Silence is golden

Selena Lane | Staff Columnist

I suppose the Olympics are noisy: the wild crowds, the rhythmic helicopters, the smooth newscasters, the frosty sounds of carved ice or fanned snow. It’s probably a hell of a cacophony, but I haven’t heard any of it. Oh, I’ve been watching the Olympics all right—I’ve been sold on the winter event since I eagerly watched Tara Lipinski seize the gold in 1998 at the Nagano games. But, now I’m watching from a weary couch in my common room or from the flat screen broadcasting across campus. Whether I’m in the DUC café (otherwise officially known as Café Bergson…apparently), at the South Forty Fitness Center or if it’s past 8 p.m. and I’m bored by the work I should be doing, my eyes continually tend to drift up from Robert Browning or polynomial functions toward the riveting sports on the mounted screen. The only problem is that there’s no sound. Not a hint of a decibel. Not a single athletic utterance can be heard from the muted speakers.

Heavens, did I say problem? Perhaps I meant blessing. Soundless Olympics not only offers an untainted aesthetic quality to the valiant athletes striving across the icy landscape, but it also adds an air of mystery unparalleled on television. Forget “Lost,” people—Vancouver 2010 is the best drama on television. A figure skater finishes her program and promptly bursts into tears. Why? Who knows! Is she thrilled? Disappointed? Did she do something wrong that the commentator would have told me, but I’m too ice-skating-ignorant to have spotted it myself? This stuff really gets me on the edge of my seat. What’s the score? What’s the score? Ohh, 6.0! Thanks to Soundless Olympics, I have no idea what that means, but I think the flood of flagged teddy bears pouring on the ice says it all. And I don’t need NBC to tell me that butt-to-ice contact probably ain’t good.

Soundless Olympics gets particularly scholarly when you get into ski jumping. Surprisingly, I’m not a ski jumper myself, so I have little-to-no idea about what qualifies as a good ski jump. That is, I didn’t before Soundless Olympics really got me thinking. As I watched each athlete whip through the air like a Spandexed flying squirrel, I was curious as to why they appeared to all be doing the exact same thing and getting slightly different scores. According to the Soundless Olympics motto, which I wrote, one should “take a closer look—’cause that’s all you’re gonna get.” So I put my analytical skills to work (thanks, Wash. U.) and discovered that if a ski did a little flippy thing in slow motion, it maybe shaved some fraction of a point. Soundless Olympics requires serious analysis, but, as you can see, the payoff is pretty staggering.

Soundless Olympics are all over campus. They lurk behind your taco salad at lunchtime, hover above the elliptical at the gym, silently watch over your procrastination in Whispers. Or, with an accessible remote, you might even find Soundless Olympics waiting for you in your own dorm or apartment. No matter what your major, the Soundless Olympics are sure to sharpen your academic skills; they require self-motivation, diligence, an eye for detail. They require patience and a love for reading lips, all of which, as a Wash. U. student, you’re expected to have anyway. So keep your iPod headphones in and just keep your eyes open, and you may just find that at the 10 p.m. award ceremonies, silence really can be golden.