There’s no easy way to say it: When it comes to the Winter Olympics, we stink.
The United States, that is.
Apparently, American exceptionalism comes with a temperature threshold. No matter where or how warm, we crush it in the Summer Games; take 2020 in Tokyo or Rio in 2016, when the U.S. amassed the most gold, silver, bronze and, of course, total medals of any other nation. But out in the cold and snow, these colors run.
In 2018 in Pyeongchang, the U.S. finished fourth in the medal count behind Norway, Germany and Canada, and it was a fairly typical result. The U.S. won the most medals — 37 — in Vancouver in 2010, but only nine of them were gold. And more often than not, we’re third or fourth in the medal count — or worse as in 1998 in Nagano and 1994 in Lillehammer, when the U.S. managed only 13 medals each time.
So what to expect beginning this week in Beijing? More of the same. You can bet on it, of course, and what you’ll find is that Norway is favored to lead in total medals and golds, trailed by the Russian Olympic Committee, Germany and — finally! — little old us.
We’ve got Mikaela Shiffrin on the slopes, and Shaun White and Chloe Kim on snowboards. We’ve got the figure-skating giant Nathan Chen and speed skater Erin Jackson, poised for a breakout. But we can’t ski jump to save our lives. We mostly curl and luge like we’ve got someplace better to be.
Every four years in wintertime, what are we? We’re underdogs. One of these quadrennials …
And here’s what’s happening:
Duke at Notre Dame (6 p.m., ESPN)
The Irish have won 10 of 11 and sit tied with the Blue Devils for second in the ACC at 7-2, a half-game behind Miami. Let’s pause the seasonlong Mike Krzyzewski farewell bash for a minute and raise a glass to Mike Brey.
Canucks at Blackhawks (6:30 p.m., NBCSCH)
Vancouver has been like two different teams, going 6-14-2 over its first 22 games and 13-5-4 in 22 since then. Any chance the Hawks can play the earlier version?
Magic at Bulls (7 p.m., NBCSCH)
Nine days after their most embarrassing loss of the season, the Bulls seek revenge against Jalen Suggs and the Wagner brothers. Pro tip: Maybe don’t bet on the guys who are 30 games under .500.
Wisconsin at Illinois (8 p.m., BTN)
Halfway home in the Big Ten, the Badgers and the Illini are tied for first place at 8-2. Time for another Andre Curbelo return?
Wild at Blackhawks (8:30 p.m., TNT)
Minnesota has dominated this rivalry to the tune of a 15-7-2 mark over the last 24 meetings. Is it just our imaginations or was it more fun when the Hawks were knocking the Wild out of the playoffs en route to Stanley Cups?
NBA All-Star reserves revealed (6 p.m., TNT)
You know Zach LaVine has gotten better when Bulls fans are griping because he has to suffer the indignity of coming off the bench in an All-Star Game.
Bulls at Raptors (6:30 p.m., NBCSCH)
Toronto gave the Bulls all they wanted last week at the United Center, and that was without Fred VanVleet — who might try to take it out on the Bulls this time if he gets All-Star snubbed.
Winter Olympics opening ceremony (5:30 a.m., 7 p.m., Ch. 5)
Beijing is promising a spectacular show with a cauldron lighting that’ll leave viewers in awe. It better be good considering the evening’s theme: “Wait, the Winter Olympics are starting?”
NHL All-Star Skills Competition (6:30 p.m., ESPN)
No Hawks on the ice tonight? Well, that sure explains some things.
Illinois at Indiana (11 a.m., ESPN/ESPN2)
The Illini — who snapped a seven-game losing streak in Bloomington last season — go for a fourth straight win against the Hoosiers. Tables: turned.
NHL All-Star Game (2 p.m., Ch. 7)
Look, folks in Chicago have been complaining about postal-delivery delays for how long now? Let’s just go with Patrick Kane’s invitation got lost in the mail.
Baylor at Kansas (3 p.m., ESPN)
The defending national champs and the bluest of the blue bloods get it on at Allen Fieldhouse, one of the best environments in all of sports. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Olympic figure skating (7 p.m., Ch. 5)
Team events include the women’s short program and the men’s free skate. Get to know American Nathan Chen, the best skater on the planet.
Pro Bowl (2 p.m., ESPN)
Let’s get this straight: Mitch Trubisky’s 2018 season was good enough to get him to the Pro Bowl, but Roquan Smith’s 2021 season wasn’t? Go get ’em, Robert Quinn and Jakeem Grant.
76ers at Bulls (2:30 p.m., NBCSCH)
The Bulls try again to scale Mount Embiid. Somebody get this guy his MVP trophy.
Olympic figure skating (6 p.m., Ch. 5)
More team events: pairs’ free skate, free dance and the women’s free skate. Beat the Russians … at anything? It’ll be tough.
“30 for 30: The Tuck Rule” (7:30 p.m., ESPN)
Tom Brady and Charles Woodson revisit the key play of Brady’s very first playoff game, when Woodson hit the young QB, the ball came loose and — yada, yada, yada — hello, Gisele Bundchen.