by | Feb 20, 1994 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

LILLEHAMMER, Norway — And now, news from the Olympics, which you can see
“live” on CBS, the word “live” meaning “prerecorded, tape-delayed, sometime next month.”

Here’s the news: We Americans are kicking some serious ski butt in Lillehammer, and I, for one, am damn proud.

I am so proud, I am telling foreign journalists how I used to ski to school, every day, from age 3. And I was raised in Philadelphia.

“Yep,” I say, downing a mug of Alpine beer, “those were the days. Me, Sis, Mom, Dad, and Grandma, all skiing to the movies.”

I sigh. “Of course Grandma no longer races competitively.”

Personally, I am enjoying the hell out of this, because Olympics after Olympics our great nation comes over to some tiny little village in the middle of European nowhere and we get our tails — and watch me use a ski term here
— waxed.

Then comes the lecture: “How come tiny nations like Austria and Switzerland which, compared to America, have about nine people each, consistently beat our kids down the hill? Don’t we have more mountains? Don’t we have great equipment? Didn’t Robert Redford star in ‘Downhill Racer’?”

And here is the answer the foreigners give: “Skiing doesn’t mean as much to you Americans, because your kids are spoiled brats, and when they don’t win an Olympics, they quit and go to med school.”

This is, of course, completely false. Some of our quitters go to law school!

Which is why I am so proud of our young skiers here in Lillehammer. The United States has medaled in all five Alpine and freestyle events so far. These include the men’s downhill, the women’s Super G, the Kodak Super 8, the Reindeer Lucky 6, and the Freestyle Combined Chiropractic.

We are Kings Of The Hill.

“My dog skis, you know,” I tell the foreigners. “Taught himself . . .” Looking downhill at Americans

Of course, anyone who has skied in Europe knows the obnoxious attitude foreigners have toward Americans on the slopes — particularly the Austrians and Swiss, who boast that everyone in their countries can ski, I guess because they lost their driver’s licenses going 850 m.p.h. on the autobahn.

They are haughty. They sniff as you pass.

“Ach, Heinz, do I smell an amateur?”

“He is an American.”

“Let us bury him in snow.”

“Ha! Good idea. First, we eat bratwurst.”

Not anymore, pal. The Austrians and Swiss haven’t won a thing on the Olympic mountain, and it really bugs them. They are so upset, some have considered taking up figure skating, just to get out their aggression.

By the way, it is not just how America is winning these events that ticks them off, but who is winning. Take Saturday’s silver medalist in the downhill, a woman named — and this is the truth — Peekaboo Street.

Actually, she spells it Picabo, but she pronounces it Peekaboo. It wasn’t always her name. Until she was 6, her flower child parents called her “little girl.” This was to distinguish her from her brother, “little boy” and the dog, who, naturally, was out skiing.

Peekaboo, a vivacious 22-year-old, came down the mountain Saturday in excellent form, and the media, tired of the sleazy practice of digging into a female athlete’s personal life, immediately ran to her parents and dug into her personal life.

We quickly learned that the Streets are not your run-of- the-mill family. They were hippies in the ’60s, and they moved to Idaho, according to Mr. Street, “so we could raise chickens and be near a ski area.” This is a great tale, and will soon be a “Movie of the Week,” right after “Slimeball: The Jeff Gillooly Story.”

Mrs. Street said she once considered moving to Canada in protest of the Vietnam War, and Mr. Street described his youth this way: “I was a pothead!”

That would explain the name thing. Born and raised to ski

Of course, pot is a recurring theme with our ski team, since Tommy Moe, the gold medalist in men’s downhill, had his life changed when he was thrown off the U.S. team for smoking it. His father grabbed him by the ear, yanked him to Alaska, and put him to work doing heavy construction. After a month he said, “Look, kid, you wanna do this or ski in Argentina?”

It is this kind of parenting that separates us from the rest of the world.

And now, so does our skiing. America? King of the Hill? Wow! And there are more events to come, including the Giant Slalom and the Super G Slush Fund.

“Did I mention that my office is in Aspen? . . .” I ask my colleagues.

Is this fun, or what?

More Olympic updates tomorrow. We now return you to “live” coverage on CBS, in which Charles Kuralt interviews a beaver.


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