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Tuesday notes

Feb 25, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck

Wyoming Olympians

Avid followers of the Olympic Games watched the extinguishing of the flame in Sochi with the usual touch of sadness Sunday. Two Wyoming-based competitors didn't fare very well in competition -- U.S. alpine skier Resi Stiegler of Jackson and Jamaican bobsledder Winston Watts of Evanston (yes, that Jamaican bobsled team) -- but it was good to see our state's name on the TV screen as the two athletes gave it their best.

Those jolly Russians

As a nation, Russia generally isn't recognized for its sense of humor, at least not at the government level, but the Russians did something funny and good-natured as the games came to a close Sunday night. A thousand glitter-suited dancers streamed into the stadium to form the five Olympic rings. During the opening ceremonies, remember, the aerial display of the rings, in which five snowflakes were supposed to transform mechanically into the five rings, suffered a malfunction when one of the snowflakes closed but did not reopen in the form of a ring. Most world TV viewers saw the curious snafu, and the Russians took a bit of heat for editing in some dress rehearsal video in which the ring display worked properly.

During the closing ceremonies Sunday, when the dancers were forming up the five rings, the group assigned to make the fifth ring instead huddled together in a dense clump for a few seconds before running to form the proper circle -- this time making fun of themselves for the over-publicized mistake from a couple of weeks earlier.

It was a wonderful display of humor and cheerful self-deprecation from a country with a reputation for taking itself very, very seriously.

Regional week

It's not the Olympics, but Fremont County is hosting its biggest sporting event of the year starting Thursday. The annual Class 1-A/2-A West regional boys and girls basketball tournament will occupy four gymnasiums over three days of basketball action in both Riverton and Lander. Several local teams are featured -- Dubois, Shoshoni, Wind River and Wyoming Indian -- along with a dozen more from outside Fremont County, all battling for precious spots in the state tournament next week.

These teams choose our communities and our gyms for a reason -- good facilities, good organization, and good geography -- and they pump up the local economy while they are here.

We and others have noted many times the burst of economic stimulus hosting a big tournament such as this one or the Ron Thon Memorial wrestling tournament, but this week staff writer Randy Tucker adds some numbers and firsthand accounts to the general sense of fiscal gain. Watch for his story later in the week on the economic benefit of being a tournament host.

Best on pests

If one more Olympic reference might be tolerated, there is no gold medal for being the best weed and pest control district in Wyoming, but the new director of Fremont County Weed and Pest is talking in gold-medal terms.

Aaron Foster has the job, taking over from longtime director Lars Baker, who gave more than three decades to the department. Foster has big shoes to fill, but Baker's work also give the new man a lot of positive momentum as he starts work.

In an interview with Ranger staff writer Eric Blom, Foster was straightforward in announcing his intentions: "We're going to be the best," he said.

That's a great attitude to bring to the task. The weeds, the bugs and the varmints await, Mr. Foster. Welcome, and good luck.

Ramis

It's likely that Harold Ramis is best known for his role as one of the "Ghostbusters." Many remember him as Bill Murray's buddy in the join-the-Army comedy "Stripes." ("I don't know what kind of soldier I'm gonna make, but I want you guys to know that if we ever get into really heavy combat ... I'll be right behind you guys. Every step of the way.")

But Ramis was an even better writer. He also wrote the screenplays for "Ghostbusters" and "Stripes," along with the huge comedy hits "Animal House" and "Caddyshack."

And he was a director as well. His crowning achievement was "Groundhog Day," the fabulous comedy about a TV weatherman who finds himself living the same day over and over again. Ramis wrote it, appears in it briefly, and directed it as well, working with star Bill Murray, who delivered one of modern cinema's finest comedy performances.

Received mostly favorably when it was released in 1993, its reputation has grown, justifiably, to the point that it now is included as one of the American Film Institute's top movie comedies.

Ramis died Monday at age 69. You can do worse in life -- and death -- than be remembered for creating a masterpiece. That's how "Groundhog Day" deserves to be remembered, as does its writer and director, Harold Ramis.

Here's to a good week.

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