Ask Ceil – Olympic Foxing

#16 Ice Skating, #Flickr12Days

Dear Ceil,

How do I get into the Winter Olympics?

Frosted in Fresno

Dear Frosted,

Why on earth would you want to get into the Winter Olympics? You have to train every single day, and always in the cold. Even when everyone else is warm, you have to go find someplace cold to train.  Do you understand? When everyone else is putting on shorts and drinking margaritas, you must seek out cold places so that you can train. Right now it’s February, and I’m shopping for cheap CSI: Miami posters to tape to my windows, so I can fool myself into thinking that it’s warm outside. (I am OK with pretending dead bodies are littering my neighborhood  streets, as long as they’re not laying in 3 feet of snow.)  It’s been cold for so long that the first layer of snow on my porch contains Pleistocene fossils. And it’s never going to end.  It’s winter in my head for the rest of my life. And you would have more of it? On purpose?

Ok, let’s say you’re the special kind of imbalanced type who likes to push yourself to your absolute limits. (It’s probably because you feel dead inside, and you have to prove something to the rest of humanity. And this action will only leave you feeling emptier and emptier as each year passes, until you grow up and realize it was all a foolhardy ploy to escape your own insecurity. And then you’ll weep for all the time you lost with your loved ones, while you were out trying to downhill slalom 800 times a week. But what the heck?) Let’s see what we can do.

Snowboarding: Slope Style. You remember when you were a kid, and you jumped off the top of the china cabinet and screamed, “I can fly!”? And after you got stitches, and a lesson on gravity and simple physics, you jumped off the china cabinet again, except you also did a flip before you hit the ground. That’s kind of the vibe that’s going on in slope style. Slope style is like skydiving, except not so high up, without the parachute, and with a little panache before the landing. It’s jazz hands for the whole body. If you’re interested in this, try throwing yourself off progressively higher surfaces, to see how your body handles gravity. No, just kidding. Don’t do that. But seriously, do that, because that’s what it looks like from where I’m sitting. Slope style is falling, but with class. [Ed. –Don’t do that.]

  • Main quality needed: Lightness of being.
  • Biggest Obstacle: Newton.

Figure Skating. You like to dance, right? Maybe you even took a few ballroom dancing lessons? Some swing classes? Look… you can throw your partner around! Fun! Now do it with sharp, sharp blades on your feet. Seriously, this is the most beautiful team sport that can end up with a slashed jugular that I’ve ever seen. Whenever I’m watching, I am so distracted by the shiny outfits and Johnny Weir’s stunning fashion choices that I often forget that this sport is basically dancing, but with knives. (“Dances With Knives” is an upcoming movie featuring Kevin Costner as a concessions vendor who lives with a group of skaters, adopts their traditional dress, and eventually becomes one of them.) There was a point in this year’s Olympics–several, in fact–where my husband would grip my arm tightly, whispering, “Her skate is right in his balls. Jesus!” And it was true. The female skater was completely supported by a male skater, who was holding one of her arms, and supporting her bladed foot with his crotch. That just ain’t right.

  • Main quality needed: Balls of steel.
  • Biggest Obstacle: Blood.

Bobsled. You know synchronized swimming, where a group of people have to do exactly the same thing, and they’re rewarded for doing it really well? In Bobsled, four people have to lay on top of each other and move in exact synchronization, or they risk the possibility of becoming a red stain on a concrete slide. I will admit that all of my knowledge of bobsledding comes from “Cool Runnings”, but I have a really big slide near me–it’s about 20 feet tall. I guess that kind of makes me an expert. So believe me when I say, bobsled is some scary stuff. Heck, sledding can be terrifying. In sledding, small children, or even semi-limber adults, could get scraped up, sliding briskly into low-hanging brush. I had to get a band-aid once. In Bobsled, you can go as fast as 75mph, and feel the pressure of 5g’s around the curves. I don’t know what a “g” feels like, but they seemed pretty awed by it in “Top Gun” (all my knowledge comes from 80’s movies.). So, if you want to practice bobsledding, find three other people, and spend every day pressed up against each other.  For years.

  • Main Quality Needed: Conformity.
  • Biggest Obstacle: Finding three people who want to be laid on top of, and then pushed down a hill.

Hockey. So, like figure skating, this is a game played with sharp knives on your feet. The difference in hockey is that you are actually trying to injure the opposing team with every tool available to you except the knives on your feet. Why? I don’t know. Seems like the games would go a lot faster if they just took the skates off and stabbed each other with them, but that’s just me. Also, you have to hit a hard rubber disk into a net guarded by a quick-handed, padded ruffian, who has a large stick of his own. From a spectator standpoint, it’s played so fast that you never actually see the disk. It looks like the 10 players are doing some kind of cultural dance, and occasionally they body slam each other into a hard surface. From time to time a bar fight breaks out right there on the ice. And when the game is over, they all shake hands, like they were just kidding when they threw the punch that sent a few teeth into the first row. It’s all good.

If this sport interests you, you’ll have to join a team when you’re 5 years old, where they teach you stick-handling and aggression. Then, you’ll move to someplace very, very cold. In this case, you won’t have to worry about missing out on summer, because where you’re going, they barely have that season. Stay with hockey until you reach a good enough proficiency to be attractive to a professional team, or until your teeth have all been knocked out, whichever comes first.

  • Main Quality Needed: Thighs the size of Utah.
  • Biggest obstacle: Finding a good dentist.

If you don’t see a sport you’re interested in here, go stand out in the cold and move around a little. Then, check out 2014 Winter Olympics highlight videos and see if anything you did resembles a winter sport. You might be a natural.


Dear Ceil,

Everyone’s asking the same question: “What does the fox say?” But no one asks “How does the fox feel?”

Sensitive in Shippensburg

Dear Sensitive,

As it turns out, how a fox feels can be determined by what a fox says, just like you can tell how humans feel by what they say. Like, when you’re at a party and you see someone wearing the exact same outfit as you, and you feel a little foolish, so you go tell your friends that she bought that on the discount Marshall’s rack, when you got yours because you partied with the designer, and no one believes you and they tell you that you’re just feeling awkward so stop lying, so you’re all, “Whatever,” and your friends are like, “Sha…”. So, you can see, foxes are a lot like humans.

But, foxes are a lot like dogs, too. As Wikipedia says, “When danger is detected, foxes emit a monosyllabic bark.” Huh. That sounds pretty typical. Wonder if it also sounds like a dog’s bark? Let me see if I can get my magical internet wand out… (this is entirely pretense, I have no wand, though I do have an old hockey stick in the garage) …ok, and PRESTO. A loud damn screaming wolf. That’s no bark, by the way. This is the sound of a pack-a-day smoker on a roller coaster.

In case you are looking for a more comprehensive explanation of fox sound-to-feeling correlations, I gift you this video, where someone was ambitious at the beginning, and toward the end had clearly lost their focus for the project. A solid effort for the first minute, though.

Actually, if we got into the shoes (or paws) of the fox, I think we’d know just how the fox feels.

Really freaking cold.

(Credit where credit’s due…this question was asked on Yahoo Answers right here.  If you ever want to feel good about your lot in life, spend a leisurely afternoon flipping through Yahoo Answers. Guaranteed to make you feel good about yourself, and bad about almost everyone else.)


Photo by Elisa R Baralt, via Flickr.

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