Monday, December 8, 2008

Descending into the Heart of the Alps

"Abandon All Hope All Who Enter Here." -Dante
Man, could any old-time philosopher get it any more wrong?

When the big, white, fluffy flakes of powder stop confetting the sky, the sun of Central Europe rises from behind the Alps to coat the wintery valleys in sunny ecstacy. In the heart of the Alps, in a place like Davos, Switzerland, it is not hard to be a cross-country skier.

After three weeks of Arctic darkness, I soak up every ray of sun I can. For the first week in Central Europe I've been pulling the daily double on the ski tracks, then combining this with a few minutes, at least, in the cafe or the solarium, leaving my epic wanting mind hightingled with a kind of satisfaction that goes deeper, lasts longer, than the kind that comes from soft aluminum pop-top cans. Like I said, its not hard to be a cross-country skier here.

The night before last I hit the walking streets of Davos for a nighttime stroll. It's a quarter to eight; early for the subterreans that come out at night, late for the apres-ski crowd. But there they are, wearing their hardshell Lange and Rossignol boots, huddled around the horseshoe bar, some standing,the others sitting, all watching the World Cup Super G live from Beaver Creek, Colorado.

It's times like these where I am baffled by Americana. Coming upon a situation such as this I can't help but think, "We have three hundred million Americans, more television channels than most people have patience to flip through, and not one broadcaster buying the rights to show off the jewels of the world's winter sports scene?" Pure madhouse like craziness.

If it's out there, if Americans are given the opportunity to follow sports outside the dominant American three (of baseball, basketball and football) - and see it week-in, week-out - to get to know the athletes, to appreciate the demands of inherent in each respective sport, I think Americans, too, would find the intrigue, the entertainment value, inherent in track and triathlon, or alpine and nordic skiing. And maybe, just maybe, some kid in Seattle or Cincinnati would be inspired. Least that's what I think.

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