Cucumbers and Curling


It was a couple of days ago, and the lounge was filled with regulars gathered there to watch the Sochi Games and welcome Bob Costas back to primetime coverage.

I drifted toward the bar, behind which Baxter was making a face.  He’d been teaching mixologist Clair McLafferty how to make a Screaming Viking – one of the club’s signature drinks which also happens to be his invention – and had just sampled her attempt.

Clair was also making a face.  “What’s wrong now?”

“This time,” Baxter said, “you sliced the cucumber at a 42” – he took another taste – “no, a 41-degree angle.  As I told you after your three previous efforts, the cucumber must be sliced precisely at 43 degrees or the drink is rendered non-potable.  Try again.”

“Is he always this particular?” Clair asked as she grabbed another green gourd.

“Usually.  And when it comes to his own drinks, you have no idea.”

“Well, he’d better lighten up, or this cucumber won’t be the only thing getting bruised.”

“Maybe it’s a good thing I just ordered a beer,” remarked the occupant of the barstool to my left.

“Glad to have you back, John.  Got some more numbers for us?”

“You know it.  WalletHub decided to audit the Sochi Olympics in much the same manner as we did Super Bowl XLVIII.”

John Kiernan is senior researcher for WalletHub, a financial resources company that analyzes anything related to money, including spending related to significant events.  He was at the club a few weeks back to share WalletHub’s breakdown of the numbers behind the Super Bowl.

“We discovered,” he said, that “this year is a year of firsts for the Winter Olympics.”

“Such as?” I asked.

 “From Sochi’s traditionally warm February temps to fact that the Olympic torch visited space for the first time. But it’s when you start talking money that things truly get interesting, and location has everything to do with it.”


“It cost $51 billion for Russia to throw it.  That’s more than the 21 previous Winter Olympics combined, and what’s funny is that the number includes $8.7 billion spent on a transportation system between Sochi and the mountains that could have been paved with nine centimeters of shredded Louis Vuitton bags for the same price.  It’s also crazy how much NBC spent on the broadcast rights,” John said.

“Which was?”

“Seven hundred and seventy-five million dollars, with advertising sales expected to bring in $1.05 billion.”

“How does that compare with what advertisers pay for Super Bowl commercials?  Does it cost more to advertise during the Olympics?”

“Well, a 30-second commercial spot costs less during the Olympics, because it’s spread over so many days, whereas the Super Bowl is a one-night event.  Overall, it’s certainly not cheap to become an Olympic sponsor, and all parties involved are still doing just fine.”

“Have you been watching much of the Games?” I asked.

“A ton of it,” John replied, “although I’m certainly not watching all of it. I’m into the downhill skiing and hockey.”

“What about curling?”

John chuckled.  “That’s about as boring to me as cross country skiing, something to have on in the background while you’re doing something else.”

We turned at the sound of a dull thud, and John picked up his glass just in time to prevent a flash of green from colliding with it as a cucumber ricocheted off Baxter’s forehead.

“You know,” I observed, “put a curling stone in Clair’s hand, and that sport might get a lot more interesting.”

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