Maybe Lindsey Vonn will have something else on the menu for the 2014 Winter Games.
In 2010, however, her choice was strictly dairy. In the days leading to the Olympic downhill, Vonn was aching so badly from a bruised shin she wondered if she would be able to race.
She tried numbing cream and painkillers, and then came the blue-plate special – cheese. She smeared it over her wounded limb as a home remedy, giving cheese connoisseurs the world over reason to celebrate. So as race day approached, the talk was not only of Vancouver gold but Austrian curd.
Cheese was not the only unusual side dish in sports in 2010. This was a year, after all, when Mike Tyson took to pigeon racing, a fake national soccer team from Togo played a match in Bahrain, a New Zealand lawn bowling team was found guilty of match-fixing and a New Jersey Nets promotion offered fans free assistance filling out income tax forms.
Vonn injured her leg in Austria, and perhaps felt some allegiance in her cheese selection. No run-of-the mill cheddar or provolone for her. She chose topfen – an acidic, semisoft cheese common to Austria but not likely found at your local deli counter.
Her unorthodox treatment set off conversations in cheese shops from Vienna to Manhattan, and raised the possibility she might rinse the cheese from her leg with a vintage Bordeaux.
Vonn indeed proved a big cheese in Vancouver. She won the downhill, although a few days of rest because of the weather may have done more for her than all the topfen in the Alps.
The next Winter Olympics is in Sochi, Russia, and perhaps Vonn will have diversified her treatments by then. If injury strikes, maybe this skier can skip the cheese and go right to a prime cut of sirloin. (Fries and grilled onions, however, could lead to skin abrasions.)
In any case, Vonn is now talking more about cheese than ski wax. The other month she went to an elementary school in Denver. And the kids clearly were ready for lunch.
“That was the No. 1 question,” Vonn said. “What’s the cheese? How do you get cheese to heal injuries? Where can we buy it? What kind of cheese was it. It’s hilarious.”
There were food issues elsewhere in sports. In Pittsburgh, the Pirates fired their pierogi – the man who races around the stadium in a dumpling costume. Andrew Kurtz was dismissed for his online criticism of the contract extensions given to the manager and general manager. He was immediately offered work as a hot dog by a minor league team, but Kurtz is happily a pierogi again. The Pirates rehired him because he had not been dismissed in keeping with company procedures.
The animal kingdom was well represented in sports, and not just by Tyson’s pigeon racing and the TV reality show in which the former heavyweight champion is to participate in 2011.
Two deer smashed through the glass doors of a Wisconsin restaurant while customers were watching a basketball game on TV featuring, who else?, the Milwaukee Bucks. The intrusion gave new meaning to the team’s rallying cry of “Fear the Deer.” One deer was wrestled to the ground by patrons. The other deer fled to a private room, although it’s not clear if he had reserved it for a party.
In Germany, Paul the Octopus, who uncannily predicted the results of this year’s World Cup, died in his aquarium tank, an oracle silenced.
“He will be sorely missed,” Sea Life manager Stefan Powell said.
Politics and sports were entangled again in 2010.
There was little holiday cheer for Mohammad Mansour Azimzadeh Ardebili, a spokesman for Iran’s soccer federation. Iranian media reported he resigned after mistakenly e-mailing a New Year’s greeting to Israel’s soccer federation.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter apologized for saying gay fans should abstain from sex during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar because of the country’s harsh laws on homosexuality. Blatter, it should be noted, offered no advice on how fans should conduct their sex lives at other soccer tournaments.
The Pakistan parliament fined its men’s national field hockey team after photos surfaced showing players hugging a female liaison at a tournament in Argentina.
“It is not our culture to hug a lady,” said Jamshed Dasti, chairman of a parliament committee.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett didn’t go that far, but he did say no to the Lingerie Football League playing in his town. The women wear halter tops and tight shorts with their tackle football gear. Why the veto? Cornett said “there are too many problems to list.”
Sports brought forth a burst of honesty this season. After Game 7 of the NBA finals, the Lakers’ Ron Artest dispensed with the litany of praise for the usual suspects and got right to the point.
“First, I want to thank everybody in my ’hood,” he said. “I definitely want to thank my doctors. … My psychiatrist, she really helped me relax a lot.”
Cross-country skier Odd-Bjoeren Hejelmeset was even more forthcoming after his poor showing left Norway with the silver medal in the 4x10-kilometer relay at the Olympics. He acknowledged at a news conference he was sidetracked in his preparations.
“I think I have seen too much porn in the last 14 days,” he said.
But for true, uninhibited self-expression, consider amateur English soccer player Joseph Rimmer. He became so enraged at the prospect of a referee failing to award a penalty kick that he stormed off the field. All that would have been fine, except he returned by driving his Range Rover onto the field and pointing it at the ref. People scattered. The ref, though shaken, was not injured. Rimmer drew a six-month jail sentence.
Sports reminded us in 2010 that diamonds are not only a girl’s best friend, but an NFL player’s as well. At least nine Miami Dolphins players raked the field and crawled on the grass in search of a diamond belonging to defensive end Kendall Langford. It seems he forgot to remove his earrings before practice and one got lost – nearly 2.5 carats and possibly worth more than $50,000. The search ended, the grass was mowed and the gem never found.
“It’s a fat diamond,” defensive end Ryan Baker said. “It’s a shame.”
Sports fans presented themselves in a number of ways in 2010: confusion, revulsion, devotion.
A Detroit Tigers fan in Ohio was watching TV at home as Armando Galarraga closed in on a perfect game. Soon after umpire Jim Joyce blew the first-base call that cost Galarraga his masterpiece, the phone started ringing in the fan’s Toledo home. He wondered why. Some callers were crude and harassing. It turns out, WTOL-TV reported, that the luckless fan not only went to the same high school as the umpire but also was named Jim Joyce.
Clearly, the year’s most disgusting performance was by Matthew Clemmens of Cherry Hill, N.J. He intentionally vomited on a spectator and his 11-year-old daughter at a Phillies game. He was sentenced to three months in jail and community service that the judge suggested be met by cleaning ballpark toilets and trash.
A Michigan man gave fandom a better name, although his judgment is open to question. Major Hester, a 69-year-old retired office supply clerk, put off getting a pacemaker so he could watch his beloved Michigan State play Michigan in football. Hester knew something could go terribly wrong on the operating table, and kickoff still would have been two days away. And where would that leave him?
“Whatever happens,” he told The Detroit News, “I want to see the game.”