I've lifeguarded for twenty-odd years, and one of the most awesome side benefits of the job is that it gives you a profound appreciation for the human body. There is such infinite variety in the human form; it's impossible to see anyone in a bathing suit and not find something on them somewhere that is attractive and eye-catching. And a few years ago, I went to the U.S. Olympic swim trials and watched the races all day. Even among elite athletes, there is incredible diversity among individual bodies.
So in twenty years of professionally ogling people in their bathing suits, I've come to two conclusions. First is that the best way to look good in a bathing suit is to simply rock what you've got. Second is that "beauty" as I understand it is only partially about what aesthetic proportions you happen to have; it's mostly about how you live in your physical self, whether you regard it as the means by which you can pursue the things that give your life meaning, or whether you see your body as the thing that will lend meaning to everything else.
How is this relevant to television? Alas, there is no "Check out the patrons at a water park" cable channel, but there are sports, glorious televised sports, and nothing is more rewarding than watching the NCAA softball finals (to give one example) or the NCAA swimming and diving finals (to give another).
And coming up, there are the Olympics. I have had a soft spot for the Winter Olympics ever since 1994, when Picabo Street answered the media questionnaire about her hobbies with "boffing my boyfriend," then went on to win silver in the downhill races in Lillehammer. That same Olympics, Bonnie Blair was racking up her fourth and fifth gold medals in speedskating, become the most decorated U.S. winter Olympian of all time.
I understand there was some ice-skating drama going on then too, but who cares? Street and Blair were a hell of a lot of fun to watch. And, frankly, breathtakingly beautiful when they competed.
And it's only gotten more fun since they let snowboarders into the Olympics. Hannah Teter celebrated her 2006 halfpipe win by crediting her success to Vermont maple syrup and dreamily waxing rhapsodic about the staple gun she'd use to affix the medal to the wall. This, by the way, is Teter in action. Isn't it beautiful?
I am ridiculously excited about the 2010 Winter Olympics, and not even NBC's patented drama-before-feats-of-athleticism editing philosophy can ruin this, in part because NBC has no idea how to wreck speed skating, skiing, snowboarding, luge or skeleton. Other than to show insufficient amounts.
So here's what you need to set your DVR for (or, here are the days you need to call in sick) to view women blowing apart the body-hating, profoundly commodified definitions of beauty to show us all what breathtaking aesthetics in motion look like:
- Alpine skiing: Sunday, February 14; Wednesday, February 17; Saturday, February 20; Wednesday, February 24; Friday, February 26
- Freestyle skiing: Saturday, February 13; Saturday, February 20; Tuesday, February 23; Wednesday, February 24
- Hockey: Just resign yourself to losing 12 days of your life. Play for the women's teams runs from Saturday, February 13 to Thursday, February 25.
- Luge: Monday, February 15; Tuesday, February 16
- Snowboarding: Tuesday, February 16; Thursday, February 18; Friday, February 26
- Speed skating: Sunday, February 14; Tuesday, February 16; Thursday, February 18; Sunday, February 21; Wednesday, February 24.
Notice I said look. Because this is NBC after all. The mute button is your friend. Besides, it's more fun to google the athletes and provide your own commentary. Now mark your calendar and start deciding who to pull for!