Saturday, August 23, 2008

If I ran the IOC

I once had a conversation with a friend of mine, a PhD Chemist, who felt strongly that only the hard sciences required any kind of rigor in study. Arts, history, and all humanities were soft and squishy and basically for the mentally lazy. There is some truth there. There is no hiding your lack of skill when balancing the equation. It either balances, or it does not. The number of those who have hidden their lack of talent, and dearth of work ethic behind the mantle of some art or other is legion.

I have known many who have approached their writing, or painting, or reading, or theater with intense discipline. Yet, what they do cannot be quantified in the same way. For this reason, it would be foolish to include a literature class in with the sciences. It’s simply a different deal.

I have had similar thoughts regarding Olympic sports. While I admire gymnasts, and would actually very much like to train to be one, I find any sport that must be judged is suspect. If it can’t be objectively measured – how high, how fast, how strong, how close to the target, how many points – its just lacks in a certain element of rigor.

Don’t get me wrong. I watch a gymnast work the rings, or the high bar and it is an awesome thing to behold. The only part of it I could manage to do myself right now would be the landing on the back part.

Then there is diving. You do realize that gravity is doing most of the work there.

But the competitive aspect of it is just too subjective. It occurs to me that with modern technology, the subjective aspect could be removed. Place a sensor on each joint. Video captures the movements. The software performs an analysis of the movements based on certain criteria resident in the program. Then a score could be developed that would be consistent and rigorous, not subject to human failure.

Now that would be Olympic.

Two more things. Who chooses what gets on TV? Beach volleyball I can understand. There’s an eye candy factor there. In fact, much of the fun of watching the Olympics on TV is about seeing all the different bodies of high performance athletes, beautifully displayed, so I get that they want to show sports that are nice to look at. But they aren't consistant about it. Men's beach volleyball is just a couple of tall guys in tshirts diving in the sand. Kind of fun to watch...for a little while maybe, but it seems to me that it lacks the same sort of appeal as women's beach volleyball even for people of persuasions other than mine.

Even so, I would really like to see some of the other competitions. How about weight lifting, or Judo? The other day, they showed a lot of the women’s marathon. A marathon? Really. It’s a great race, but is it really that much fun to watch on TV. Is there any chance I could see wrestling or boxing – sports that actually have an ancient Olympic lineage? Apparently not.

What’s on tonight? Water polo........Water effing Polo.

For cryin’ out loud people!

And second, can somebody explain to me why, in Heaven’s name, they are cutting softball from the Olympics but keeping synchronized swimming? What kind of nutbag thinks that makes any sense at all?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen and Amen!

What kills me are the interviews and personal stories when watching more sports. Not only boxing and wrestling, but weightlifting.

I have heard that adding the personal stories and reducing or eliminating the violent sports called "chickification"(sp?). Far more women are inclined to watch the sports and interviews that are on than the things men would like to see. The producers know how to keep ratings up.
Ron

Wyman said...

Stephen Colbert had the best one I've heard yet: "The Olympics start tomorrow. I do hope that that some of the athletes have compelling personal stories that can be set to delicate piano music."

Ron is correct, Olympic producers long ago realized that if they could get women to watch the Olympics, they would enjoy a ratings bonanza. If women watch the Olympics, men will watch with them, and this is the path to higher ratings. That's why every athlete gets his or her own testimony video, telling about the hard times they've had, even if they haven't seemed to have had any. "Growing up in the lap of luxury, American fencer Joe Blueblood seemed to have it all. Yet something was missing..."

The reality on softball is not that it's not a sport, or that not enough countries play it, or that the Americans are too dominant: it's that they don't play it in Europe. All of the IOC power that isn't American comes from there - they don't care how many Caribbean or South American or African teams play a game - if it's not big in Europe, it doesn't matter.

Dubbahdee said...

The NY TIMES verifies your analysis. Also, a nice demystification of the whole 8/08/08 business:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/25/sports/olympics/25nbc.html?th&emc=th

Dubbahdee said...

Are you telling me that Synchronized swimming is HUGELY popular in Europe. Oh my. Things are much worse than I thought. The end of western civilization may indeed be at hand.