G (NBC; Lindsey Freaking Vonn)
10 p.m.: Hockey, women’s, quarterfinal 1 (CNBC)
✖🥇🇺🇸11 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s slopestyle final (NBC; Maggie Voisin)

OVERNIGHT

2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s, quarterfinal 2 (USA Network)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s, South Korea-Switzerland (NBCSN)
🥇4:30 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s 4x5k relay
5 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s 1,500-meter and men’s 1,000-meter heats

EARLY MORNING 

6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Canada
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 12k mass start (Susan Dunklee)
🥇6:20 a.m.: Skeleton, women’s final two runs
⭐⭐🇺🇸7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s, USA-“Russia” (NBCSN; last group-stage game)
🥇7:11 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s 1,500-meter final
🥇7:26 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 1,000-meter final
🥇7:30 a.m.: Ski jumping, men’s large hill final

Sat/Sun, Feb. 17-18 – Day 9

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Japan
8 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s giant slalom, run 1 (NBC)
✖8 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s slopestyle qualifying (NBCSN)
✖🥇11:15 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s slopestyle final (NBC)

OVERNIGHT

🥇11:45 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s giant slalom, run 2 (NBC; Ted Ligety)
🥇1:15 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s 4x10k relay
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s, Czech Republic-Switzerland (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

✖🥇6 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s aerials final
⭐6:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Norway (fancy pants)
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 15k mass start (Lowell Bailey)
🥇6:56 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s 500 meters (Erin Jackson)
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, two men’s games (NBCSN, USA Network)

Sun/Mon, Feb. 18-19 – Day 10

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Denmark
✖7:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, women’s big air qualifying
8 p.m.: Figure skating, ice dance short program (NBC/NBCSN; Shib Sibs)
✖8 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s halfpipe qualifying (NBC; Maddie Bowman, 2 more contenders)

OVERNIGHT

⭐11:10 p.m.: Hockey, women’s semifinal 1 (NBCSN)
12:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Canada

EARLY MORNING 

6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-China
🥇6:15 a.m.: Bobsled, two-man final two runs (in memory of Steven Holcomb)
🥇6:53 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 500 meters
⭐7:10 a.m.: Hockey, women’s semifinal 2 (NBCSN)
🥇7:30 a.m.: Ski jumping, men’s team

Mon/Tues, Feb. 19-20 – Day 11

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, men’s, four games (no USA)
⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸8 p.m: Figure skating, ice dance free dance (NBC/NBCSN; Shib Sibs)
✖🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸8:30 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s halfpipe final (NBCSN; Maddie Bowman, more)
10:10 p.m.: Hockey, men’s playoff 1 (NBCSN)
✖11 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s halfpipe qualifying (NBC)

OVERNIGHT

12:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-South Korea
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s playoff 2 (NBCSN)
5 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 500 meters and women’s 1,000 meters heats
5 a.m.: Nordic combined, large hill ski jump

EARLY MORNING 

6:05 a.m.: Curling: men’s, USA-Switzerland
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, mixed relay
🥇6:33 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s relay final (no USA)
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s playoff 3 and 4 (NBCSN / USA Network)
🥇7:45 a.m.: Nordic combined, large hill 10k race

Tues/Wed, Feb. 20-21 – Day 12

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s, four games (no USA)
✖7:30 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s big air qualifying (NBC)
8 p.m.: Figure skating, women’s short program (NBC/NBCSN; Mirai Nagasu)
⭐⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s downhill (NBC; Lindsey Freaking Vonn)
10 p.m.: Hockey, men’s quarterfinal 1 (CNBC)
✖11:15 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s skicross heats

OVERNIGHT

12:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s, USA-Britain
✖🥇12:35 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s skicross final
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, women’s bronze medal game (USA Network)
2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s quarterfinal 2 (NBCSN)
3 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s and women’s team sprint semifinals

EARLY MORNING 

⭐🥇🥇🇺🇸5 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s and women’s team sprint finals (Diggins/Stephen)
6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s, USA-Sweden
⭐🥇6:40 a.m.: Bobsled, women’s final two runs (Elana Meyers Taylor)
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s quarterfinal 3 and 4 (NBCSN / USA Network)
🥇🥇7:52 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s and women’s team pursuit finals

Wed/Thurs, Feb. 21-22 – Day 13

PRIME TIME

7:05 p.m.: Curling, men’s and women’s tiebreakers
8:15 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s slalom run 1 (NBC)
✖🥇9:30 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, men’s halfpipe final (NBC; possible U.S. sweep)
⭐⭐⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸11:10 p.m.: Hockey, women’s gold medal game (NBCSN)

OVERNIGHT

🥇11:45 p.m.: Alpine skiing, men’s slalom run 2 (Marcel Hirscher)
2:30 a.m.: Nordic combined, team ski jump (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

5 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 500-meter and women’s 1,000-meter heats
🥇5:20 a.m.: Nordic combined, team relay (NBCSN)
6:05 a.m.: Curling, men’s semifinals
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, women’s 4x6k relay (NBCSN)
🥇6:18 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s 500-meter final
🥇6:30 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, women’s 1,000-meter final
🥇7:03 a.m.: Short-track speedskating, men’s relay final

Thurs/Fri, Feb. 22-23 – Day 14

PRIME TIME

✖🥇7:30 a.m.: Snowboarding, women’s big air final (NBC)
⭐🥇8 a.m.: Figure skating, women’s free skate (NBC/NBCSN; Mirai Nagasu)
9 a.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s combined downhill run (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Freaking Vonn)
✖11:15 p.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s skicross heats

OVERNIGHT

⭐🥇🇺🇸🇺🇸12:30 a.m.: Alpine skiing, women’s combined slalom run (NBC; Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Freaking Vonn)
✖🥇12:35 a.m.: Freestyle skiing, women’s skicross final (NBC)
1:35 a.m.: Curling, men’s bronze medal match
⭐2:40 a.m.: Hockey, men’s semifinal 1 (NBCSN)

EARLY MORNING 

🥇5 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s 1,000 meters (NBCSN; Shani Davis)
6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s semifinals
🥇6:15 a.m.: Biathlon, men’s 4×7.5k relay
⭐7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s semifinal 2 (NBCSN)

Fri/Sat, Feb. 23-24 – Day 15

PRIME TIME

✖🥇8 p.m.: Snowboarding, men’s big air final (NBC)
🥇🇺🇸9 p.m.: Alpine skiing, team event (NBC; Olympic debut)
🥇🥇10 p.m.: Snowboarding, parallel giant slalom heats and final (NBC)

OVERNIGHT

🥇12 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, men’s 50k mass start (NBCSN)
⭐🥇1:35 a.m.: Curling, men’s gold medal game

EARLY MORNING 

6:05 a.m.: Curling, women’s bronze medal game
7:10 a.m.: Hockey, men’s bronze medal game (NBCSN)
🥇7:30 a.m.: Speedskating, men’s mass start
🥇8 a.m.: Speedskating, women’s mass start

Sat/Sun, Feb. 24-25 – Day 16

PRIME TIME

⭐🥇7:05 p.m.: Curling, women’s gold medal game (NBCSN)
7:30 p.m.: Figure skating, exhibition gala (NBC)
⭐🥇7:30 p.m.: Bobsled, four-man final two runs (NBC; in memory of Steven Holcomb)
⭐⭐🥇11:10 p.m.: Hockey, men’s gold medal game (NBCSN)

OVERNIGHT

🥇1:15 a.m.: Cross-country skiing, women’s 30k mass start (NBCSN; joined in progress?)

EARLY MORNING 

6 a.m.: Closing Ceremony (natural sound only)

(NBC will show the Closing Ceremony with full commentary at 8 p.m., wrapping up their coverage.)

On Twitter, advocacy, hostility and objectivity

My Dad was an intellectually rigorous man. He majored in philosophy, racing through college so he could lead a platoon in Korea, then returned from the war to get his doctorate in the emerging field of biochemistry. He remained in the Marine Reserves, rising to the rank of colonel, and was a stern but beloved faculty member at the University of Georgia for more than 40 years.

At one family holiday gathering, he demanded to know everyone’s views on abortion. The answers ranged from the biological (we had one doctor in the room) to the theological (one Episcopal priest) to the anecdotal. For the most part, he was impressed.

So what was his position? “Oh, I still don’t know,” he said.

Dad was certainly opinionated about some things. In other cases (abortion, Israel, etc.), he saw a difficult balance of legitimate views. The common thread was the process.

The point of the story: I was raised to believe in the Socratic method of asking questions, sometimes taking it to the extreme. Journalism was therefore a logical (but frustrating) career choice.

It’s also a misunderstood career, especially these days.

Granted, objective journalism isn’t really in vogue these days. In sports, more journalists are embracing homerism. In journalism at large, Jay Rosen has raised pointed questions about the legitimacy of the “view from nowhere,” which is unrealistic. In my experience, blind adherence to airing “both sides” is ripe for abuse. Sometimes, one “side” is telling the truth and the other is lying, and it’s a journalist’s job to say so.

In my own work, I’ve certainly felt emboldened to be a little more opinionated in the last seven years or so. One reason: I think we’re in danger of losing the war on bullshit, so we need to be a bit more aggressive in challenging the liars. Another reason: I left USA TODAY, where the management of the time wanted to rock the boat as little as possible, and I found freelance clients (bless you, The Guardian and FourFourTwo) who offered a bit more freedom. And getting older gives everyone a bit more freedom to speak up.

But at heart, I’m still someone who likes to get to the truth. That sometimes means challenging people with whom I’d usually agree. I questioned the women’s soccer national team in their labor dispute over a few misrepresentations and lack of clarity — their lawyer refused to say anything beyond “equal pay for equal play” in comparison with the men’s team, even though the men don’t draw salaries and play different competitions.

A lot of people don’t get that. Anyone who asks questions must be the enemy. Scorn them. Mock them. Attack their credibility.

And, of course, some people are just jerks.

My default on Twitter is to engage. I do learn a lot from the discussions, and they help me get my thoughts in order, like an ongoing rough draft.

But I’ve spent too much time in the past year engaging with jerks. Or people who just don’t get it.

https://twitter.com/DanLoney36/status/943600245434404865

I’m actually going to do the opposite. I’m going to declare a Christmas amnesty and unblock a lot of people. Not all. I blocked an “Infowars” guy, and I’m not going down that road again.

We’ll see how long it lasts. If I had eternal patience, I’d run for a soccer board position.

Upcoming coverage/career plans

Mid-major announcement to start with: Ranting Soccer Dad now has its own site. I’m not married to the design yet, but it should stabilize in the next few days. This site and podcast will be my top work priority for some time to come. I’m even planning a related book. Stay tuned.

Ranting Soccer Dad deals primarily with youth soccer, but it ties into everything in the soccer world — U.S. Soccer politics, the national teams, the pro leagues (men and women), etc. Even if you think you’re not interested in youth soccer, check it out. You’ll find some interesting guests.

I’ll still be freelancing on occasion for The Guardian and Four Four Two, and I’m open to other suggestions. You may be a little less likely to get random pitches from me for the foreseeable future.

What about women’s soccer? 

These days, there’s less of a place for me in terms of NWSL and WNT coverage. Part of that is simply where my reporting has carried me (huge stories elsewhere), part of it is the ongoing decline of the news media (it’s nice to get paid every once in a while).

But I’ll still want to have a lot of female guests on the podcast, and we’ll certainly talk about every level of the women’s game. When I see youth soccer leagues in our area, I see a lot more boys than girls, and that concerns me. Farther up the ladder, I frankly was not impressed with the quality of play in the NWSL this year, and I’m not sure whether that’s a coaching preference for a “physical” style of play or a lack of quality coaching in clubs and college. (Probably a bit of both.) We’re going to address that at Ranting Soccer Dad, and I’d love to talk with a lot of people who can diagnose the problem better than I can.

I’m also going to be a bit of an agitator for more and better coverage. Equalizer Soccer is a great resource, and SB Nation’s various blogs are generally great at giving the women their due. Elsewhere, coverage is lacking, and I’m not just talking about the News & Observer‘s inexplicable decision to ignore an NWSL semifinal that took place in its backyard. ESPNW ramped up a bit for the NWSL playoffs, but I wouldn’t say they were a vital WoSo news source throughout the year. Other large sports sites give irregular coverage.

On all the politics around WoSo — I had good advice yesterday to “amplify” good reporting and analysis. I think I can do that. I’m going to avoid rehashing old debates. In the past 18 months or so, I’ve dealt with three primary groups of people — people who’ve made good points and engaged in actual discussion, people who may mean well but come across as condescending know-it-alls who don’t listen, and people who are simply reprehensible. If the last group takes over WoSo fandom without challenge, the sport will suffer.

But I’ve learned a lot from the discussion, and I intend to keep learning without being as active a participant as I have been. This is a starting point:

And yes, learning is a lifelong process. Even if most of us think we know everything at age 21. (Hey, I did too!)

So I’m not quite giving up WoSo. But I can’t really justify taking up a season credential at Spirit games and coming home to write about it without a significant outlet, and I’m not really shopping myself around to find a significant outlet. You’re probably more likely to find me on Spirit Hill next season than in the pressbox.

I’m very happy with what I’ve done in WoSo — everything from covering W-League games in the mid-2000s with maybe 200 people in the stands to the 2008 Olympic final and the 2011 Women’s World Cup opener. I’ve covered labor disputes and the WPS implosion, and I’ve covered a lot of good soccer and good soccer players. I hope someone coming out of college today gets to have all those experiences. (Maybe not the WPS implosion.)

What about MMA? 

I enjoyed writing for Bloody Elbow this year, and I really should finish my Cageside memoir at some point. There’s just too much going on in soccer right now.

What about Olympic sports?

I’ll update the Perpetual Medal Count at some point, and I’ll do one for winter sports as well. And I’ll do the occasional post. Most likely on curling.

What about music?

Once a month at Popdose and occasionally at Mostly Modern Media, where I’ll also periodically skewer political bullshit in all forms. And economists.

What about everything?

Good song to end this:

The best post-T&T pro-promotion/relegation argument

Predictably, Soccerocalypse has brought out the usual arguments from the promotion/relegation crowd:

  1. Youth development will be so much better!
  2. Players will be under constant pressure!

If anyone could turn their attention away from Twitter long enough to read something longer than 280 characters at a time, they would have seen this addressed in the pro/rel series — both pros (and alleged pros) and cons.

The short versions:

Youth development: European clubs that have good academies have them so they can sell players (and yes, solidarity payments/training compensation is a legitimate issue with legal potholes I can’t fully comprehend). Chelsea’s inability to develop a first-team player from within is legendary, just one example of a “broken” academy system in the birthplace of soccer.

MLS has actually made progress in youth development because its clubs know they can avoid the boom and bust of pro/rel. They feel confident spending millions to create what wasn’t there before. Then they have a pathway, via their oft-derided relationship with USL, to send promising 17-year-old players to the first team via the USL bridge.

And then MLS teams can play their youngsters because they know they’re not going to be relegated. That’s one reason why MLS has developed so many players who turn around and beat the USA in CONCACAF. (I have heard arguments that MLS needs to impose stricter limits on international players. Then I’ve heard arguments saying MLS needs to spend more on international players to raise the level so that any U.S. players who make that first team will be more appropriately challenged.)

Pressure: Yes, we know. Someone in a German locker room threw a shoe at Eric Wynalda.

shoe

First of all, the idea that you’re “playing for your job” at every training session in Europe but not in MLS is inflated. European clubs aren’t going to cut people mid-contract. You can lose a starting spot, sure, and then you can regain it the next week. That’s not unique. If you want to see job insecurity, watch the NFL, where a kicker can miss once or twice on Sunday and be unemployed on Monday.

Second: Bobby Warshaw tells a different story of playing for a relegation-threatened team. His teammates in Scandinavia all just wanted to wash their hands of it and be gone.

And it’s not as if pressure always makes diamonds. Sometimes, it makes dust. In this clip, Woody Harrelson is Trinidad and Tobago. Wesley Snipes is the USA.

The USA didn’t lose because the media and supporters are too nice to them. They played tense. Cautious. Trinidad and Tobago did not.

After Prince died, Saturday Night Live ran a tribute. Jimmy Fallon told a story of being at a party where he was on stage wondering if he could get Prince to come up and play. Then he saw the crowd parting and Prince basically floating to the stage. Prince came up to Fallon and gave him a look that said, “Yeah, I got this.”

That’s what the USA needed. Not overconfidence. But that sweet spot between confidence and complacency in which they say, “I got this.” Only Christian Pulisic, who’s too young to have been through the same CONCACAF wars (or relegation battles — see Altidore, Jozy) as his teammates, played with that attitude.

But let’s say there’s a benefit to playing in a league that’s more intense than MLS — though, if you were ever in a locker room with Taylor Twellman or Dom Kinnear after a game, you know things can get pretty intense. Why is Germany more intense than the USA? Why is Germany more intense than Scandinavia?

It’s because Germany has a deeper soccer culture.

Same reason Mexico and the big Euro leagues are more intense than MLS or Scandinavia. For all the progress made in the USA since Paul Caligiuri took a wild shot in Trinidad in 1989, this country is still a good bit behind everyone else. Youth soccer participation plateaued and then started dropping, and while a lot of those kids turn up wearing Messi or Rooney jerseys, a lot more never watch soccer on TV or in person.

So if you want to make a good argument for promotion/relegation, try this:

Pro/rel will help deepen the soccer culture in this country.

And I believe that. Most of what I’m saying here on pro/rel is the same stuff I’ve been saying for 15 years, no matter how much it’s been misrepresented by the PRZ on Twitter. But this is an argument that I can’t remember hearing before. Maybe some people made it, but it was drowned out in all the “PRO/REL WILL OBVIOUSLY MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER BUT MLS/SUM/USSF/STEVE BANNON ARE CONSPIRING TO KEEP THE NFL BIG” nonsense.

This is your argument. This is something you can present to people who have money on the table — not the Monopoly money Silva and company threw at MLS so they could create the narrative that MLS turned down a gazillion bucks to institute pro/rel now.

Is it enough? I don’t know. The other realities still exist. We have a Division I soccer league now where we didn’t in 1992, and it’s because people were enticed to invest in a scheme that reduced the risk from “might as well burn your money” to “there’s a small chance this might work.” If you’d told people in 1992 we’d have a soccer league that consistently drew 40,000 people in Atlanta and Seattle, people would’ve laughed at you. (Especially Atlanta. I grew up in Georgia, and I’m astounded.)

But if the pro/rel crowd is willing to drop the nonsense, along with the conspiracy talk and nonsensical legal actions, maybe there’s a chance to win the argument.

If I were elected USSF president (no, I’m not running — there’s a reason a lot of sane, qualified people from Peter Wilt to Julie Foudy aren’t interested), I’d do the following:

  1. Divisions 2 and 3 go pro/rel next year. I’m torn on whether the USL brand name should stay. The NASL brand name should not. It has a history of incompetence, and even the glory days of the late 70s were built on non-traditional glitzy Americanized soccer. Besides, given the existence of Mexico, the “North American” part of the brand name never rang true. Keep the clubs — to start, put the clubs on the soundest financial foundation in D2 and the others in D3.
  2. Division 4 becomes the top amateur division (semipro clubs are allowed to compete, but it’ll be mostly amateur, as these leagues are now) for the top tiers of the major amateur leagues — PDL, NPSL, UPSL, Cosmopolitan, GCPL, other USASA Elite Amateur Leagues. Clubs that finish in the top three of these leagues can apply for D3 status — for the foreseeable future, only a few clubs will do that. (At this point, I don’t think we can or should relegate clubs from pro D3 to amateur D4. If D3 gets too big, start a pro D4, more or less mimicking what England has recently done with its fifth tier.) Have a D4 national championship if it’s feasible, replacing some of the existing and sort of redundant national amateur cups.

Two reasons to this. First, it’ll make the lower divisions much more interesting.

And it just might demonstrate to the powers- and purseholders-that-be that there’s a benefit to expanding the pyramid and building a soccer culture.

Or, you know, just yell and scream and sue. That’s working so far, right? And competition between uncooperative leagues worked so well that we’re about to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ASL, right?

 

Here’s what WON’T help U.S. Soccer

snake-oil“That’s right, folks! Step right up and get your miracle elixir! Cures everything from chronic flatulence to an inability to qualify for the World Cup or Olympics from CONCACAF!”

Doesn’t work that way. The problems have deeper roots. A dash of snake oil isn’t going to make the U.S. men’s team (or women’s, which has some similar issues and some very different) magically better.

Among the pet programs that won’t make the USA follow France’s path from qualifying failure to World Cup champion in four years:

Ramping up “pressure”: Consider how Trinidad and Tobago played in their cozy, bumpy stadium with the soothing hum of generators or pumps or whatever created what little “atmosphere” existed last night. They were loose. They were having fun. Only Christian Pulisic, who’s too young to have been through the battles of his teammates, played with any flair to match what the home side brought to the marshland of Ato Boldon Stadium.

If anything, the U.S. players seemed too tightly wound. Michael Bradley, the captain, was raised in a family that lives for competitive pressure. Jozy Altidore has dealt with the wrath of the global soccer media in the midst of a relegation fight, and yet he was probably a lot better before all that, back in the 2009 Confederations Cup and World Cup qualifying that year.

Which brings us to this …

Promotion/relegation: I dealt with this in the pro/rel series. Pro/rel doesn’t magically turn every club into Barcelona. It doesn’t make clubs run awesome academies — in fact, you might end up with some major gaps as major cities’ clubs lose Division 1 status and have to cut funding.

And can we cut the nonsense that players in MLS clubs aren’t playing for their jobs? North America is littered with MLS washouts. (Some of whom turn around and score against the USA in CONCACAF play.)

Dismantling MLS: The league needs improvement, sure. But it’s worth noting that the goals that eliminated the USA — from Panama and Honduras — came from guys with plenty of MLS experience.

Costa Rica is going back to the World Cup. MLS players scored 11 of their 14 goals in the Hexagonal.

And the oft-derided MLS-USL partnership has created an alternate pathway to the oft-derided college game. Go to an MLS academy. If you’re ready to go pro at age 17 or 18 but not quite ready for the first team, play for the reserves in USL. Then up to MLS.

Clubs have made these investments because they’re financially secure. They feel confident that they’ll be in the top division for the foreseeable future. Any change to that structure needs to be made very carefully.

Let’s put it this way: If you dismantle MLS, you’re also dismantling most of the free academies that exist in this country. How is that supposed to help?

Having the “passion” to hurl rotten fruit at players when they return: Sure, let’s make the notion of being a professional and international soccer player less attractive in a country that has a ton of sports options. That’ll work.

Along those lines …

Telling people how to live their lives: Remember when everyone was telling Landon Donovan to abandon his family and move to Europe for our own satisfaction?

Two issues with that:

  1. That’s not going to inspire future athletes to devote themselves to soccer and international play.
  2. Couldn’t the U.S. men have used a Landon Donovan last night, no matter how many years he spent in MLS instead of the Bundesliga?

Hiring a savior: One guy isn’t going to turn around the men’s national team, let alone change the entire culture in this country. Jurgen Klinsmann had no idea how to change youth soccer other than the vague imposition of things he knew as a child in Germany.

The people working to change the culture are working at the U.S. Soccer Foundation (different from the federation) and other organizations trying to make the sport more accessible.

Turning the sport into a job for which only the elites may apply: Eastern Europe in the Cold War had a bunch of sports machines that culled the top sports talent at an early age and herded them into camps. Brazil and other countries thrive on street soccer. Which group has had more success?

Reading too much into one World Cup, either 2002 or 2018: Was Bruce Arena a genius in 2002? Somewhat, but it helped that Portugal collapsed and the ref didn’t notice John O’Brien’s handball against Mexico. Was he suddenly an idiot in 2018? Somewhat, but it helped that Panama scored a phantom goal and Honduras (and T&T) got a couple of flukes.

Wins amplify good decisions. Losses amplify bad ones.

* * * *

Here’s what WILL help:

“Incremental changes at multiple levels”:

Reducing the “travel” in travel soccer: Even if you have tons of scholarship money, explain to me how a kid with two working parents who don’t control their own schedule are going to get that kid to every practice and game all over a five-state region?

Related to that …

Ending the turf wars: We have an arms race. Club A is in the Development Academy, so Club B has to be in the ECNL. Then Club C has to travel to multiple showcases everywhere from Disney World to that massive soccerplex in Indiana that’s hosting everything these days.

Remembering that we’re still competing for players and fans: Quit telling 9-year-olds that the stuff they’re doing now will pay off when they’re 16-year-old pros. Quit pretending we can drive people out of the sport as children and expect them to be paying customers when they grow up.

If soccer was so deeply ingrained in the USA that we would put up with all this, fine. The truth is that we’re still fighting attitudes like this:

And that is a Democratic Congressman. His voters surely include a lot of immigrants and a lot of soccer fans. And yet he feels secure in bashing soccer. In 2017.

Education: I’ve had the chance to see more than 100 paid coaches at the U9-U12 level. Maybe 20 of them are people I’d be happy to have coaching my kids. Another 20 or so seemed OK. The rest are screamers, joystick coaches and assorted cretins.

I’ve also worked with about 100 parent coaches. Some of them are trying to learn what they can and apply what they’ve learned. Some can’t be bothered to do the two-hour online F license.

Listen: Everyone’s talking and no one’s listening. Not just on Twitter. Also in Chicago, where the most basic questions about the Development Academy or anything else get brushed off and ridiculed.

The USA has a lot of smart people. Not just one, not just a small group. And as Steve Gans found on his “listening tour” before declaring his candidacy for the U.S. Soccer presidency, they’re not being heard.

Maybe we should all do a listening tour.

And then keep some perspective. No one died here. That’s happening in Puerto Rico, Las Vegas and California. We’re talking about a sport, one in which the better team doesn’t always win. The USA probably wasn’t one of the top eight teams in 2002, and they probably aren’t outside the top 32 right now.

Let’s not set up an East German-style sports machine. Let’s not take the fun out of this sport and assume good athletes are going to want to play anyway.

Embrace diversity — in all senses. Embrace accessibility. Calm down and think.

And then we can do the same thing next year when the women don’t qualify for France 2019.