It’s February, and it’s been four years since the last Winter Olympics, so you know what that means – it’s time for Americans across the country to pretend that they care about speed skating, skiing, curling, and the biathlon for two weeks!
Yes, the Winter Olympics are here, but not everyone has the Olympic fever. We polled our Twitter followers about whether they preferred the Winter or Summer Olympics earlier this week, and the Summer Games won in a veritable landslide.
Super easy poll question – what's your favorite Olympics, Winter or Summer?
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) February 6, 2018
We also polled out staff members about which Olympics they preferred, and as a bonus, what their favorite Olympic event was. Unsurprisingly, our staff fell in with our readers by nearly the same margin.
Andrew Bucholtz: Both Olympics are fun, but I like winter more because I’m an adrenaline junkie. I love watching people careen down an icy track in bobsleigh, luge or skeleton, or fly down a mountain on skis or snowboards, sail through the air in ski jumping, or do ridiculous jumps and grabs in the halfpipe or moguls events. Summer really doesn’t have much along those lines; runners and swimmers are fast in their own right, but nowhere near the speeds reached in the winter racing events, and you don’t get the edge-of-control rush from watching those events. Winter’s much closer to the X Games, which I’ve long been a fan of. Mountain biking and BMX are maybe the best summer has to offer there, but they get so little attention compared to the more standard summer sports; by contrast, a whole lot of winter coverage revolves around the adrenaline events.
When it comes to team sports, I think Winter Olympics hockey is phenomenal, and above anything we see in the summer. The women’s side always has the world’s best players, and while it’s almost a guaranteed USA-Canada final, that’s better than the almost-guaranteed US wins in men’s and women’s basketball. And the men’s side is incredible when they do have NHL players, letting you see those top players in different combinations than we get in the NHL (and with no guaranteed winner at all), and it should still be fun even without the NHL.
The summer team sports suffer from the U.S. dominance in basketball and no one really caring about the men’s soccer tournament. The women’s soccer tournament is different, and is great to watch, but even it’s brought down a bit by not being a clear title, with the Women’s World Cup equally or more important. By contrast, Olympic hockey’s always the top title on the women’s side, and it’s the same on the men’s side as well when NHLers are there. That’s a long way better than the “Best NHLers not in the playoffs who can be persuaded to come” world championships each year. And even without the NHL, I’ll still be actively tuned in to hockey.
I also like winter for the unusual sports it works in. The strategy in curling, the skiing and shooting combination of biathlon (which has a fascinating military history), and the craziness of short-track speed skating all have their appeal. But it’s the adrenaline rush sports that really interest me at the Olympics, and summer just can’t compete there.
Phillip Bupp: I’ve always been partial to the Summer Games. More events mean more options on what to watch and since it’s in the summer, I can usually watch more of that than the Winter Games.
As far as my favorite Olympic event, I always love watching those sports that I don’t get to watch any other time of the year. So while soccer is one of my favorite sports and I watch it year round, I don’t necessarily watch it during the Olympics. Instead, while I love events such as short track speed skating, bobsled/luge, and cycling, my favorite event is handball. For some reason, I can’t think why handball isn’t more popular in the United States. It’s fast, physical and high scoring. I played a version of it in school and was pretty good. It’s always been my event I would choose if I ever got to participate in the Olympics. Have a US city host and I somehow get on the US handball team who would automatically qualify. So…LA 2028, let’s get me on the US Handball team and make me an Olympian!
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So for me, my appreciation for athletic feats I never tried — and never will — seem more compelling to me. (I’ll always regret not learning to skate when I was young and maybe giving hockey a try.) I feel more awe for ski jumping, speed skating, bobsledding, and snowboarding on the half-pipe (something I never thought I’d admire as an Olympic sport) now. I’ve probably gotten more excited about Olympic hockey in recent years than any other sport, and it’s a significant disappointment that the NHL players won’t be participating this year — and maybe for years to come.
Also, I love figure skating and I don’t care if anyone makes fun of me for it. I can barely stand up on skates, let alone spin, stand on one leg or attempt something as athletically amazing as a triple-jump. I would also argue that nothing is more cringe-inducing and heartbreaking than watching a skater fall during a routine. What’s graceful and beautiful is suddenly interrupted by a violent fall to the ice. It’s jolting.
I also feel like you have to try a little harder to follow the Winter Games. It’s not summer vacation time and there’s good TV on to compete for attention. So those who are watching are really into it, which makes talking about it (even on social media) more fun.
Matt Clapp: I don’t particularly love either, but slightly prefer the Summer Olympics (and maybe that’s just because I far prefer the summer to the winter in general).
But watching basketball in the Olympics is always fun to me, and watching athletes like Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Katie Ledecky captivates me a bit more than the winter athletes do. And after being a bit of a ping pong junkie over the years, watching the Olympic table tennis players blows my mind.
My favorite event is probably the Gold Medal Basketball Game, but if we want to go with something more Olympic-y, I’ll say the 100m and 200m sprints.
Ken Fang: I prefer winter because there are fewer sports to keep track of as compared to the summer, which seemingly has 800 sports and 15,000 medal events. Not only that, NBC will utilize almost all of its cable networks on the Summer Games, which at times makes it difficult to find an event. At least everything is online now. In addition, the Winter Olympics feel more compact and the entire flow is better than the Summer Games.
My favorite Olympic event is hockey because of the nation vs. nation aspect as compared to an individual event. The 2002 and 2010 tournaments, which ended with USA vs. Canada in the gold medal games, became iconic games and it was no wonder that both had high ratings.
Ben Koo: I like winter a lot more and I thought I was in the majority on this one and I’m rarely obtuse to not knowing when my opinion is not shared, but I often take a lot of shit for preferring winter over summer.
I think it tracks back to growing up when the games were different and the US was more of an underdog and you’d only see them get two dozen medals. You could almost name all the gold medalists in a single Winter Olympics. Remember those days? Picabo Street, Bonnie Blair, Dan Jansen, and so on. I also just got into the international storylines so much more whether it was Alberto Tomba, Hermann Maier, or the famed men’s 4×10 cross country relay in Lillehammer (someone please know what I’m talking about here).
Hockey is/was my favorite thing to follow between the two Olympics although the NHL shit the bed here. I don’t know, maybe I’m weird and I like time trial events like bobsledding, luge, speedskating, and skiing. On the other side, there isn’t much I get up for in the Summer Olympics.. It’s a weird blend of stuff we normally don’t give a shit about (track and field, volleyball, water polo, swimming, gymnastics, etc) combined with stuff we already give a shit about (basketball, golf, tennis, and soccer). Also, the Summer Olympics didn’t lead to the making of Cool Runnings so really, this whole argument is moot.
Joe Lucia: Until I started thinking about it, I never realized how much I truly disliked the Winter Olympics. Sure, there are some fun events like skeleton, luge, and bobsled, but I’m not really interested in anything that takes place on skates, skis, or snowboards, meaning that past those three events I mentioned, the only other event left for me is curling, which I’m still not sure if people actually like or ironically like.
In the Summer Olympics, there’s something for everyone, and more events catch my interest. Do you want to watch some entertaining but ultimately disappointing soccer or basketball? We’ve got you covered. What about stuff you watch every four years, like archery, handball, or water polo? Yup, those are staples for the Summer Olympics fan. And I didn’t even mention the Olympic bedrocks of swimming and track & field (or “athletics,” as it’s blandly called on an official basis) that capture the imagination and attention of fans every fourth summer.
As for my favorite event, I am enthralled by weightlifting. It’s such a simple concept (“who can lift the most weight?”), but it’s captivating, enthralling, and ultimately, utterly heartbreaking when an athlete inevitably gets hurt or just can’t lift an extra couple of kilograms. Is this a weird choice? Hell yeah it is! But that’s what the Olympics is about – watching athletes that you know next to nothing about dominate their sport and become legendary for two weeks every four summers.
Alex Putterman: At risk of being a buzzkill as we head for the Winter Olympics, I have a pretty strong preference for the Summer Olympics. I’ve never been a big winter sports participant myself, so I guess I just have a greater appreciation for swimming and running than for skiing and snowboarding. Having basketball around in the summer definitely helps as well. In general I think I just find the summer sports a bit more intuitive than the winter ones. It also helps that the Summer Games have had a few more dominant stars in recent years (Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Katie Ledecky and the many talented American gymnasts, to name a few) than the winter ones.
As for my favorite Olympic event… I think in the summer it’s the 100 meters, with so much drama and such high stakes packed into such a brief interval. In the winter it’s probably alpine skiing and downhill in particular. I like the simplicity of seeing who can get down the mountain fastest.
Jay Rigdon: The Summer Olympics are better. The Winter Olympics are interesting, and a few of the sports on offer make for fun, quirky viewing; skiing, skating, curling, and more all qualify. But there’s a glut of sports that all kind of look the same; how in the world are viewers expected to differentiate between ski jump winners or bobsled runs? And NBC’s America-first production is felt hard with these events, as the network focuses more on Americans finishing 8th than trying to give us information about the sport, the top contenders, or both.
The Summer Olympics certainly suffer from similar issues, but the sheer variety of things on display combined with events featuring athletes we already know (basketball, women’s soccer, golf, tennis, and others) make it a more interesting watch. Does it tend to become swim-heavy? Sure, absolutely. Is there anything as viscerally and violently exciting as short track speed skating? Probably not. But it feels deeper, and while no Olympics are without political problems, there’s no denying that the Summer games are filled with sports that cater to a more diverse set of countries and athletes, racially and economically. It feels more like a global competition, which is the whole point.
Matt Yoder: I might have said Winter because my favorite overall Olympic event is the curling tournament. (Seriously who doesn’t love curling!) But to me the NHL players not being there really kills a lot of the excitement for me.
So then for me it comes down to the traditional marquee sports for each games. Track and field gets the nod from me over figure skating. Same with swimming and skiing. Then there’s basketball, tennis, soccer, handball, volleyball and so much more. The summer just has more sports options and better sports options from top to bottom.