Tag Archives: sports

Caring about sports

When I was younger I cared about sports a lot. If the Orioles lost a big game — especially to the hated Yankees — it ruined my day, or more than one day. I remember when Dr. Mrs. Q. first found out about this she thought I was kidding; it made no sense to her that somebody could actually care enough to let it turn your whole ship of mood.

CJ is different. It has been an emotionally complicated last few years for Wisconsin sports fans, with all the local teams being good, really good, but never good enough to win the title. The Badgers losing the NCAA final to (the hated) Duke. The Brewers getting rolled out of the NLCS by the Dodgers. Of course, the Bucks, the team with the best record in the league and the two-time MVP, getting knocked out of the playoffs. And today, the 14-3 Packers losing the NFC championship to the Buccaneers. And I gotta say — CJ, while watching a game, is as intensely into his team as I have ever been. But after it’s over? It’s over. He doesn’t stew. I don’t know where he got this equanimity. Not from me, maybe from Dr. Mrs. Q. But I think I’m starting to get it from him. Maybe it just comes with age — or maybe I’m actually learning something.

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Bring back Olympic tug of war

The IOC has voted to remove wrestling from the Olympics, to be replaced with a new sport in the 2020 games. I can’t say I’ve ever watched Olympic wrestling, but I approve of it.  The point of the Olympics is elemental trials of athleticism;  running, jumping, lifting, gymnastics.  And wrestling.

Here is how you tell whether a sport belongs in the Olympics.  Does it have a strategy?  Then it doesn’t belong in the Olympics.  The strategy for an Olympic sport should be “be stronger or faster than your opponent.”

OK, yes, I know wrestling has strategies.  It’s a border case.

The point is that an Olympics which has golf and rugby but doesn’t have wrestling is moving away from being the Olympics.  Which is why it’s of paramount importance which sport the IOC chooses to replace wrestling in 2020. Fortunately, there’s one sport which typifies the Olympic ideal, which already has a rich history in the Games, and which is currently unfairly excluded.  And that is tug of war.

Tug of war is doing great in India.  It’s doing great in Ireland.  And the 2014 outdoor world championships are being held here in Madison, a suitable consolation prize for the cycling events we didn’t get when Chicago lost its Olympic bid.

Tug of war!  You pull as hard as you can.  If you pull harder than the other country, you win.  If the other country pulls harder than you, you fall down.  That’s Olympics.

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The much-deserved death of the perfect 10

Slate just re-posted my 2008 article in praise of the new gymnastics scoring system.  I stand by it.

“The new ‘open-ended’ scoring system was designed in part to prevent us from outgrowing the rules,” international gymnastics judge Judy Schalk told me via e-mail. Before the new system, just about all elite competitors performed routines difficult enough to bring the start value up to a 10.0; sailing over that threshold earned you no more points than barely clearing it. With the new system, gymnasts have the incentive to keep making their routines tougher and more complex. In every other sport, the competitors in Beijing are superior to their predecessors and get better scores to prove it. Why should gymnastics be the only sport without world records?
With the new system, gymnastics comes into compliance with the Olympic motto. That’s “faster, higher, stronger,” not “more graceful, more beautiful, closer to perfect.” It’s no coincidence that the Olympic sports that have historically chased the latter ideal are the same ones in which the women’s game overshadows the men’s: gymnastics and figure skating.
Figure skating ditched the perfect 6.0 after crooked judging in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics embarrassed the sport. The old scoring system already had many discontents, most famously great French champion Surya Bonaly, who showed her disdain for the judges at the 1998 Olympics by landing a backflip on one skate. It was illegal, it carried a mandatory deduction, and she was the only woman in the world who could do it.

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Sports dude dialectic

Sports dude on minor league baseball:  “This is what baseball is really all about.  No overpaid superstars, no lockouts, no steroids — just kids playing their hearts out for the love of the game.”

Sports dude on women’s basketball:  “Sure, I’d like to get into it, but it’s just not that interesting to watch players at a lower level of athleticism.”


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Irrational likred

Deane Yang asks in comments:  “What athletes do you especially like?”  That’s actually what I was going to post about today anyway.  A short list, excluding people who play for teams I follow:  Rickey Henderson.  Manny Ramirez.  Barry Bonds.  Jim Thome.  Nomar Garciaparra.  Edgar Martinez.  Randall Cunningham.  Ricky Williams.  Jake Plummer.  Gus Frerotte.  Surya Bonaly.  Arantxa Sanchez.

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