Friday, August 22, 2008

No Country for Gold Medals

Speaking as a nattering nabob of negativism, the Olympics have been a trying time for me. Britain is still third in the medals table and the nation is in clear and present danger of succumbing to a nasty wave of increased self esteem. This, as I point out in the linked article, can only led to yet more drug-taking, violence and Ed Balls. We must I suppose, be grateful to the pampered jerks who comprise the worst football team in the world for continuing to remind us that it is in our nature to be bad at games. Only if irate disillusion, country pub gloom, C-list celebrities and sour nurses were to become Olympic events could we ever really feel at home with being third in the world.


  1. I've seen more detailed suicide notes than that but I can't remember where. Hang on, it was mine.

  2. Hi Bryan,

    Technically, Britain is, as I write, tied for fourth with Australia on the medal count with 41. But I hope this does nothing to lessen self esteem. On specifically the gold medal count, Britain is third with 18.

    This year, I am following the sports that interest me. Wrestling, for instance. I love watching wrestling. When I watch it, I root for the US athletes, and loved seeing Henry Cejudo win gold. But I root for others too, wrestlers who are capable, and those who seem to take a good approach to the sport.

    My perspective becomes less inclined to the pride or esteem aspect and more into the development of the sport itself. I reflect on how the high school and college wrestlers will react to the Olympic performances and results, what they will learn, what the styles of the different winners might mean to how training takes place and whatnot.

    I also critique the sport more. I side with Ara Abrahamian of Sweden, for instance, because the rules of Greco-Roman wresting especially, take the outcome off the mat and put it into the hands of the officials, but also, far far too often, the flip of a coin. The flip of a coin. The flip of a coin. But on a flip of a coin, and not on wrestling moves and athletic conditioning, I could win.

    These tie-breakers are just not right. They skew results, damage the sport, and are terribly unfair to the athletes. The athletes train too hard for an edge to go to another by the flip of a coin. It not only smacks of rulemakers wanting to control outcomes, it illustrates this.

    We don't do this nearly as much in US wrestling. Our rules are different, and it's called folkstyle wrestling versus Greco-Roman or freestyle. In folkstyle, all points count toward the total, and we go into extra periods to settle ties. If a warning is given, but no point deducted: then no points are deducted such that the decision is effected. Earned points lead to a decision on points, thus on the wrestler's performance. It's all about the wrestlers deciding who wins, not the judges, and not a coin toss.

    The point here is that Ara Abrahamian is right to object. Someone as talented as he can lose for reasons that have nothing to do with ability.

    In an enormous percentage of the decisions in international wrestling tournaments, the best wrestler does not win. This means that from any country, those who qualify are not the best from that country, because they won Olympic trials that were decided by coin toss and judging perspective.

    But if I seem far afield of the self-esteem issue, I am not really. It's more that I care about the sport and the athletes. Neither am I sour grapes, as the USA does not, on average, do nearly as well in wrestling as in other sports. Some of this may have to do with Greco-Roman and freestyle not being our style. Folkstyle wrestling does not go away in the US, for the sake of the international lead, and is the style of our junior high, high school, and college competitions, because it is superior. These international coin-toss decisions are counter to how we set the sport up for the competitors. We don't think that way.

    Also, as we focus on the athletes, we speak of and participate in the wrestling community. Silver and bronze medals may not net the athlete as much when he or she participates later in training the younger wrestlers, but they are recognized accomplishments. Making the Olympic team is.


    P.S. and BTW, somewhere I read that the best predictor of medals is the economic situation of the countries.