SALT LAKE CITY -- Everyone comes to the Olympics looking for that moment, that one special instant that restores our faith in everything great and important and enduring about the greatest sport spectacle in the world.
On the second night of the 19th Winter Games, I was blessed with that moment.
It was around midnight in downtown Salt Lake City, the streets teeming with celebrating fans, strutting athletes, many languages, one voice.
I was in the middle of a crosswalk, headlights illuminating me from all directions, bathing my body like thousands of shiny medals.
When my snow pants fell to my ankles.
Let me back up here a second.
They weren't my snow pants. I don't do snow pants.
I'm from the South, I live in Southern California, I don't do snow. I don't do slush. I draw the line at Slurpee.
The snow pants belonged to photographer Kirk McKoy. He lent them to me at the opening ceremony, when my knees had started knocking after standing for nearly two hours in a security line in 20-degree temperatures.
McKoy had an extra pair. I tried them on. They fit. I think. I had no idea.
Newly fortified, I walked from the media tent into outdoor Rice-Eccles Stadium dressed as I would for the next 10 days.
Long johns. Wool socks. Wool pants. Snow pants. Turtleneck. Sweater. Fleece coat. Parka. Inner gloves. Outer gloves. Ski cap.
I waddled to my seat where, just as the Olympic theme was playing and the ceremony was beginning, I dropped my pencil.
I leaned over to pick it up, fell, and couldn't get back up.
It was that this point that a kind volunteer hovered above me and verbalized what became my own personal Olympic theme.
"Um, sir, I think your snow pants are on backward."
So, you see, they weren't my snow pants.
And, having now covered my first Winter Olympics, I can safely say that these aren't my Games.
Not because they were too scandalous, or too maudlin, or too long.
Because they were too cold.
What a great idea, holding outdoor events in the mountains in mid-February. Whoever thought of it should be forced to ride down an icy track on a real skeleton.
The final week here was relatively mild -- I only wore one pair of gloves -- but that doesn't compensate for the 10 frostbitten days spent standing for hours in 10-degree temperatures watching the final 10 seconds of a ski race.
Haven't these people ever heard of, I don't know, the Fall Olympics?
Every day, it took me at least 30 minutes to get dressed, and 10 minutes to recover from getting dressed.
I wrenched my shoulder trying to put on my coat. I twisted my back trying to put on snow boots. I pulled a calf muscle trying to remove my long johns. I used up all of my complimentary shampoos trying to wash them.
Once bundled, I would consistently limp outside in all these layers with all these zippers and nearly die.
Not of hypothermia, but of heat exhaustion.
During those few moments in the last two weeks when I was not getting dressed or undressed, I examined all the sports here and came to this reasonable conclusion.
There is absolutely no reason the Winter Olympics need to be held during winter.
Snowboarders are skateboarders in thermals. Bobsledders and lugers can do it on wheels. Cross-country skiers can put on cheap running shoes like the rest of us. Ski jumpers can use the pool. And Alpine skiers, well, we stink at that sport anyway.
But back to the crosswalk.
So my snow pants, backward and unbuttoned because I couldn't find the buttons, fell to my ankles. At the same time, the loose waist of my regular pants began dropping.
It was at this point, in the middle of the road, that I was forced to stop walking. Cars started honking. People started laughing.
I could have shimmied away in embarrassment. But no. I hung tough. Still in the crosswalk, I dropped my computer case, leaned down, and, in one motion, pulled up the snow pants and found a zipper and fiddled with a button and righted myself before the light changed.
An Olympic moment indeed.
For those keeping score at home, I earned only a 4.9 for technical merit, but a 6.0 for presentation.
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