Prairie Village’s Bill Hancock, the executive director of the College Football Playoff, began volunteering with the USOC at the Olympics in 1984 and is in Sochi, sharing daily reports with friends and colleagues, including The Star. Here are excerpts from his latest update, Thursday, Feb. 19:
The mountains were out and the sun turned the snow silver. My Lord, what a morning…
• Nice breakfast with old friend Tim from AP and his colleague Peter. They are photo editors. Their process is pretty dang cool.
Photographers’ cameras are connected by wire to the editor’s computer. (The editor is sitting in the media seating area.) When the photographer takes a picture, he makes a voice recording — the cameras have microphones — saying “Lucy Jones, fourth race, 1,000 meters.” The photographer attaches the voice recording to the electronic file with the picture. (It’s called metadata, but you already knew that.) The photographer sends the file to the editor. The editor then fiddles with it and drops it into a place on the Internet. The clients (newspapers all over the world) go to that file and grab the photo.
Well, it’s a little more scientific than that, but you get the idea …
• A guy found out this is my 11th Olympics. And Olympics is like dog years, so 11 is a lot — sort of like my streak of 35 consecutive Final Fours.
The guy asked which was my favorite. For me, everything is really second-favorite because Sydney was so perfect. My roommate was Will Hancock. It was September 2000. We had a blast sharing a two-bedroom apartment in Bankstown. We had a giant living room and full kitchen and the best father-son time you can imagine. He took the smaller bedroom. We climbed the Sydney Harbour bridge together. He threw a 50th birthday dinner for me. We rode the train to the Olympic Green together. He tuned-up my pager and I did his laundry. We talked late into the night, and ran in the morning. …
Will had to leave too early. (Editor’s note: Will Hancock died in the 2001 Oklahoma State plane crash) …
• Walked through the rockin’ happy Olympic Park to the USA-Canada women’s gold medal hockey game. On the way, two young Russians stopped us. Vasilly spoke better English and he said, “USA? I have a question.”
I was proud and thought he was going to ask about American staples like Democracy or barbecue or March Madness. Instead he pulled a large circular pin out of pocket. I couldn’t see it clearly in the darkness but did catch a fish and the word Jesus.
“The Americans are passing out these pins in Sochi,” Vasilly said. “Why they do this? Why all Americans this crazy about religion? They very crazy. We have good Russian Orthodox religion. Why all Americans want us to change?”
I tried to steer the conversation to baseball, apple pie or motherhood. He drove it right back.
“These people are stereotype Americans. Why religion so important to you Americans?”
I tried again: “Tell me about this land where the Olympic Park now sits. What was here before?”
“It was a forest,” he said. “Nothing was here, then they built these beautiful new buildings for the Olympics. But why you Americans so crazy for religion? These Americans come here from New York, Oklahoma and Los Angeles to make us take their religion. Why?”
I really didn’t like the conversation and tried wanted to change the subject and said something like “did you see the Auburn-Alabama game on CBS?” Then I thought of a topic that would be comfortable to him—vodka.
“I do not drink wodka,” he said. “Only one percent of Russians drink this. Americans think we all drink wodka and act silly.”
He wasn’t menacing or unpleasant at all. Just puzzled. And opinionated. And only one Russian person, of course.
“I saw Pussy Riot in Sochi. I hate them. They against our Russian Orthodox Church.”
I told him the “wodka” stereotype is as inaccurate as his about all Americans and religion. And that we can’t really break down the mysteries until we have many more random conversations in the night, with each side doing more listening than talking.
He nodded, but I don’t think he got it.
• Took a dare and smuggled a can of beer into the USA-Canada women’s hockey game tonight. Was pretty darn nervous. I was prepared to explain to the police that I needed the hops for medicinal purposes. But nobody said a word. I was too embarrassed to actually drink the beer because we were visible in the media seating section and I wanted to act professional. Later I would be in the minority in that regard.
Big crowd at the game — 10,600. I’d guess 60 percent Canadians, 8 percent USA, rest fascinated by whole scene and amazing North American athleticism. Huge game. Great game. Regulation ended at 11:23 p.m., way past our bedtime but it wouldn’t matter because nobody who was in the arena would be able to sleep for hours anyway … for days, in some cases.
Our team had the game won. The Canadian fans were silent. But Canada’s team came alive and so did the fans.
“No cheering in the press box” went completely out the door … In fact, when Canada tied it at 2-2, an off-duty Canadian television crew member sitting behind me in the non-tabled media section whacked me on the head with his elbow or fist or left foot. It was an accident and he apologized.
Foreigners cheering in the press box is an Olympic tradition. So is Americans complaining about it.
The drama and emotion of that game was almost overwhelming. One team was deliriously joyful; the other grieved. Sports is amazing. We sure felt sorry for our players and coaches. It was just a brutal event for them.