Lang’s World: Ten Pearls of Whitaker’s wit and wisdom on sports and beyond 2.15.18

We are now one week into the Winter Olympics, which means most of the world has spent the last seven days watching nations compete in sports we never normally watch. If you enjoy the tension of competition, there’s usually something on during the Olympics that is worth watching.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to carve time out of my schedule on a random weeknight to watch hours of curling, even though I honestly loved watching curling the last few days. For the most part, we watch the Olympics because they’re on, and we don’t know how they are going to end. It’s reality television, crossed with sports, crossed with a game of RISK. So whenever the Olympics are on, I’ll watch. When they’re not, I don’t really think about those sports.

Which seems like something they should remedy. Why should these sports only get a popularity bump once every four years? Seems like there are probably some unexploited ways to make these sports more popular year-round. Here are some of my ideas...

-- Listen Up
Whenever the snowboard athletes are getting set to head down the mountain, they almost always reach up into their scarf or hat and fiddle with the cord to their earbuds. (I guess bluetooth is outlawed at the Olympics?) So they are all apparently listening to their own personal playlist. Gold medalist Chloe Kim recently admitted that during her historic run, she was listening to Migos and Cardi B.

So why can’t we listen to whatever they’re listening to? Maybe viewers could hit the SAP button and get a feed straight from the snowboarders iPod instead of listening to, you know, broadcast commentary.

-- Snowball Fights
What is one of the most fun things to do when it snows? Exactly, snowball fights are always awesome. And if we could get them added to the Olympics, it would be a great chance to diversify the roster of athletes involved. Wouldn’t you like to watch Noah Syndegaard stand back and drill snowballs at opponents? This would also seem to open up the Winter Olympics to countries we don’t normally see involved. Cuba, for instance, could send Aroldis Chapman. Although I’m not sure anyone would be able to beat Buddy the Elf.

-- More Penalty Laps
One of my favorite mundane but delightful things during the Olympics occurs during the biathlon. Whenever a contestant misses a target, they have to pay a penance by getting up and skiing a few laps around a penalty track a couple feet away. It’s dumb but hilarious to see them slowly making loops around a track while everyone else skis on ahead. I vote for more penalty laps for everyone.

-- Celebrity curling
I am not suggesting we eliminate curling altogether, but what if we added a secondary curling competition that would feature celebrities. The beauty of this would be the rules of curling seem easy enough for anyone to grasp relatively quickly. So can you imagine the ratings and headlines if Team USA sent Kim Kardashian and Kanye West to compete in celebrity mixed doubles? (With celebrity coach Lavar Ball!) Just watching Kimye walking in the opening ceremonies would be must-see TV.

-- Snowboarding surprises
I would have suggested random gusts of wind on the halfpipe, but that actually happened during the women’s slope style snowboarding competition and everyone fell down. So instead, what about occasional sinkholes? You’re cutting across the slope and – BAM! – the snowboarder just drops from view. Or how about ejector platforms, where the skiers hit a surprise area and all of a sudden get shot into the air?

-- Viewer’s Choice
One night I tuned in and caught a figure skating team doing a routine to a medley from “Moulin Rouge,” which, whatever. But wouldn’t it be more engaging if we allowed viewers at home to choose the music, maybe via an instant Twitter poll? What about figure skating set to “Bombs Over Baghdad” or “In Da Club”? Or how about fans from opposing countries mobilizing to vote in un-danceable songs for competitors?

-- The Aggro Crag
We know cord-cutting is an issue when it comes to losing viewership and declining ratings. So if you want to get millennials to tune in, you have to reach them on their level with an event for which they are already familiar. Which is why I suggest we introduce The Aggro Crag to the Winter Olympics.

I just hope Mo is available to be the official.

-- Vuvuzelas
More vuvuzelas. Because vuvuzelas make everything more interesting.

2. Steve Kerr

On Monday night, the first-place Golden State Warriors had a game against the last-place Phoenix Suns. And to make the game fun and interesting for his players, Warriors coach Steve Kerr came up with an intriguing wrinkle: He let Andre Iguodala run shootaround and JaVale McGee show film. Then in the midst of the game, players drew up plays during timeouts.

And guess what? It worked! Not only did the Warriors win, they won by 46 points.

Some of the Suns players were apparently upset by it. But as Kerr explained, he was trying to reach his team in a new way.

It probably helps that he didn’t try this against, say, Cleveland or Houston. But I’m all for a team trying to have a little fun wherever you can fit it in. As long as you win, nobody is going to complain. Except the losing team.

3. Give It Away Now

I love this story: Last year, a man in England named Duncan was looking for a Christmas gift for his girlfriend when he came across surprisingly cheap tickets for her favorite band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who were playing a show not so far away in Belfast, Ireland. So this man bought the tickets and set up the travel and thought they’d make a weekend of it.

His girlfriend was, understandably, excited by this present. So the time eventually came, and just before leaving she double-checked and found out they’d actually bought tickets to see the Red Hot Chili Pipers, a group that does rock versions of songs on the bagpipes.

Never fear, they went anyway and enjoyed it. And in case you didn’t believe Duncan, my man came with receipts (well, video)!

4. Sponsored By SimpliSafe?

According to Denver Nuggets swingman and Memphis Tigers product Will Barton, Suns guard Troy Daniels got amped and tried to engage him on the court during a recent game because he was mad at something Barton said about the Suns. Now, this was not something said in person or on the court or during a free throw. But, are you ready for this? This was something said on a podcast!

And people say nobody listens to podcasts, smh.

5. Reading List

This week’s must-read article comes from the reliably amazing David Grann, who writes in the most recent New Yorker about Henry Worsley, a British explorer who became obsessed with the idea of walking across Antarctica.

Since I finished reading this story, Grann’s description of the polar environment has stuck with me:

“It is the driest and highest continent, with an average elevation of seventy-five hundred feet. It is also the windiest, with gusts reaching up to two hundred miles per hour, and the coldest, with temperatures in the interior falling below minus seventy-five degrees. (Scientists have used the Antarctic to test spacesuits for Mars, where the average surface temperature is minus sixty-seven.)”

6. Dreams Do Come True

This is my favorite story of the week: A kid wants to go see a taping of WWE Raw, but his parents can’t afford to buy tickets. So his sister and her boyfriend surprised him by buying tickets and taking them to a taping. And they got it all on video…

7. NBA-Alike

This section doesn’t only have to focus on NBA players -- as far as I’m concerned, anyone NBA-related is fair game. So today, let’s look to the referees and go with Leon Wood and the late, great Scatman Crothers.

8. Can They Kick It?

With the NBA All-Star Game just days away, I wanted to use this spot this week to talk about some of the dope new colorways the shoe companies were dropping for the weekend. And then Nike went and outdid themselves. If you don’t know, the Air Monarch has become known as the quintessential Dad shoe. It’s cheap, it’s solid, and it’s just uncool enough to be cool.

But now Nike has teamed up with the fashion designer John Elliot to introduce a remixed Air Monarch with a splash of color.

Has the Monarch, dare we say, finally emerged from its cocoon?

9. Animal Takeover

One thing I’ve enjoyed since moving back to the South is the presence of crayfish, or crawfish, which I rarely saw in NYC but can find in my local grocery store here in Memphis.

But buyer beware! Because according to the New York Times, the crayfish are cloning themselves and mutating!

Let’s hope this is fake news. I’m not sure exactly what’s happening here, but the marbled crawfish has learned to mutate and clone themselves. And after spreading across Europe, they are now starting to spread to other continents.

In the meantime, I guess we should all get ready to start eating a lot of crawfish.

10. Go Forth With Song

If you haven’t read it yet, this recent New York magazine interview with Quincy Jones is literally unbelievable, until it turns out it is believable. Jones is a genius who has been around forever and has known everyone. He’s at the point in his life where he doesn’t mind just spilling tea all over the place. As a journalist, there is nothing better than an interview subject who has nothing to hide, and that’s where Jones is right now. If you haven’t read this, it’s worth your time.

Anyway, this interview reminded me of the recently released anniversary version of “Thriller,” which Jones produced, and which features Jones and songwriter Rod Temperton explaining the back stories of most of the songs. For instance, here is the two of them explaining how the song “Thriller” came to be, including the Vincent Price rap section...