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In these Olympics, some great performances, but no great story

Each night for the past week and a half, the Vancouver Winter Olympics have entertained us, thrilled us, given us reason to cheer.

But what haven't these Olympics given us yet? That signature moment — that frozen-in-time, I-can't-believe-what-I-just-saw moment that has us standing in the driveway with a neighbor the next day reliving it.

As entertaining as they have been, the 2010 Winter Olympics have had No Great Story yet.

Kerri Strug landing on a badly sprained ankle. Michael Phelps stretching for the wall. Franz Klammer nearly launching off the mountain. The DVR in our minds can easily rewind to Dorothy Hamill's haircut, Mark Spitz's mustache and Olga Korbut's pigtails. We've stood around water coolers and talked about Usain Bolt slowing, Dan Jansen falling, and Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising gloved fists.

Past Olympics have given us the beautiful (Alberto Tomba), as well as the good (the Jamaican bobsled team), the bad (Eddie the Eagle) and the ugly (Tonya and Nancy). And ever since that Friday night in February 1980, the answer has been yes, we believe in miracles.

But these Olympics have yet to reveal that Wheaties box moment, that iconic Sports Illustrated cover, that scene that inspires a movie like the ones about the Jamaican bobsledders (Cool Runnings) and the 1980 hockey team (Miracle).

These have been strange Olympics. They got off to a tragic start with the death of a Georgian luger during a training run on their opening day. Then came a malfunction with the lighting of the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony, more crummy weather, a slow speed-skating track. Slowly, however, the Games picked up momentum until we finally had some good moments.

Skier Bode Miller has made up for his goofing off four years ago to win three medals (with one race to go). Skier Lindsey Vonn has gritted through a bruised shin to grab two, including gold in the women's downhill (with one race to go). Snowboarder Shaun White and speed skater Shani Davis took home gold medals. Short-track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno has won a silver and a bronze to become the United States' most decorated Winter Games athlete with seven career medals (with one race to go).

But we already knew their stories and expected them to do well. White, Davis and Ohno were stars of the 2006 Olympics and heavy favorites this year. Miller and Vonn are considered among the best skiers in the world, and perhaps the greatest male and female American skiers.

Seeing all of them on the medal podium was nice, but their absence from it would have been a major disappointment.

So far, the best moment of these Olympics, at least from an American perspective, has been the United States men's hockey team beating the mighty Canadians 5-3 Sunday night in a preliminary-round game. The men's hockey team probably is the best bet to provide the moment we are craving, but even a gold medal would not exactly conjure up memories of Mike Eruzione and Jim Craig. After all, the American team is made up of elite players from the National Hockey League, just like the other top men's hockey teams in these Olympics are full of players from the NHL and other countries' top professional leagues. It would hardly be a miracle to see NHL all-stars winning a tournament.

This isn't to say Americans are not enjoying these Olympics. Despite criticism of tape-delayed events, NBC's prime-time coverage is averaging 25.5 million viewers a night, about 5 million more than the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy. NBC said one of its reports suggested that half of all Americans watched at least some of the Games in the first week, with the popular women's figure skating final, the gold-medal men's hockey game and the closing ceremony to come.

In the past 10 days, Americans have become fluent in the language of snowboard and finally understood the appeal of curling. Perhaps somewhere in Vermont or Aspen, a little girl will ask her parents for skis so she can Be Like Lindsey. By any standard, these Olympic Games have been a smashing success except for one thing:

No Great Story. We have five days left to find one, if there is one to be found.

In these Olympics, some great performances, but no great story 02/23/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 1:00am]
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