Park City, Utah "What a gorgeous day," Dennis Lodwick said Thursday. "We should spread out a blanket and have wine and cheese."
Papa Lodwick was standing in the spectator area adjacent to the ski jumps at Utah Olympic Park, where he watched son Todd jump to 12th place in the ski jumping phase of the Nordic combined sprint event at the Olympics. The competition had been over for 25 minutes and Todd was just finishing signing the last of literally hundreds of autographs.
Dennis was in the midst of about 15 relatives and friends who comprise Team Lodwick they are recognizable by the logo on their ball caps.
Among the team members were Bob and Penny Sampson, who traveled all the way from Mashapee, Mass., to watch Todd compete. They also traveled to Lahti, Finland, last winter to see Todd compete at the world championships. Bob is a commercial tuna fisherman off Cape Cod and Penny tends the family oyster farm.
Penny served up four dozen fresh oysters the night before the ski jumping, but stopped short of claiming the oysters are the reason for Todd's success. Truth is, Todd wasn't about to snarf raw oysters the night before one of the biggest competitions of his career.
How much would you pay?
How curious is it that 25,000 people are willing to pay $90 to $110 each to see the Olympic Nordic combined event in Utah, when they could have seen the exact same field jump in the Steamboat World Cup 10 weeks earlier, and not have paid a penny?
There's nothing like the Olympics to foster international stardom. I saw a man ask one of the forejumpers Thursday to autograph his ticket stub. So it was no surprise when Matt Dayton and Johnny Spillane received numerous requests for autographs as they filed by the spectators on their way off the hill.
But the crowd knows who Lodwick is, and they packed against the barrier to get close to him. After the meet was over, Lodwick patiently signed tickets and programs he had a smile for everyone. Smart young man.
snags U.S. bucks
There have been some rabid sports fans from abroad in Utah this week, but five young men from Saskatoon were in the running for the Olympic fan gold medal. The guys, all students from the University of Saskatchewan, drove 20 hours in a rented RV to get to Salt Lake City and parked the rig in a KOA not far from the hockey arena.
For a change of pace, they went to the curling semifinals in Ogden Thursday afternoon.
The Saskatoonians (Saskatoonites?) were easy to spot in the crowd. They were draped in Canadian flags worn like capes over their red Canada sweatshirts. On their skulls they wore maple leaf do-rags and over their faces, masks reminiscent of the one worn by the Lone Ranger, only these were crimson in color.
"We wear face paint for the hockey games, but we decided to tone it down for curling, " Peter Townsend deadpanned.
The guys shouted boisterously for the Canadian skip, Kevin Martin, to do well. "Go K-Dog!" they yelled.
I was reluctant to engage these guys in conversation. But since they were sitting in the row behind me, and jabbing their knees into my back every now and then, I felt entitled to distract them.
"So, given the weakness of the Canadian dollar, I'll bet this is an expensive trip for a bunch of college students, eh?" I asked.
"Oh, I have lots of American dollars in the bank," Dan Murza said.
"How so, mon frere?"
Murza explained that while Canadian NHL franchises are suffering because of the weakness of the Canadian buck versus the U.S. dollar, he, a fourth-year finance major, definitely is not.
Murza, the kid with the maple leaf do-rag on his head, has figured out how to turn Canadian dollars into American dollars. He uses Canadian play money to buy vintage hockey sweaters, then sells them to Americans on eBay. Here's the sweet part of Murza's gig. He never exchanges his George Washingtons for Queen Elizabeths (or whoever is on the Canadian dollar, I forget). Instead, he deposits them in an American dollar account in a Canadian bank.
If you're still interested, I'll go into more detail. Murza might buy an old Joe Sakic Quebec Nordiques sweater for $30 to $40 Canadian when he can find one. That's the equivalent of $20 to $30 American. He can list the sweater on eBay and get $200 to $300 from some flush Avalanche fan in Denver who wants to wear a prestigious sweater to the next game at the Can.
Murza clears the equivalent of $470 in Canadian dollars.
He also sells USA "miracle on ice" sweaters as well as classic sweaters manufactured by Sandow SK. He bought the trade name of the now defunct company, and markets them on eBay under the name "Sandowsk." Check him out online or e-mail info@sandowski.
'Boat people sightings
'Boat folk Molly Michaud, who works at Yampa Valley Land Trust, and Mandy Rivera of The Lodge at Steamboat, made the scene on Park City's Main Street this week. They got up at 2 a.m. last Sunday and left for Snowbasin in hopes of seeing the women's super G, even though they lacked tickets.
They managed to buy ducats in the parking lot and saw the race that's the Steamboat spirit.
"It was awesome, but we were bummed Picabo wasn't in the race," Mandy said. Molly wants her friends to know she was not standing in line for hours, didn't go into Roots, and didn't buy a U.S. team beret. That's important.
Check your kick wax
Tom Keenan of Steamboat takes his cross country skiing pretty seriously he's completed the Birkebeiner in Telemark, Wis. so he was darned thrilled by the dramatic men's Olympic relay race won by the Norwegians.
"Other than my daughter, Heidi, being born, it was the most emotional moment of my life," Keenan said. "At the end of the race, I was just drained."
Heavy Tom, really heavy.
Redeye to Crested Butte
Twelve-year-old Cami Simms brought parents, Chuck and Cyndy, to the Olympics.
After watching Nordic combined ski jumping Thursday morning, they were heading to the women's figure skating finals in the evening. When they were done, the Simms family was planning to jump in the car and drive through the night to Crested Butte in time for Cami to ski in an Alpine Junior Olympic qualifier.
Cami had a chance to gain new insights into her sport on Wednesday while watching three out of four American women DNF in the slalom race.
"Just try to relax," she counsels.
Good advice, Cami.