Winter Olympics Will Provide Much-Needed Distraction For Disgusted Fans Thank God the Winter Olympics are coming.

I know I may be in the minority on that one. In the years since the icy miracle on Lake Placid, interest in the games has melted like the ice caps. Curling is essentially Canadian housekeeping, short track is roller derby without intoxicated participants, and the only reason most watch ice dancing is for Tanith Belbin. After enduring the past week in sports’ slime, however, we should all be ready to kiss some amateur feet.

Start with baseball’s Big Mac, who followed the Great American Pete Rose by coming clean only when there was money to be made.

Move to basketball, where Gilbert Arenas took it upon himself to lend a hand to stadium security and defend his locker room to the death. Nobody panic. Gil’s packing.

And then there’s college football. Nothing amateur about this racket. One coach got fired for allegedly choking a player. Now his school may consider replacing him with a guy who just got fired for allegedly throwing a concussed kid in a closet. Let the record show that Lane Kiffin could be one of the least sleazy collegiate coaches. All he did this week was make Al Davis appear to be less crazy.

Even close to home, Bill Belichick’s post-elimination news conference on Sunday reeked of cranky 6-year-old. There was just so little character on display this week. We were reminded, with the subtlety of a jackhammer, it’s all about the money. Loyalty and honesty are afterthoughts, and grace under fire is nothing more than an old sitcom.

So bring on the obscure. Slide the sideshow that is NBC’s prime-time programming and the cluster — uh, clustered mess — that is NBC’s late-night programming, and for three weeks, give me competition for the sake of glory. Give me rigid drug testing and an atmosphere where the only people armed are licensed officers and biathletes. I’ll take genuine tears on a medal stand instead of phony tears in front of Bob Costas. Show me kids with little to no financial stakes, save for a potential raise upon their return to Home Depot.

Offer us loyalty, and for God’s sake, when the cauldron is lit, offer us character.

All of this could not come at a better time.