Olympics take mind off state politics

By Ned Cantwell: State columnist

I know. I know. There is just a lot of stuff going on in New Mexico about which I should be passionate.

What could possibly distract from writing reams of copy about the recently concluded 2006 New Mexico Legislature? The 2006 Winter Olympics, that’s what.

Who cares about a $6 billion state budget when you are wrapped up in the chase for the Curling Silver, the spine-tingling tussle between three Norway lady curlers battling an equally determined trio from Canada?

You can tell the ladies from Canada are more into the competition. They yawn less. I’ve seen more animation at fourth-grade marble tournaments.

What happens is this: One lady “throws” the stone, giving it a push down the ice toward a target area, the stone traveling at a speed that would seem excessive only to turtles. She then walks over to the snack bar to get a Coke.

Meanwhile, two teammates who resemble deranged maids chase the stone with brooms, madly sweeping the ice in front of it while yelling “yah, yah, yah, Yah, YAH, YAH!”
The reason they sweep, I understand, is to reduce friction and make the stone go straight. I think it is the sweepers yelling YAH YAH YAH. Maybe not. It’s certainly not the Norwegian coach. The camera caught him dozing off.

Oh, sure, I should be writing today about how the New Mexico Legislature was all agog at the beginning of the session about passing a minimum-wage bill. Democrats and Republicans alike were elbowing each other aside to trumpet their concern for poor working people.

One plan would have phased in a minimum that would increase to $7.50 an hour over a period of years. Others wanted to take the big leap immediately. So they did nothing. I could make the point that maybe no one really wanted the raise in the first place, letting it languish as the session drew to an end.

To dwell on the Legislature, though, would prevent me from telling you how NBC keeps us up until 11 p.m. to watch Sasha Cowen fall on her butt as the Gold slipped from her skates. Network bosses relegate curling to the 5 a.m. slot on MSNBC. To get into curling, you have to be both real bored and an insomniac.

It is fitting that Lunesta was a prime TV sponsor of the curling competition.

Canadians, Scandinavians and Scots dominate the sport, mostly, one presumes, because there is precious little to do in Canada, Scandinavia or Scotland.

The United States men did well and they are not, surprisingly, geezers recruited from the shuffleboard courts of Boca Raton.

Unlike Sasha, who is drop-dead pretty in her alluring skater’s outfit, the ladies from Norway look like … well, they look like Norway had to close its library to send these girls to Torino. Wait a minute, now. Nothing against the many pulchritudinous librarians of New Mexico. It’s just that these Norwegian curlers look more wholesome and intellectual than, say, the snowboard hippies.

They look like they would say after a particularly grueling match, “that was so invigorating; now let’s go back to the lodge and discuss Plato.”

International curling rules absolutely forbid performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t know about Valium. The rules also take a tough stance against profanity during competition. That’s good. We can save the profanity for the thousands of poor New Mexicans who got screwed out of a pay hike.

Ned Cantwell welcomes response at: ncantwell@charter.net