I just found this article at the WSJ by Jason Gay. It has several gems in it. First the mighty Olympic wrestler whose “miracle on the mat” win in 2000, Rulon Gardner, says this about the IOC decision to ditch wrestling from the Games:
“The Olympic movement used to be about amateur sports,” Gardner told the Journal’s Sara Germano. “Now they’re thinking it’s more about the mainstream, it’s about the money, the TV appeal. There are golf tournaments every weekend. It doesn’t need to be a part of the Olympics. In wrestling, this is our one opportunity to represent our sport we love and our country. It’s a true shame.”
I actually do not object to golf in the Olympics – just not professional players in it! It is a legitimate sport, unlike beach volleyball or trampoline. Or what passes for basketball in the Olympic Games! Several observations in this paragraph:
Most of us long made peace with the professionalization and corporatization of the Games and the mystifying hallucinogenic mascots and the dewy television coverage that resembles an episode of “One Life to Live” crossed with an antidepressant commercial.
I’ll make peace with the professionalization and corporatization when I support a UN treaty! I know some commercialization is inevitable. But the Olympics are enjoyed for their own sake, too:
But there was at least the comfort that, in many sports, the Olympics still represented the pinnacle. That is why, during the Olympics, ordinary people watch sports they ordinarily would never watch. People who drink chili out of Denver Bronco cup-holders and pray to Dustin Pedroia Fatheads suddenly become absorbed in tiny Olympic events like shooting and curling and pole-vaulting, despite knowing almost nothing about shooting and curling and pole-vaulting. They watch because these Olympic events matter to the athletes who compete in them. The stakes are almost unfathomable—many of these competitors have spent years practicing in obscurity for this very brief moment. In an era of phony drama, it’s a drama that cannot be faked. It’s mesmerizing.
It was the Olympic curling that led me to help start the Curling Club of Virginia (reminder: These opinions are mine only and not the CCVa – I am not president any more) after the 2010 Games (I wanted to start after the 2006 Games but I was talked out of it!) and now we do have curling in Richmond! And what about the winter sports that the US suddenly became good at – Nordic Combined, for example, and gold in the 4 man bobsled? Huh? Wasn’t that exciting enough for television?
And Gay shows us the way here about basketball:
And the same can be said of current Olympic sports like men’s basketball. It’s easy to see the appeal of men’s basketball—the NBA stars are global celebrities, fans care, TV goes gushy-gushy gaga—but as an Olympic moment it’s not the pinnacle. (For half of the men’s basketball games in London, you needed a pail of cold water over the head at halftime.) With the gold for the U.S. almost assured—failure is really the only surprise—the intrigue becomes about weird secondary issues, like the team-bonding for the U.S. players. Yes they won gold, but they bonded on Instagram! Yay! Olympic basketball.
But as the prophet Michael Callahan said last year, it’s about ratings and TV popularity. It’s time to fight:
This is about something better, deeper, more soulful and permanent. This is about what it means for an athlete you’ve never heard of spend a whole career for one chance to represent country and try to live forever. This is why wrestlers will fight this decision. Because they’re exactly what the Olympics are supposed to be about.
My blogging hero, William Lloyd Garrison, told the US that he would never stop writing about slavery. That is what I will do about the Olympics. Time for a new crew to run the Olympics. Where’s Bill Gates when you need him?