Race to the bottom appears to be legislative specialty

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 28, 2010

During the opening ceremonies for the 21st Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the commentator guy said only 82 of the more than 200 nations in the world sent athletes to the games, some for just one or two events.

Explaining, the commentator guy said the reason was that not as many nations have “alpine conditions” where winter sports exist. Not all parts of the United States do, either.

There have been attempts to overcome climate realities of our region. New Orleans had an ice hockey team, the Brass, from 1997 until 2003. They threw in their skates when 15 fans attended their last game and nine of the fans admitted they were just looking for a cool place to get a beer.

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Clearly, if Mississippi wanted to be host for a global competition, events would need to be adjusted to match local temperatures and temperaments.

For instance, where Vancouver has speed skating, Mississippians could race their cars and trucks and call it red-light beating. It seems children here are raised to recite, “Green means go, red means stop and yellow means speed up.” The event would be a sprint and at track’s end would dangle a traffic light. It’s amazing how much horsepower even junkers have in this state if the drivers think a light’s on the verge of changing.

Where Vancouver has ice dancing, we could have mud dancing. You’d need the right mud and in parts of Mississippi, especially the Delta, there’s “buckshot.” Properly level and moistened, buckshot is at least as slippery as ice, if not more so. Problem is, a couple finishing a routine and waiting for scores would have to keep moving. If the buckshot dried under their skates, it would take a chisel and a winch to get them off the rink. Buckshot sets like cement.

Where Vancouver has freestyle aerials, Mississippi could have fire ant aerials. Watching the Olympic athletes spin and flip and twist in the air above the snow has been fascinating. But let a Mississippian walk through the pasture and step in a fire ant bed, and he can do all those moves while taking off his clothes at the same time.

Curling is an easy one to imitate. In Vancouver, the sport involves shoving of a rock across ice. We call that game horseshoes.

We have a sport that comes close to the one where participants ski a while and then shoot .22 rifles at targets. We call it rabbit hunting from four-wheelers, and the only difference is our targets don’t sit still.

We really don’t have anything to compare to the luge. It would be unseemly, but maybe we could do something called the loogie, and make it a distance event. Participants could be recruited from among those raspy-throated folks who showed up at the Legislature to protest last year’s tobacco tax increases. After all, when smokers clear their throats, they really clear their throats, if you know what I mean.

One of the most beautiful events of the “real” winter games is ski jumping. Without being pushed or otherwise tricked, participants knowingly glide down a ramp, then curve up and launch. Last week a guy from Switzerland soared a record 472 feet, going up and up while the ground below him kept sloping away. It was like jumping over 27 Ford F-150s (base model) parked headlight to taillight. The closest we could come would be to have cars careen through the barrier at the top of the Stack in Jackson. At least our participants would have air bags to assist their landings. The ski jumpers don’t have that. On any given leap, they could become the star of the next “agony of defeat” clip.

A new event in Vancouver was called “ski cross,” which the commentator guy dubbed “downhill roller derby.” It appeared to be an anything goes race in which knocking down competitors or shoving them off the course was OK. The point was to get to the bottom first.

Because I normally write about politics, that made me think about the Legislature and the path it is charting for our state as a whole. I thought about Democrats and Republicans and I envisioned a giant wooden ramp extending from the top of the Capitol to the parking lot. On skateboards, they’d battle all the way down in what we could call the budget cross, or double cross. The metaphor would be complete, of course, because both parties would wind up — and us with them — with nothing but the bruises and bumps gained along the way.