Schmuck Finn

Schmuck Finn.

Memory is silly. Crap lodges in our brains for no apparent reason and which gives us exactly zero benefit in how we live our lives in the present. Anyone who has ever been drunk at a party and argued over details from the 80s television footnote Small Wonder can attest to this. You know who you are and you know the parties at which we've argued. With the beginning of Torino Games, as with every winter olympics, names crammed in some cortical nook tend to pop up from out of nowhere. Speedskater Uwe Mey is one. The reasonably well-known Alberto Tomba is another. But the one that pops up most vividly is Matti Nykänen, The Flying Finn who dominated ski jumping in the 1980s.

Finland's aerodynamic native son

My interest in all things Scandinavian had little to do with vikings or gravlax, but grew out of an admiration for the quick, precise finesse play of certain hockey players. This was a bittersweet obsession. As Europeans entered the NHL in greater numbers in the early and mid-1980s via
Scandinavia and the occasional Eastern Bloc defection (e.g., the Stasny brothers), the beloved brutish game of Slapshot fame began to disappear. Though, truth be told, it was gambling cuckold Wayne Gretzky who drove hockey's transition from the helmetless, bench-clearing slugfest of my early childhood to the daintier, European-style, proto-metrosexual sport that it became once the Edmonton Oilers started winning Cups. Nevertheless, I latched on to some of these European players (e.g., Anders Kallur, Tomas Jonsson, Pelle Linbergh, etc.) and tend to still do so today (e.g., the cancer-beating Lance Armstrong of hockey, Saku Koivu). And this is probably why Nykänen got lodged in my brain.

Anders Kallur: Penalty Killing Viking

So, I was thinking, "What has Matti been up to?" Is there Finnish reality television programming which has him living in a house with the Finnish Flaavii Fläv, hilariously negotiating how their respective dried up fame translates to a division of labor on the chore wheel? Or maybe he's retired to his hometown of Jyväskla and is raising a family is relative, hearthside peace and quiet.

WRONG! It wasn't enough for him to be the greatest ski jumper of all time and go into coaching or attending fan conventions wearing his four gold medals and signin autographs. Nope.

Sure it's cliché, but he had to beat his wife...well wives and be a drunk. To be fair, he did throw in being a male stripper for good measure.

Like many who rose to meteoric fame, he ended up stabbing a friend in the back. Except
he did it literally. And twice. And used a 5-inch blade. Oops. Don't worry, he's no punk-ass OJ. He served 11 months of a 26-month jail sentence.

Finally, and most egregiously, there was the siren song of pop. Perhaps it was the language barrier or simply hubris, but he couldn't look to
America and learn from the lessons of Don Johnson and Eddie Murphy. Nope. He went into the studio and laid down some tracks. Two albums actually: his 1992 debut Yllätysten Yö ("Night of Surprises") and the impressive sophomore effort one year later, Samurai.

Samurai: On eighty-four Top 10 Lists for 1993

Among his more insightful and poetic lyrics are the sexually charged, "Hai! Hai! Hai! I am your samurai!" and the starkly introspective "Vain mäkimies voi tietää sen" ("Only a ski jumper truly knows"). It must be lonely, Matti. It must be lonely.


At 2:35 PM, Blogger WendyBuckWild said...

is matti available? if you already answered that in this blog and i am ill-read...i can live with it. i was skimming..like a figurative skater.

At 5:39 PM, Blogger evandebacle said...

Surprisingly, for a over-the-hill, hard-drinking, knife-wielding, former stripper of an aging athlete, he's not available. Or maybe it's less suprising that he is on his 5th wife, though the 2nd time around with current wife, Mervi Tapola. Sorry. But I think you could take her.



Post a Comment

<< Home