A mention of winter sports usually means hockey or basketball. And it should.
Hockey is the only mass communication sport played on ice so it makes sense, though hockey in warm weather cities must be a cold slap to Canada's ruddy face.
Basketball in the winter makes sense, too. It's indoors and played by traditional hockey powers like Russia. That's scary enough, but compared to THE winter sport, it's tame, and Russia agrees.
Neither basketball or hockey qualify as the true 'winter' sport. That title goes to wrestling. Now is the time of year local high school teams gear up for the season. Without balls, sticks, or nets, wrestlers aim toward their first matches, but they are invisible on the sports radar.
Basketball players walk around in designer shoes and warm-ups. They wear their gear on the street to show who they are. Players. Players with game. The only wrestlers you see wearing their competition shoes off the mat are the nutty ones. Or mean ones waiting for a comment.
Presenting yourself as a tough guy doesn't mean wearing shoes made with side traction panels any more than it requires spending $310 to sync your shoes to your iPhone.
"DESIGNED FOR LEBRON, MADE FOR YOUR GAME
The LeBron X+ iD Men’s Basketball Shoe tracks every move of your game and syncs directly to your iPhone, letting you know exactly how high, how quick and how hard you play. With insights from one of the game's most explosive players, it features expressive and team colors, newly engineered cushioning and signature details that celebrate the tenth anniversary of LeBron and Nike Basketball."
What makes wrestling THE winter sport is the element of incredible fear. It would take life-support technology to measure that on the mat. Where a hockey player wraps up in pads, gloves, and a helmet to go along with their stick, wrestlers arrive with shoes and a singlet. They provide their own weapons and protection and take a ride on the learning curve to find more.
Fear is the time of year high school freshmen step onto the wrestling room as team members, not visitors. They'll practice with eighteen year olds every night, getting pounded on by grown men. Or so it seems.
You've heard of fourteen year old basketball phenoms tearing up the court like NBA veterans. They are destined for greatness and it shows early. The moves they use work against everyone in the world, though Nic Batum's attempted crotch lift during the Olympics seemed to cross boundaries.
In contrast, college wrestling champions often struggle in world competition. Their moves, while effective most of the time, don't work as well against guys from Iran or Turkey. Sometimes they wrestle teenagers from postcard countries who wring them out.
Maybe it's a cultural thing, but it still hurts. And it starts early.
With respect to basketball and hockey, skiing and skating, picture a skinny, soft, freshman working out with a muscled up senior. One kid looks like a paperboy. The other looks like a paper press. Looking at a strong person is one thing, taking them down another.
And that's the name of the game.
The fear in the young wrestler would make an ordinary person walk out of the room and never look back. Numbing fear is what they learn to choke down before each practice. THE winter sport teaches competition, sportsmanship, the usuals, along with dealing with huge dread.
What's a basketball player's biggest nightmare? Dribbling off their foot and looking like a klutz? Oops, that's a turnover. Need to work on that.
In the wrestling room it's not turnovers that matter, it's the poor kid fearing he'll get turned over. He doesn't want to get turned over, not even by the three time state champion doing the clinic in practice.
The harder young wrestler resists being turned, the harder senior wrestler works to turn him. Soon enough you find both guys scrambling around like wildcats, the young guy surprised he can still move, the senior surprised the kid hasn't given up and rolled over.
That's the moment of denial, of refusing to lose even a little. The kid eventually gets turned and feels bad, along with the pain of getting cranked on. Then he gets over it and goes again. The senior ramps it up so the freshman understands the level of intensity it takes to compete.
What could Nike design for them to show the quickness, the power, in undeniable cool apparel with an iPhone sync? What would equal a super-charged pedometer in a pair of basketball shoes?
You've seen video of athletes wired for motion to show up on video games? Wire up a wrestler with a fully integrated body suit that measures the chop of a collar tie, the power of a cross-face, the cinch on a tight waist. Collect and download the time it takes to change elevations, pick an ankle, or lock someone up for air time.
This is a suit wrestlers could wear in public for easier identification. Make them the University of Oregon green and gold colors.
In that gear, THE winter sport would grab more traction than a LeBron X + iD.