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Once In a While the Sports Imperialists Slip Up: Here’s one in SI

Once in a while, the sports imperialists who have ruined, nearly beyond repair, the Olympic Games make a slip up.  In politics, we’ve call it a gaffe – some might call it an inconvenient truth.  But since I appear to be one of the only bloggers or commentators who dare call out the sports imperialists, I have to see the gaffe and then report on it.

Here it is in this Sports Illustrated article about the “new” sport of golf in the Games (It was in the Olympics early on apparently) and in fact there are several items worth commenting on:

But the International Golf Federation, which spearheaded the game’s return to the Games, recommended individual stroke play for more practical reasons, and the IOC was happy to concur. The field size in Rio for both the men and women will be only 60 players, largely because the IOC is working to limit the total number of athletes at the Games. (The U.S. Open accommodates 156 players.) Match play cuts the field in half with every round, potentially reducing fan interest and creating the doomsday scenario of only unknowns from small countries being left in the medal round.

Granted it is the writer’s words not a quote but I would submit that it is the author’s reasonable interpretation of the intent of the originators of the golf competition.  It is the fear of those who administer or finance or televise the Games that nobodies that no one knows from countries no one knows about will win a medal or even contend.  So fill the sports with celebrities from pro sports that the average fan in the United States will know.  This is why match play was rejected.  Hence this is in effect a gaffe.  An inconvenient truth.

In fact, if it were left up to some, there would only be a few pro golfers from a few nations.  Here is a compendium of the criteria:

At the cutoff point on July 11, 2016 the top 15 in the ranking are automatically in the Games, with the proviso that there cannot be more than four players from any country. The World Ranking will be used to fill out the next 44 spots but no country can have more than two representatives. Brazil, as host country, will receive the 60th and final spot if not otherwise qualified.

Here is the complaint by a leading golfer:

World No. 1 Inbee Park recently called the qualifying criteria “disappointing,” adding, “If you are in the world’s top 50, you should be able to play in the Olympics. There are some countries where [players] ranked number 300 or 400 will play, but obviously not Koreans.”

And here is a somewhat promising comment from one of golf’s international leaders:

Votaw, [Ty Votaw, the Vice President of the International Golf Federation] whose day job is at the PGA Tour, spearheaded golf’s return to the Olympics and he has a well-rehearsed rebuttal. “That isn’t how it’s done in any Olympic sport,” he says. “I would submit that the fourth-fastest sprinter from Jamaica can probably beat anybody in the world except the top three sprinters from Jamaica. But the guy who’s fourth doesn’t get in. It certainly doesn’t grow golf around the world when fully developed golf-playing nations dominate the field.”

So why not kick out the pros and play only amateurs (you could have regional qualifiers to ensure geographic diversity) and use match play to winnow the field to the top four or eight for the medal round.  But that does not ensure the TV ratings the Olympics crave.

And then we have the IOC President with hypocrisy:

[Thomas] Bach, the IOC president, has already seen golf weather numerous challenges on its way to Rio, and he has a long view about its place in the Games. He buzzed into last month’s British Open to press flesh and at a press conference was asked, “If Olympic gold doesn’t represent the pinnacle of achievement in your sport, then does it have its place in the Games at all?”

With the tiniest of smirks, Bach replied, “Ask the gold medalist after he has been standing on the podium listing to the anthem and being celebrated by the world, then he will give you the answer.”

So that’s why Lebron James needs three or is it four gold medals in men’s basketball!  I got it.  The pinnacle of achievement in many sports is now restricted to pro athletes, many of whom earn millions of dollars and have pro coaches and train professionally to win non-Olympic events.  Amateurs and small nations are left out.  I am beginning to feel for the South African (Yes I know the Republic of South Africa is not a region of the continent but is a real nation!) sports minister and his gloat.

No, I won’t get it.  Not a dime will leave my house or my credit card to the USOC until this terrible sports imperialism scheme called the Olympic Games is overthrown.  And we can do it.  We can renounce pro athletes in the Olympic Games.   But we won’t.  Because we won’t do well and that will not benefit TV ratings.  Americans will get angry and call for a restoration.  So no rooting for the golfers at the Sanders house – probably not at all.  Maybe if it is a nation who has not won a medal before.  Maybe the Brazilian golfer.  Maybe.  There’s virtually no chance a amateur athlete will be in the golf tournament.  Pure sports imperialism.  I say no.  I’ll watch The Greatest Game Ever Played instead.

 

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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