Hop, Step, and Jump to Olympic Gold

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FRIENDS tell me there have been some snide remarks about my failure to compete in the Winter Olympic Games this time. There are two reasons. I didn't want some envious competitor to knock my block off, and it's been so cold here in Maine I had to stay home and keep the fire going. Not only that, but at the last minute the Olympic Committee scratched the two events in which I expected to take the gold.

First, the 14,000-meter uphill slalom on Maine Potato Barrel stave skis, a contest once popular with the farm folks of Aroostook County. I'm told the event was called off either for lack of entrants, or because the committee didn't have a 24-hour sweep-hand stopwatch. The second event was the hop, step, and jump on bear-paw snowshoes. (This is the modern version, in which each contestant is permitted four assistants to carry him over hedges, stone walls, and brooks.) So, the way it worked out, I huddled comfortably by a hardwood fire and improved myself by reading again the fragments of Menander and Homer's catalog of ships.

I will not go so far as to say the predominance of commercialism in the televising of the Olympic Games detracts from any interest I might have in the competition. I would say, if asked, that the nationalization of the athletes detracts more than the breakfast cereals, and I think it was nice back when Joe was just plain Joe the shot-putter and not an ambassador of goodwill and tourism for Ukraine.

It was also nice when Joe was a kid from the slums or off a sharecropper farm and paid his own way, because that made him an amateur. He'd put the shot all morning and then go to his job in the shingle mill, where he got 15 cents an hour and the 4th of July off. Remember Joe? He was his own bodyguard.

Long years ago, now, I talked with an elderly gentleman whose name was Jim Connolly. I'm pretty sure he was from Gloucester, Mass., and somebody said he'd written a couple of books about fishermen on the Grand Bank. He had a lot of friends along Newspaper Row in old Boston, and liked to hang out and keep those friendships warm. I have no idea if his books can be found in the libraries today, but his name can be found in the records of the Olympic Games. …